Monday, August 9, 2010

Tasting Notes - Some Dunn, lots of Spanish

Here we go, another batch of tasting notes for your reading pleasure.


2009 Montebuena Rioja

Fresh, unoaked tempranillo, to me, is rarely an interesting wine. Neither is this, but it is certainly easy to drink and tastes of its place. It's $10, you know? A wine that if you are on my employer's email list you will likely hear about today....

2008 Volver Tempranillo La Mancha

Purely a commercial prospect, this is wine I would not personally enjoy drinking. However, given the sweet-ish, Taransaud laced ripe La Mancha flavor profile, there is a place for this wine amongst my customers, so yeah - I bought it. Sometimes there are buying decisions that I make with the end customer and our bottom line in mind more than my inclination to drink a wine. Most buyers work that way, and though it is not coming from an aesthetically pure place, such is life in the great big online wine retailer game. Don't worry, we still have rueda dorado, traditional rioja, sans soufre macabeu and Canary Island wine for your drinking pleasure (and mine).

2008 Do Ferreiro Albariño Rias Baixas

I do not want to rush to judgement for what is typically amongst my 2 or 3 favorite albariños each year, but this tastes uncharacteristically ripe and lacking in minerality this year. Simple golden stone fruit. In its current state, a huge disappointment. Let's see where it's at in 4-6 months.

2007 Benito Santos Viñedo de Xoan Rias Baixas Albariño

Terrific wine. Todd Blomberg, a San Francisco native, is a partner in this winery, which takes its name from the original owner and one of the early pioneers in the Rias Baixas D.O., Benito Santos. This vineyard, a mere .5 hectares, is farmed organically. Vines here are old, about 80 years I believe, and they grow in granite soils which are so typical here. There is a density, and flavor intensity that reminds me of dry chenin blanc. Plump and generous but mineral, full of fruit yet bolstered by good acid structure. No fru-fru, simple, flabby albariño here.

2006 Benito Santos Viñedo de Bemil Rias Baixas Albariño

Another fantastic example from a separate 80 year old vineyard, this one containing limestone. The structure here is a bit more tense. The acid bites more, in a good way though. I love the minerality, deeply intense flavors and length of this wine. Could age and improve longer for sure.

2008 Ferreira Soalheiro Alvarinho "Primeiras Vinhas" Vinho Verde

The formerly cool, edgy, tense, tangy green fruit profile has opened up considerably since I last tasted a few months ago. It is slightly tropical, in a totally acceptable, structured way. The fruit is intense and persisent. Very interesting alvarinho.

2007 Pedralonga "Barrica" Albariño Rias Baixas

I have never found an oaked albariño I liked. Until now. Somehow, the elevage here does not take away from the amazing acid and mineral structure. If anything, it contributes some subtle nuance of flavor and sweetness, adding a component which blends quite well with the intense, steely acids and minerals. I like to think of some white wines (often times my favorites) as having big, mouthfilling acidity. Savagnin, menu pineau, Chenin, sauvignon grown in Mont Damnes...stuff like that, you know? This wine has got a similar acidity and somehow the oak does not mess it up.

2007 Mengoba Godello y Doña Blanca "Sobre Lias" Bierzo

I am still not a full fledged godello believer. I've seen some interesting wines such as this, but they just get a bit too creamy and soft after some bottle age for my taste. 6-7 months with weekly battonage can have that effect. The acidity is here, but not as present or dominant as I prefer. I have heard the comparison that some people make to Muscadet for these wines, and I think that perhaps for the cooler climate godellos there is something to that comparison. I'm just not sure if the best wines have as much drive and ability to transform in bottle as their Atlantic climate French counterparts in the pays nantais.


I have a lot of respect for what the Dunn family, with Randy's son Mike now at the helm, have accomplished and continue to achieve with their wines up on Howell Mountain. Their wines have been known to age extremely well, given their tense, tannin driven structures in their youth (structures which, for cabernet based wine, also are not shy in acid). Dunn is old school Napa, anti cult cab, critical of the critics, and proud to be that way. These are folks with whom I would be inclined to roll, so to speak.

2006 Dunn Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

I liked this a lot. Very promising black fruited nose, with the sort of tensely knitted balance which these young wines are known for. I have not much experience with older Dunn wines, and would be curious as to how the Napa bottlings age compared with those from Howell Mountain.

2006 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

Like the wine above, but with more intensity to the darker fruits, more richness. The wine has a denser core to it. I could see drinking the first wine with a steak, whereas I would definitely hold off on drinking this wine for at least 5 years, but ideally for much, much longer. Maybe Dunn wines have a shutdown period, as well? That should be taken into account for cellaring and drinking purposes.

2004 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

For some reason, this wine showed a rather soft, precocious quality which seems at odds with the winery's reputation for producing hard, tannic wines which need a long time to become drinkable. Black cherry fruits dominate here, and though the wine is still primary it shows well enough to enjoy now if you like a youthful, fruit dominated wine.

2002 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

Here is where the questions arise and some doubts began to surface in my mind. There is a weird, band-aidy flavor in the wine, and a certain volatile quality aromatically. I would be curious to see if this is a widespread issue with this vintage.

1998 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

Just as I was taking in the rather large stamp which Brettanomyces has imprinted on this wine, Mike was mentioning how the wine has transformed and become a wine that people really enjoy, regardless of the panning of the 1998 vintage amongst wine critics. I have had good wines from this vintage and enjoy that the wines are typically more elegant and balanced than usual. Montelena, for example, made a very good estate Cab in 1998. With this wine, or at least this bottle, however, there is just too much Brett for even my taste. More barnyard like and fecal Brett than savory and meaty Brett. My understanding of Brett in wine is that, over time, it will not go away with extended bottle aging.

So, I guess you can say that the Dunn tasting raised more questions than it provided answers. For a variety of reasons (chief amongst them time constraint and no prior contact with Mike Dunn), I did not get into any of these questions. By the way, I have no problem with a winery producing some wines that (at least for my palate) miss every now and then. But I would love to hear from anyone who has more experience with Dunn than I do. Maybe I had some bad luck with individual bottles, or maybe I just need someone to school me and tell me to shut my pie hole.

Next up, my preferred variety of notes, drinking notes.


Brian M said...

In my very limited experience, 2002seems to be a really mixed bag vintage in Napa. The 2002 Hess Collection Cabernet was dead dead dead (I know, it's a mediocre commercial wine, but I had just caught the wine bug and was a club member for a year or so)the 2002 Rubicon was mediocre. The 2002 Rubissow La Piedras Vineyard was ferociously tannic-maybe the hardest wine I've ever tasted!!!!

Yet I loved the 2002 Peter Franus despite commentary on Cellar Tracker about's integrated now)

Joe Manekin said...


2002 was referred to by critics as a very good vintage in Napa. My experience has been that the wines are fleshy and more forward, but not as structured in terms of acid or tannin. Not like '01 or '06 for example. More like '07 - ripe and fruity.

That having been said, certain producers' wines sort of transcend vintage, or at least are different enough to not follow any sort of vintage trend, and I suppose that Dunn could be one of them. Also remember that the weather on Howell Mountain is different than on the valley floor. Speaking of mountains, I remember hearing that at least one winery on Spring Mountain was not happy at all with their first wine from 2002 and declassified it to their second wine.

As for "mediocre commercial wines" (your description of Hess), don't be so quick to apologize for them. I must admit that I'm not much of a cab drinker at all but I'm more inclined to go for mediocre and commercial than ambitious and "boutique" because it will be more honest wine because it is less likely to be consulted on by Melka, Hobbs, Rolland, etc.

$100K consulting fees are great for consultants, bad for wines.

Brian M said...

Interesting comments, Joe.

I think there is a middle ground/third path between what I called mediocre commercial wines and over-manipulated cult wines. I've tasted my share of $100 Welch's Grape Juice Alcohol Bombs, too (although can't afford them anymore!). I've actually tasted a couple of Paul Hobbs wines that I liked(hangs head in wine geek shame)(LOL)

Love your blog, though...and I am also a customer.