A bit of a sleeper vintage, tucked in between the superb 2001, 2002, and 2004 vintages. It wasn’t the easiest of growing seasons, but nevertheless, there are some excellent wines in 2003. Significant rain during the spring kept growers guessing, as they tried to adjust their vineyard management programs to match the conditions, and shatter was a problem. A moderate July was followed by a mid-August period of rain, followed by uneven temperatures that had harvest alternately starting and then stopping as everyone watched the weather and the fruit. Careful canopy management was important, and reading the weather was key to making the right decisions. Overall, summer was below average in terms of temperatures. As the harvest approached, the weather warmed up and dried out, and those who had gotten the canopies and fruit loads right were able to ripen a slightly smaller crop of very good fruit.
The most successful made wines that have been somewhat under the radar, being in the shadow of the other great years surrounding the vintage, and they are worth seeking out as they are relative bargains due to the overall impression of the vintage.
Christian Moueix's origins are in Bordeaux. His family firm in Libourne owns Château Pétrus, and owns, manages or markets dozens of other Châteaux. During his time at UC Davis, however, Moueix fell in love with the Napa Valley. It was to be a lasting love, which flowered into Dominus, his California outpost. Here he makes a decidedly Old World-style red blend from the historic Napanook Vineyard in Yountville. 103 acres are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, which Moueix combines in suave, complex Bordeaux blends that age gracefully. Make no mistake, these are not jammy California fruit bombs. Instead, Dominus wines showcase notes of leather, loam, tobacco, licorice and fresh herbs. The estate's flagship Proprietary red often contains upwards of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, and can be quite pricey. The Napanook bottling is a more gently priced intro to the house style.