By Olivier deMaisonneuve
Montreal Passion Vin is the annual rendez-vous when the Fondation de l’Hopital Maisonneuve-Rosemont invites wine lovers to open their wallets for a good cause.
They also get the unique chance to taste world renowned wines and meet the actors behind those famous labels. This year funds were raised for a new integrated cancer treatment center.
Tod Mostero, director of viticulture and winemaking at Dominus Estate, was presenting a few vintages of the two wines produced by this domaine, born by the joint venture of Christian Moueix and the heiresses of the Inglenook Estate, one of the oldest wineries in Napa.
Mr. Moueix gave him the mandate to make the perfect wine. Of course, this goal is unattainable, but the road to it was what attracted him to the job.
The main question was, what makes a perfect wine? First, you need a perfect grape.
Each berry is sorted by an optical beam and vinified without chaptalisation or acidification.
Once vinified, you then need complexity; you want the aromas to dance in your mouth from start to lingering finish. The alcohol , the tannins and the acidity must be all seamlessly integrated.
That is indeed a good start, but you also need character. That is the ultimate quest, to have all of this, year after year.
The Napanook vineyard has a northern and a southern side. The grapes on the southern side ripen three to five days before the northern side.
They’ll produce a wine that is expressive and full of red berry aromas; Napanook. The ones on the northern side will turn into a wine that is more mysterious, more aromas of dark berries; Dominus.
Here is what we had the chance to taste :
Napanook 2010, Napa Valley
2010 was a difficult vintage. It was cooler all summer, until August 24th, when the temperature jumped to 107F! It burned a lot of grapes. This wine is made of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% of Petit Verdot, a rare combination here.
On the nose, you get the typical aromas of the varietal, like currants and cedar wood, but also some menthol and eucalyptus. It is a young wine, so the palate is tannic but not in a coarse way. I liked its freshness and its lingering bitterness.
2009 was a perfect vintage for Mr Mostero, not too warm and not too cold. The nose is very different, a mixture of floral and mineral. The mouth-feel is very supple. The fruity flavors are slightly subdued at the moment, but the wine has some good length.
Dominus 2011, Napa Valley
Once again, the nose is very Cabernet Sauvignon, with notes of violet and some vegetable hints too. It is made of 86% Cab. Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, and 6% Cabernet Franc.
It is rare to have such a high percentage of Petit Verdot. Mr Mostero uses it as we would black pepper on a steak; to give it a little umph. It is a well structured wine, quite elegant, that needs to be decanted before it blooms in the glass.
A vintage blessed with ideal conditions. I was a little surprised when I found marshmallow on the nose, along with notes of pepper and a certain minerality. There is a distinct intensity in the mouth, and the tannins are bold.
I also enjoyed the black berry aromas, and the bitterness at the end. It is still a very young wine, composed of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot.
Dominus 2002, Napa Valley
It was the last vintage to include some Merlot in the blend. The nose was exquisitely complex, with hints of currants, wet stone, cedar wood and some flowers. The tannins were smooth, and the mouth-feel,velvety. The finale was intriguingly earthy. Very long.
Dominus 1991, Napa Valley
Mind blowing! Stunning! Sensational! All of these adjectives were running in my mind as I smelled and tasted this amazing wine. The aromas of leather, mushrooms, spices,and the superb mouth-feel of this blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot, made sampling this wine a memorable experience. It was amazing that on top of all this, there was still a fruity character, along with the bouquet. And what a wonderful length. That is a grand wine!
Olivier deMaisonneuve is a Sommelier-Conseil, a title that he received after graduating from the Université du Vin,in Suze-la-Rousse (France).
He also completed level 3 of the WSET. Olivier now gives Les Connaisseurs Workshops and wine tasting classes.
Olivier writes regularly about wine for a variety of forums and magazines.
One of his greatest pleasures in life is to drive his traveling companions crazy by saying: “Look, a vineyard. We must stop and taste their entire production!”