Wine Talk

Snooth User: Richard Foxall

Dunn Howell Mountain as a birth year bottle?

Posted by Richard Foxall, Jul 1, 2011.

Both my daughters are Californians, born in Berkeley in '01 and '03.  I've finally succumbed to the idea of setting aside birth year bottles, more convinced that storing them in my basement is not pure folly after our latest heatwave.  (Went down and communed with the wine and it felt nice and cool in the worst of the heatwave.)

So I would like to buy birth year bottles from 2001 and 2003.  California wine would be nice.  I can obtain Dunn Howell Mtn Cab from those years for $75 with essentially free shipping.  '01 was, as a rule, a good vintage in Napa, 2003 not so much, but it would be nice to get matching bottles.  Anyone have an opinion or experience with aging Dunn for that long?  I have heard that his early bottles (1982 in particular) did very well, and RP says the window for the 2001 is 25-30 years, but I've seen nothing about the 2003's ageability. WS did not give the 2001 a great review, but community tasting notes on CT are actually higher than the WS scores. 2003 was generally a good year in Bordeaux, so I could try to scavenge something from there for daughter No. 2.  But if this seems like a good solution, I will probably go with the Dunn.

Give me your feedback, Snoothers.


Reply by GregT, Jul 1, 2011.

For "that long"?

Fox, if there's a single Napa wine that needs time, it's Dunn.

His wine is usually a lot tighter, more tannic, and impenetrable than most Cali wines.  The 1990 is a perfect example.  On top of that, you have Howell fruit.  Ditto everything for that.  Combine the 2 and you get the best bet for aging if you want Cali.  Don't hesitate.

Togni is another.  Mayacamas yet another.

2003 is a vintage that was dismissed by many with no clue.  There are many many good wines from that vintage.  It's not like 1993.  It was wet at first and then cool, so it was not the typical super-ripe CA vintage that we had come to expect after 1997.  I wouldn't hesitate to cellar Dunn 2003s.

I can't say much about the 2001 or 2003 Dunn for aging - most of mine are from the 1990s, various years, but I'd go with both. 

Laube at WS has preferences, Parker does too.  Laube rates the wines blind and doesn't like a bit of herb, or apparently doesn't, so he doesn't give Dunn high scores.  Parker rates by label and he knows he's supposed to respect Dunn, so he gives it higher scores.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 1, 2011.

Okay, that's one very valued opinon.  Are you awake on Sat morning over there in Japan, dmkcer?  How about SH in Oz?  any other NYers (hhotdog), Mass. recent moms, Sonomans?

I'm almost sure the Dunn is it, though. 

Reply by dmcker, Jul 2, 2011.

Totally agree with Greg. Before I scrolled down both Mayacamas and Togni were on my lips. He got there first, though. You could also throw in some Montebello, but that'll be pricier. There are a number of other bottles I'd throw in from Sonoma and Marin, but are you only interested in Cabs? How about dessert wines? And how many bottles//what kind of budget are you aiming for?

Reply by GregT, Jul 2, 2011.

Forgot Corison.  I'd bet on her wine too, although I've more firsthand experience with the others.  BTW, MonteBello may be hard to come by now.  Parker just gave the 2001 99 points.  He only gave it 94 back when he first tasted it.  Of course, all the people who didn't care before will now want it because the higher score means that the wine is much much better than it was you see, so people will bid up the price of that vintage.  And I'd bet on Hillside Select too.

If you don't want to stick w Cabs, and you want something a little different, you may want to pick up something from Sean Thackeray.  Can be weird, but can be really good too.

Otherwise, for $75, I think it would be hard to beat those Dunns.  Great price for the Howell Mtn bottlings.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 2, 2011.

BPWine has a fair bit of Dunn right now at that price, and a few vintages.  I went ahead and ordered, but I can also drink those and buy others if something looks like a better choice.

Of course, these are for my girls. ;-) So their tastes are key, right?  The older one likes rose, she says, but that's not a great choice for aging.  Dessert wines would have great prospects of holding up or improving, but I think my hope is that we'll have a family dinner and drink it then.  My wife supports the idea, and she's not a dessert wine drinker, so cab is the leading choice.

I do have some Pleiades from Thackeray in the basement and we were married in Bolinas--even looked at a house there a couple years back but weren't ready to pull the string--so that has some appeal. I think I would definitely have to buy some and drink it first, since he is quirky and the style can change from one year to the next. 

How about, say, 2003 Cantemerle if I stepped off the Cali path for a second? Or something else reasonable from Bordeaux?

Reply by GregT, Jul 2, 2011.

Very distant second to the Dunn.  I have some Cantemerle, it's good enough, but nothing to blow your hair back.  Tasted Dunn a few times with same vintage l'Evangile and it's a better comparison.  Problem is that wine is several hundred a bottle these days. The wines from Bordeaux that could stand up to the Dunn are all far more expensive than the Dunn and not necessarily all that much better, if at all. I'd have said something like Rauzan Segla, which used to be around the same price as the Dunns or even a bit less, but they just jacked their price to about double. Anything I can think of from Bordeaux will be starting around $150.  In terms of QPR, at your price, for me it's a no-brainer. 

However, I'm not sure if it's to your taste, but think about Chianti. Some of those are wonderful at 20 years or so.  And maybe something from Bolgheri - Macchiole for ex.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 2, 2011.

When others have raised the general age-ability issue, I have mentioned Italians, although more often Barolos. I've got a bunch of '04 Brunello (now that '06 is being hyped, '04 can be had more cheaply).  Maybe I'll look a little farther into the '03 and '01 vintages of Chianti, but neither GregT or dmcker are naysaying the Dunn so that's looking more and more like a lock.

Reply by GregT, Jul 3, 2011.

People talk about Barolo/Barbaresco for age and except for a few Spanish wines, there are precious few wines that can age and improve like some of those can.  But some of the better Chiantis can age for quite a while and for some reason, people don't often talk about those in the same breath as Brunello, not to mention the Piedmonte wines. I bet if the prices of those wines were to jump 2 or 3 times so that they became as overpriced as Brunello, people would start talking about how much better they were and how they aged so well.  They're some of the better values in the wine world, just not fashionable. 

Anyhow, I think you're fine w the Dunns but just for the hell of it, see if you can lay your hands on some older Chianti some day and let us know what you think.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 3, 2011.

My little bit of experience with Italian wine definitely suggests that a fair bit of Brunello is not significantly better to my taste than really good Chianti.  The ageability of the particular strain of sangiovese used in Brunello is the argument I hear for cellaring it. 

That said, I think I can dig up some older chianti and check out the theory.  Anything for the pursuit of knowledge.  Any good candidates you have in mind, either producers or growing regions? I'll hunt around on my own, too.  If the price is right, I can try now and buy a few to store.

Reply by JonDerry, Jul 4, 2011.

I can't be too upset at Brunello for how long they age the wine in their cellars, and they're also all at or below $100, more than we can say about CA or Bordeaux cabernet.  Granted, it's a different grape w/out as much fanfare, but I have no problem with the Chianti/Chianti Classico/Brunello pricing, seems pretty fair to me.  Very similar to lower grade Nebbiolo v. Barolo/Barbaresco.  Just like any other wine, you can find good value in more modest classifications while deciding if the premium's are worth your while.

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