Wine Talk

Snooth User: JonDerry

2008 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon hits the shelves

Original post by JonDerry, Mar 12, 2012.

The boards' favorite California Cabernet Sauvignon producer has recently released their 2008 Howell Mountain and Napa Valley wines. Randy Dunn is one of the most respected winemakers in California by those "in the know". Though he keeps a low profile and his wines aren't known for being hyped, I get the impression that his wines are slowly increasing in popularity. 

Critics: As far as I know, only Galloni's scores are in from the Wine Advocate, and they're pretty high. 

98+ Howell Mountain  -  96 Napa Valley

Price: This has been known as one of the great values in Napa for years, but with these 08' releases, we're seeing the pricing inch closer to the $100 level. Average pricing is $80 for the Napa Valley, and $94 for the Howell Mountain

According to Dunn's website they typically produce 2,500 cases of the Howell Mountain and 1,500 cases of the Napa Valley release. With 2008 being a lower yielding vintage for California, but also one of high concentration and quality, it's probably pretty safe to say there's not a ton of this stuff at the retailers, especially if you factor in that the winery has their own private club members.

So, with all that said, will you be buying?

 

Replies

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Reply by outthere, Apr 30, 2012.

^ What he said ^

Acidity is something I always look for. It means different things for different varieties but for the most part if you want a wine to age you will need fruit, acid and tannin, and if you want it to age gracefully these should be in balance to one another. Jons' Dunn is simply a wine that is made to lay down. The only time I will open a wine like this at a young age is if I have several in the cellar and wish to follow its' progression over a period of time.

The best way to understand this is to do a vertical tasting and compare notes from vintage to vintage. 2008, 2003, 1998, 1993 for example. Get 4-6 people together and each bring a different vintage. It's not only educational it's fun.

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Reply by JonDerry, May 1, 2012.

Good questions and call to clarify Mark, I was a bit confused by the tannins not being so harsh, yet the acid really towering over everything. 

Coming out of the weekend, I feel like I've found a go to wine for my palate, Leoville Poyferre, which was drinking great at 6 years and could probably go on for decades. Not giving up on Dunn entirely, just have to call the 08' Napa Valley a sunk cost, and learning experience.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 1, 2012.

When GdP said the Napa drank earlier, I suspect he didn't mean this early.  As I just said in the Cellaring thread Craig started a while ago, even the "approachable" wines are being drunk well before their prime.  JD, some stuff you gotta take on the word of the elders, and Dunn and other ageable Napa would seem to be it.  There's just no way--and this was the point about Galloni--that you can evaluate a wine made to age for 20 years minimum unless you have that length of experience.  I'm betting my daughters' birth year bottles on the Dunn because I feel confident based on what I have learned that it won't fall apart.  But I am no-way, no-how going to taste one now and try to guess.  (I do think I will save a bottle of Bell Clone 6 as a backup on the 2001, but maybe not.  And I have no plan B for the 2003.)

And this is another problem with the Cali corporate wine world.  Unlike Barolo, or Barbaresco, or some of the Bordeaux estates (although more are corporate owned in Bordeaux than before), Cal premium wineries seem to sell out to bigger concerns and new owners too often.  Even the winemakers and owner at Screaming Eagle and many other "Cults" have moved on, so it's hard to get someone who will be around to answer for the wine in 20-30 years.  The business is just looked at in the typical American way--or typical for now.  No one is thinking, "Gee, what legacy is this leaving behind?"  We have colossal egos in the US, but not the kind that make us think of ourselves as having a place in history.  Well, unless you're Newt Gingrich.  There are exceptions:  Ridge, Togni, Chappellet and the original Mondavis.  Not a coincidence that they all make wines that age so well.  Paul Draper has been at Ridge since 1969, the Chappellets have been working the same land since the '60s.  But unless you can get access to those old wines from those old wine makers, you have no idea how their wines are going to age.  Luckily, with Mayacamas, Chappellet, Ridge, and a few others, there's enough around you might get to taste a 20 year old bottle.  But if you buy a Dunn--and even the other long-horizon guys say his stuff is the real deal--good luck finding anyone who is willing to part with it.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 1, 2012.

Oh, just to clarify:  JD did text me about the Dunn tasting, but my mother in law was coming to town that night.  I love cabernet, but my marriage had to take precedence. So being available to pick her up at the airport won out.  (Alas, if she had flown into SFO it would have been less of a longshot.)

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Reply by EMark, May 1, 2012.

Thank you, everybody, for the responses to my questions.  I think, now, I should do some research into the chemistry of the aging process.  That may help me out.

For the record, I enjoy acidic wines.  I think such wines match very, very well with food, which is, generally, the way I enjoy wine.

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Reply by JonDerry, May 3, 2012.

Fox, I was up at a local liquor store in Tahoe not too long ago, and this guy had super aged Dunn and Mondavi reserve...was really tempted to pick up a couple bottles, but I was a little too suspicious of how the wines would've held up.

Mark - I've had wines heavy on acid before that I've liked, but it has to balance out to some degree - this one seemed unremarkable past the acid now that I reflect on it. Definitely solid, but was expecting more. Will just have to see how the fruit and entire picture develops over time to give a better review, but my gut feel is to invest elsewhere, where the pleasure meter runs a bit higher.

 

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Reply by EMark, May 3, 2012.

Thanks for the report and the advice, Jon.  The good news is that there are always other rocks to look under.

On a related topic, I was at the Wine Club in Santa Ana, the other day and they had 2006 versions of both the Dunn Napa and the Dunn Howell Mountain.  My quest that day was to stock up on "pop and pour" wines, but the price for both the Dunn's was pretty reasonable--the Napa was $65 and my recollection (possibly incorrect) was that the Howell was $70.  Does anybody have any insight on the '06s?

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Reply by JonDerry, May 3, 2012.

With the 06's, I'd give them at least another 3-5 years before pulling the cork.

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Reply by dmcker, May 3, 2012.

Preferably longer.

Decent prices, Mark, so why not pick up a couple for an appropriate occasion or two down the line?

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 3, 2012.

I paid $75 for 2001 and 2003 Dunn Howell Mountain last year via BPWines after soliciting advice here. The prices of Dunn have gone up since then--same place has the '06 for $75, and some other vintages for $82.  $70 is a steal, esp as 2006 was better regarded on the hills in Napa than on the Valley floor and lower appellations.  As for the Napa bottling, the going rate (BPWine, wine.com, K&L) seems to be $65.  That's jumped up from $45 or so last year for the Napa, if my recollection serves. 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 3, 2012.

But Emark, if you get it and it's not ready to drink within your lifetime, don't blame us... just will it to someone who will appreciate it.  If I recall correctly, Ms. EMark isn't a fan of big reds.

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Reply by EMark, May 4, 2012.

You guys have narrowed in on my problem.  I am reluctant to buy something whose maturity process exceeds my life expectancy.  ;-) 

So, regarding the Dunn, the next time I'm in Santa Ana, I may or may not drop by and see if they still have them.  If they do, I may or may not pick some up.  If I drink it before it peaks then so be it.  If I die before I drink it, then so be it  Hopefully, my heirs will appreciate it. 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 4, 2012.

Trophy wine?  Is that a good word for it? 

Make me an heir and you can be sure the wine will be appreciated. (Actually, JD is a better choice, younger than me, but he might not like the wine!)

A friend pointed this out to me, cruelly, a little while ago.  Good thing I don't really have an urge to explore Sauternes anyway. But he thinks a lot of Barolo is a stretch for me. 

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Reply by EMark, May 13, 2012.

OK, I was back at Wine Club, yesterday.  On the previous trip I picked up a Spann Semillon-Chardonnay blend that Peggy really liked.  After this many years, I am smart enough to pick up signals like that.  So, I went back and picked up the last three bottles they had.

The above is, of course, not the purpose of this posting.  I did pick up a sample of the 2006 Dunn Howell Mountain.  So, let death watch begin.  Here's a little prayer.

   If I die before I Dunn drink

   I pray Foxall gets to the wine before some stupid heir pours Dunn down the sink

 

 

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Reply by gregt, May 13, 2012.

Interesting thread to check back in on.

I agree with the other Greg about the Napa vs Howell.  Fruit from Howell Mtn tends, at it's best, to be impenetrable - lots of mouth-puckering tannin and a definite herbal note on top. Dunn doesn't like high alc and a lot of sugar, so he deals with that fruit and celebrates the tannins.  Those do soften after age, but it's only age that will soften them. Alternatively, he could pick later and handle the fruit gently, etc., and he'd make a softer wine, but I don't know that anyone makes soft wine from Howell Mtn.

The Dunn Napa is as long-lived as the Howell wine and can be every bit as good. I suppose it makes sense since a lot of it is Howell fruit. There are other mountains, like Atlas Peak, that also produce big fruit like Howell. It's mostly the Dunn style however, that makes his wines what they are.  In recent years he's been doing the de-alcohol thing as opposed to adding water to dilute it, so maybe that's making a difference. But one thing you should definitely get from his wines are tannins. More than acidity. At least that's my experience.

And, some of them age better than others.  Twenty years gets them ready, but I've had a couple from the mid 80s that weren't impressive at all. Of course, they were cheaper then!

Try to get a hold of a 1990, 1991 or 1992 and see what you think.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 14, 2012.

EMark:

Wow, I'm honored.  If you ever feel faint, send me the codes to your alarm and I'll rescue them.  I might even have a 2006 baby out there to save it for--when he/she is 35. But perish the thought.

Gutsy move.  And definitely a good idea to pick up one of your wife's favorites--we learn about more than wine here.  In any case, I wish you and your wife long life and good health.  And when it's time to crack that bottle, I'm on the next flight to LA, with a bottle of bubbly to celebrate your longevity.

GregT: I've had some Atlas Peak wines that were just stewed, over fruity things.  Good if you like that, but at 11 years old (part of FTi Cabernet), the 2001s were just hot and not insanely great.  Not undrinkable or anything, but nothing I wanted to spend a lot on or wait for it to come around, because it wasn't going to get better.  On the other hand, AP doesn't have the same name reco as Howell IMO and I got a good price, so I can't beef too much.  The Dunn is definitely an investment. For the sake of EMark, JD and me, here's hoping it pays off.

 

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Reply by gregt, May 14, 2012.

Fox  - you're right about the jammy.  I guess I'm thinking of the older Pahlmeyers and even some of the older Atlas Peak Winery wines before they got picked up by the conglomerate. The elevation and rainfall is roughly similar.  And of course, Howell growers can jam up their fruit too. I had a La Jota Cab Franc the other day that was just weird. Not particularly good, just weird, both ripe and vegetal at the same time. And only from the mid 1990s.

So I'm thinking that for those of us who are still around when that Dunn gets opened, we should have a Snooth gathering!

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 14, 2012.

GregT: I also had a cab franc recently that was atypical, but from the Sierra Foothills.  It was warmer, while not actually hot, and had some of that raspberry and slightly herbal tones, but upped the raspberry quotient a bit.  I liked it, and it was probably from the early 2000s, but I wouldn't generally think of that or another Cal cab franc as a good wine to age, even from the mid-90s, because its value in Bordeaux and the Loire comes from its ability to ripen in cooler years and climates. (I know you know this, but in case anyone stumbles across this...) There are also blending purposes, but we're talking varietal wine here for the moment.  Napa doesn't have much trouble ripening CS, and the CF can just get overripe, IMO.  I think the vegetal thing is more pronounced in cooler years because the fruit is more in the background, but as far as I'm concerned, a degree of that is just part of the typicity and they could have used a clone that emphasizes those pyrazines.  That and overripeness sounds yucky to me, too.

My first mind blowing experience with cab franc was actually a bottle from Ventana down in Monterey Cty; not sure they grow it anymore, but they were only bottling it on its own in perfect conditions and I got it cheap because they didn't have a market for it--not their customer, and the grape is not highly appreciated by your average Californian.  A lot cooler there--not very good for CS at all--so it didn't get overripe.  Wish I had bought a half dozen when I could because I think that would have aged well.  But Howell and Atlas?  As the planet gets hotter?  If i was a maker or grower, I'd be thinking twice about CF anywhere in the Napa Valley, at least as a serious age-worthy wine.

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Reply by EMark, May 14, 2012.

Greg, is Big Tannin a characteristic of mountain fruit?  I very much enjoy Spring Mountain cabs, and they certainly also seem to have a lot of puckeryness--which, by the way, I seem to like. 

I have been on a personal quest to seek out Spring Mountain cabs, lately.  In addition to the fact that I consistently like them, the tarriff is usually not too bad--there is a lot to be had in the $20-$50 range.  The most I've spent is about $80 for a 2006 Togni, which, of course, also has a very good chance of outliving me.  As a hedge when I bought that one, I also picked up a bottle of Togni's Tanbark, which I understand has a much shorter "event horizon" (to steal a, probably inappropriate, nomenclature from the cosmology world).

Regarding your recommendation about looking at samples from the early 90s, I also have a Dunn (Howell) '97 that, presumably might be closer to enjoyment.  I've heard Dm's (and others') comments about the disappointment of aged '97s, but every bottle has it's own story.  Any prognostication on this one?

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Reply by dmcker, May 14, 2012.

Mark, I'd place money on a Dunn '97 (though I haven't had one for years) before a Mondavi, much less many others who could be mentioned...



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