TN: 1985 Dominus Estate

Was almost out the door with a 2000 Pontet Canet in hand for some afternoon football watching at my buddy’s house. Another buddy texts us, raving about his TWA 100-point 2015 Dominus Estate, expressing platitudes of such great dimension and variety, causing Jonny Morris to break out the Ouija board over the Bingo card. I’ve not heard from him since.

Scouring my meager “cellar” for some scraps of comparable quality, and I stumble upon a 1985 Dominus Estate. Just sitting there, all lonely. Surely it must be sacrificed, with me thinking it might by a great pairing with seared Gator, later playing Mizzou.

If you own this wine, drink up. It’s there and going. At least this bottle was. Needs about 30 minutes of air to show, it started a bit shrill with some funk to blow off. With a little love, this elegant beauty was a real pleasure, a through-back to a different kind of Napa Cab. I’m not sure that I could have pegged this as Napa over Bordeaux had it been blind. Earthy nose of petrichor, truffles and tobacco, cool climate dark fruits. Fairly lithe frame for a Cab, tannins resolved but fine structure from the acids. Palate shows a range of red and dark fruits, dry earth, tobacco continuing to weave through the experience, and some saddle leather. Finish is starting to dry, a bit clipped. Stayed awake over the course of a couple of hours, but I would not hold further on this wine. It is an elegant older statesperson at this point. A testament to a restrained style of Napa Cab. Much different than what Dominus produces today, though perhaps that’s the vintage variation (cool versus warm). Incidentally, I detected no overt presence of oak in this wine’s signature, and read from the site that only 20% new oak was used. Another thing I wish more vintners considered doing (i.e., less is more).

(91 pts.)


“Petrichor.” You get extra credit for your $2 words, big city lawyer.

Very nice. I have 2 bottles of Dominus in my meager “cellar,” and won’t be drinking them for a while

I was trying to avoid John’s bingo card!

PS. I linked a picture but it does not appear to be showing up.

Incidentally I just had a bottle of this wine about 3 weeks ago, and the table was wild about it. Your note captures it well, particularly the claret-ness of the profile. Our bottle was fully mature (so no reason to wait), but it also showed quite vigorous, suggesting it has some good runway left.

Comparing points between palates and scoring systems can be a little silly, but I was more like 93-94 pts on our bottle. Yum.

Generally speaking, you and I have very similar views and evaluations on these wines, so I’m guessing my bottle was simply a bit more tired than yours. I did grab mine in the aftermarket so I do not have guarantee a perfect provenance. The wine showed extremely well, just on the backside of its evolution.

Robert, you waited too long on this wine…drank my last of 6cin May '05 and it was rocking! peak with maybe 5 years before fading. The pre ’ 90 wines didn’t have the concentration and balance of the post vintages. I’ve killed over a 6 pack of every vintage through '97, anything pre 2001 isn’t getting any better, drink up…

I have one bottle pre 1990 - a 1984. I don’t know what I am waiting for. A recent 1992 was drinking beautifully. I love these wines.

My STL tasting group used to do an annual Dominus vertical until +/- 2000. While not very familiar with the wines made after 2001, I agree with the thought that the mid-90s and earlier wines aren’t going to improve from where they are at. I had the 1992 about two months ago and it wasn’t the wine it once was…


Drank my last 85 Dominus in 2006. Nice complexity, earthiness, tobacco. Thought it at peak then but still had the stuffing to last a while IMO.

The 1989 has been ripping lately. I’ve had 3 bottles, and all were head turners

What a great note, and then great replies!


I am a Dominus fan, as well. We’ve still been tasting through some 1983-1986 bottles that we acquired new and they are holding up very well. I agree about almost thinking they could be Bordeaux at this stage.

Dominus sort of price drifted above me in the '90’s, so I can’t comment on the current state of affairs but whole heartedly concur with all of the above notes!