has moved to their new tasting room and custom crush facility on the north east corner of the intersection of Big Ranch Road and Trancas St. in north Napa. Their new winery opened just in time to handle the 2009 harvest and is a major step up for Dominari compared to their small winery which was located in a south Napa business park. A number of small custom crush clients make their wine here and several of these are planning on offering their own wines for tasting by appointment.
Currently winemaker/owner Marie Schutz manages her own wines as well as all the clients who custom crush and store their wine at this location. She runs three labels, the main Dominari, Monet’s Palate (Cabernet Sauvignon), and Baccabella. The Dominari wines are all made from a variety of fruit sources from area vineyards. Dominari’s first vintage was from 2001 and initially fruit from their vineyard at 1700 feet up in the remote Atlas Peak area, in the hills east of Napa Valley was used for a number of their reds. They no longer own this vineyard, however their current location is 12 acres with about 7 available for planting. Vineyards are scheduled to be planted on site sometime in 2010.
Of interest is the property where the winery is located used to be owned by General Mariano Vallejo and then much more recently by the golf pro Johnny Miller (this was not the only property Miller owned in North Napa).
The name Dominari in Italian can mean “protected farm house”, but in Latin means “superior” – in this case superior quality. Marie’s husband Jurgen has lived on Atlas Peak since the early 1970′s. He has an amazing survival story that took place during WWII. His house was destroyed in England by enemy aircraft; he was in the basement when the floor collapsed and survived because he was in between two suitcases when a huge beam came crashing down. His family fled thinking he was killed and he was found several days later by Red Cross workers who took him to a Monastery where he lived and learned Latin for 4 years until his grandfather finally located him. It is of course appropriate that the name of their winery is a Latin one.
He and Marie began growing grapes in 1992 and sold their fruit to Luna Vineyards until they started making their own wine in the early 2000′s. When we initially visited, Marie was in the middle of harvest and had just finished several back to back 17 hour+ days as grapes for her and her custom crush clients were flowing onto the crush pad like wine. Needless to say we appreciated her taking the time to see us for a tasting during this hectic time. Owning a winery is not all glitz and glamour!
Marie’s philosophy is to make wine that is true to the fruit -i.e. use traditional wine making methods that do not deviate from or hide the original flavors of the grapes. We tried a number of their Cabernet’s from several vintages. These wines all have good acidity and fruit characteristics with broad shouldered meaty finishes. The finishes become more integrated within the wine on their older vintages. The Cabernet’s are somewhat soft on the entry but big on the finish. These are good food wines and finding these types of Napa produced Cabernets is always enjoyable.
Their wines have been entered in many tastings both domestically and Internationally and have earned a number of medals for their quality.
The 2005 Merlot has a noticeable higher acidity than the 2001 vintage. It is this wines acidity and structure that will make it pair so well with food. The luscious nose leads to a big body with notes of plum, white pepper and just a touch of vanilla. The wine is anchored by robust broad shouldered tannins that continue well after the flavor stops. The flavor finish is rather quick and clean.
One of Dominari’s gems is the 2007 Petite Sirah. The vineyard source is at about 1000 feet east of the valley floor (Nichelini Ranch off of Highway 128). This wine is all about the fruit with a noticeable sweet component to the bouquet. Hints of fig and lots of black cherry make up the palate profile. With nice acidity and balance this is an excellent food wine. With well managed tannins this wine is also quite enjoyable as a stand alone.
In the last few years with new vineyard sources and contracts Dominari has branched out to making additional varietals including Chardonnay and Zinfandel.
Dominari is open for tastings by appointment and currently offers several flights to choose from including their reserve tasting which feature wines made in limited production as well as some older vintages. Tastings are always private – what is nice about a tasting here is all the space inside the actual winery. You do not feel cramped at all; you will be typically tasting with Marie. Not all wineries offer wines that have been aged for several years and this is a good opportunity to try these types of wines. Their production is under 5000 cases and some of their wines are produced in quantities of under 100 cases. You can find the wines locally in Napa at Backrooms Wines and Dean and Deluca in St. Helena as well as a number of area restaurants. As of the time of this review, they are distributed in 17 states. Visit: www.dominari.com
NOTE: This review has been archived.
REASON: Winery went into Chapter 11 and closed it’s production and winery facility near the city of Napa.
Chrissie Jamieson says
Just finished the last of your beautiful Dominari port do you have any more ,it’s the best we have ever had
Chrissie and Pete Jamieson