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  • Writer's pictureToronto Vintners Club

Dunn Vineyards Cabs, Nov. '15

Dunn Vineyards may not be a household name for Canadian wine lovers but “Dunn remains one of California's superstar Cabernet Sauvignon producers” (R. Parker Jr.). The winery started in 1972 after founder Randy Dunn graduated in 1975 from UC Davis in enology and learned to produce wine for an impressive line-up of wineries: Caymus, Livingston, La Jota, Pahlmeyer and Palmaz wineries before starting his own venture. He purchased his original property on Howell Mountain near St. Helena while still winemaker at Caymus from 1975 to 1985. Dunn Vineyard’s first commercial vintage was released in 1981 which makes Dunn one of the oldest continuously producing wineries in the Angwin area. You won’t find Dunn Vineyards on the tourist maps; it’s a private winery and unfortunately, they aren’t set up for public tours. We are fortunate to present a vertical tasting of Dunn Napa Valley - Napa Valley Cabernets.

Dunn specializes in one grape and one grape only – Cabernet Sauvignon – producing wine under two different labels: Napa Valley and Howell Mountain and it does this extremely well. Total production is only about 5,000 cases so their wines aren’t easy to come by. We were fortunate to build a vertical tasting of Dunn wines for the Toronto Vintners Club on November 17th, 2015.

Guest speaker Peter Wearing of The Small Winemakers Collection which imports Dunn into Canada, joined us for the evening. He visited Dunn before our tasting so we were able to get from him a first-hand impression of the Dunn family and winery. Peter has joined us a few times in the past and we were thrilled to welcome him back. He generously donated a 2014 Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc as our reception wine.

Their Howell Mtn Cabs are always sealed in wax which was a devil to remove!


1991 - It possesses Dunn's wonderfully pure, rich, blackcurrant flavors, as well as length, intensity, and full body. Yet the tannin levels in this tight wine are formidable. Do not touch a bottle for at least 5-6 years. Having closely followed Dunn's Cabernet Sauvignons since the debut 1979 vintage, it is remarkable how consistent these wines have been. . . . The wines are always impressive for their strength, massive body, and highly extracted blackcurrant fruit. Dunn, who believes in filtering but not fining, tends to use the former technique as a way of bringing a measure of refinement to the brute strength and power his wines possess. Wine Advocate #96, Dec. 1994. Robert M. Parker, Jr. Drink: 2008 – 2020. 89-91/100

2002 - Sweet black currant, floral, blueberry, and cassis characteristics emerge from the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa. With medium body, and not the power and depth apparent in other Napa bottlings, it is a more elegant, restrained effort that will be ready to drink in 3-5 years. It should last for 15+ years. Wine Advocate #157, Feb. 2005. Robert M. Parker, Jr. Drink: 2008 – 2020. 89-91/100

2003 - . . . possesses deep, dark, primordial, blackberry and cassis fruit intermixed with notes of flowers and minerals. It is impressively built, rich, and intense with the gorgeous fruit purity evident in all the Dunn Cabernets. Drink: 2007-2020+. Wine Advocate #157, Feb. 2005. Robert M. Parker, Jr. 90-92/100

2004 - . . . these 2004s are more opulent and up-front than previous renditions. Yet, they lack neither concentration nor richness. Those of us who have been cellaring Dunn’s wines for twenty years, waiting for them to reach maturity should be thrilled by this new development. Look for the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa to drink well for 15 years. It is a brilliant achievement. Wine Advocate #174, Dec. 2007. Robert M. Parker, Jr. 2007 – 2022 91/100

2005 - The 2005 . . . is gorgeous. It is a soft, caressing wine laced with expressive dark fruit, blackberries, spices, leather and flowers, all of which come together beautifully in the glass. This is a surprisingly soft, open young wine with lovely inner perfume and a mid-weight structure that makes it approachable, even today. It is a great starting point for readers who are new to the Dunn wines. Drink: 2011-2025. Wine Advocate #198, Dec. 2011. Antonio Galloni 92/100

2006 - . . . quite a bit richer than the 2005 tasted alongside it. The 2006 shows gorgeous depth as it opens up in the glass. Dark fruit, licorice, smoke and tar are some of the notes that flesh out in this broad-shouldered Cabernet Sauvignon. A creamy, textured finish rounds things out in style. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2026. Wine Advocate #198 Antonio Galloni 94/100

2007 - . . . one of the very finest young wines I have ever tasted from Randy Dunn. Layers of dark red fruit, blackberries, flowers, mint and licorice emerge from this seamless, large-scaled wine. This is a rich, opulent 2007 that never abandons its traditional sense of structure. All of the aromas and flavors build beautifully towards the immensely rewarding, intense, seductive finish. This is a dazzling showing from Randy Dunn. The 2007 is atypically open today. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2027. Wine Advocate #198 Dec 2011 Antonio Galloni 95/100

2008 - The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley is simply extraordinary. Layers of dark fruit, flowers, licorice, spices and mint are beautifully woven together. With time in the glass the wine’s striking inner perfume takes center stage. Tar, smoke, flowers, red berries and licorice are some of the nuances that reappear on the finish, while gorgeous aromatics are laced throughout. I could go on. Let me make it simple: this is a flat-out great bottle of wine from Randy Dunn. Anticipated maturity: 2018-2033. Wine Advocate #198 Dec 2011 Antonio Galloni 96/100

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