Dunn Howell Mountain vertical

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A. So
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Dunn Howell Mountain vertical

#1 Post by A. So » May 17th, 2017, 7:14 pm

DUNN HOWELL MOUNTAIN VERTICAL - Chicago, IL (5/16/2017)

We gathered at Maple and Ash to celebrate Keith's pending birthday and pop a vertical of one of the best wines that California has to offer. Food and service were excellent, and the new sommelier, Dan, was definitely in his element.
  • 2004 J. Dumangin Fils Champagne Extra Brut - France, Champagne
    This is a fairly solid, if not entirely exciting champagne. The nose and palate go a bit towards the biscuity/almondy side, but there's still a good touch of acidity and mineral freshness here, coupled with a bit of riper yellow fruit. This isn't too complex, but it's fairly enjoyable all the same. (93 pts.)
  • 2012 Ultramarine Blanc de Blancs Heintz Vineyard Sonoma Coast - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Somehow, this excites me a lot less than how I felt about the 2010 on release; in fact, I'm starting to wonder a little bit if the wines are as good as I remembered them being, or whether that was a function of my initial excitement of tasting the inaugural vintage. The nose on this was promising enough, with a bit of bruised fruit and a touch of oxidative nuttiness. The palate is very much in line with the nose, but the acidity here sticks out way too much; this is a bit of an acid bomb. Better with food. (93 pts.)
  • 2001 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    Of the flight, this was by far the thickest and fleshiest, and showed a lot of menthol on the nose. The fruit on the palate is dark, polished, and very opulent (in the context of these wines). Given the reputation of the producer, I was very surprised how forthright and giving this wine was already. The tannins are soft, but not hidden at all. (93 pts.)
  • 1999 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    This was the runt of the first flight; showing a lot more red-fruited and lighter than the opulent 1996 and 2001. Here, thanks to the slightly receded fruit, the dustiness and menthol show much more clearly. The acidity here is also much more prominent. (93 pts.)
  • 1996 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    This was a nice balance between the opulence of the 2001 and the more structural feel of the 1999. The fruit here showed a nice mix of red and black, and there were also a few slight dusty elements. The acidity isn't too pronounced, and the tannins are silky. My favourite of the flight, thanks to the nice acidic lift and overall better balance. (93 pts.)
  • 1995 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    This was very similar in profile to the 1996 in the flight before, and was my favourite of the second flight. One of the darkest wines tonight, with an inkiness that was pretty easy to see even in the darkness of the restaurant. This is the first (and one of the few) wines where oak was actually detectable, but it was done very tastefully. Despite the ripe black fruit on the palate, the greenness here made it feel a lot more restrained and gave it good overall balance. (93 pts.)
  • 1995 Mayacamas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
    Served double-blind. This was clearly not a Dunn wine, as the aroma profile showed a bit more red fruit, and not as much of the mix of black fruit, menthol, and dust. The palate was fairly racy, with some red-fruited acidity; this wasn't too concentrated or heavy, and with the amount of acidity, I had thought this was a Napa wine of a relatively unripe vintage. (93 pts.)
  • 1993 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    Each flight has to have a weakest wine, and this was the weakest of the 95-93-91 flight. It showed a little unbalanced, with a lot of vegetal elements and some ungainly stemmy qualities as well. The black fruit didn't seem to be here at all, and the tannins and acidity seemed to jut out a little bit. However, this still managed to hold onto the signature well enough. (93 pts.)
  • 1991 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    Unfortunately, this didn't get the airtime it needed, and I thought it didn't show as well as it could have. There's definitely good material here, with plenty of thick black fruit and a fairly heavy structure, with broader tannins and a good amount of acidity. The palate presence here strikes me as the fullest, but at the same time, this tasted a little dumb. Probably could have used some air, as it did get better in the glass. (93 pts.)
  • 1990 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    The nose on this is explosive, with the fruit and dust seeming to jump out of the glass. Psmith described this "like Christmas: a nice combo of red and green". Indeed, the nose showed more towards the red fruit; this was a bit more delicate than the other wines; perhaps on the cusp of developing secondary characteristics. (93 pts.)
  • 1985 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    This was my wine of the night. It was the first wine to show any prominent signs of secondary characteristics; in this case, this had a bit of leather to it. The fruit was full-bodied and ripe, and there were just a few slight touches of dried figs as well. The tannins are probably as resolved as they will ever be; this is a Dunn that is in a good drinking state. (93+ pts.)
  • 1984 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    Corked. (93- pts.)
  • 1982 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    I think this suffered a little bit being next to the beautiful 1985; this wine too showed some secondary characteristics. The nose here had a touch of leather, dried fruit, and a touch of smoke. The palate had most of the same qualities of the 1985, but this wine felt a little shorter, more clipped, and not as complex -- not to say that this was a bad wine though; the 1985 was a very high bar. (93 pts.)
  • 1990 Freiherr Langwerth von Simmern Hattenheimer Nußbrunnen Riesling Spätlese - Germany, Rheingau
    #28-91, 9% abv. This is pretty old school riesling (you can tell by the label) in that despite the stated Praedikat level, this tastes almost totally dry. Whatever sweetness there is here seems to come from the fruit flavours rather than actual residual sugar. There is a touch of brown sugar flavour here, and the fruit is on its last legs -- it is starting to dry out. (93 pts.)
I think the most stunning thing about the vertical was the sheer consistency of the wines. It's a bit pejorative to say that all the wines tasted the same, but there was definitely a large amount of commonality between all the vintages we had. Certainly different vintages had different characters, but through it all was a common theme of ripe fruit, menthol, and a touch of dust. The oak treatment here is brilliant and seems to be more to tame the grape tannins than to impart any unwanted flavour. The reputation that the wines take forever to come around is not quite right, as some of the younger wines were certainly approachable; on the other hand, we had to go back thirty years to find any secondary development. The inevitable conclusion is that these are world-class cabernets, well deserving of a place in the cellar.
エaイdドrリiアaンn (93 pts.)

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Rich Brown
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#2 Post by Rich Brown » May 17th, 2017, 7:23 pm

Nice! Incredible line up - would be amazing to taste all these Dunn wines side by side.

I'm sure they were all great in their own right....but fyi....they're all showing the same score of 93 points ;)

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#3 Post by R_Gilbane » May 17th, 2017, 8:05 pm

What he said.
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R Nanda
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#4 Post by R Nanda » May 17th, 2017, 8:27 pm

For a non-93 point view of the evening . . .

DUNN HOWELL MOUNTAIN VERTICAL B-DAY DINNER - Maple & Ash (5/16/2017)
  • 2012 Ultramarine Blanc de Blancs Heintz Vineyard Sonoma Coast - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium nose is chalky with red apple skin and a light oxidative note. The palate is taut and sour on its own. Better with food but still on the sour side and foursquare side. Hopefully time in bottle adds some depth and balance. (87 pts.)
  • 2001 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    This is the biggest and richest of the Dunn's tonight. A huge, rich and concentrated nose with riper, jammy fruit, dust, herb, menthol and tobacco. The palate is rich and dense, but well balanced. The tannins provide grip but aren't overly firm. This drinks very well in a more forward and modern style (relatively speaking). (94 pts.)
  • 1999 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    A more subdued nose here with less fruit intensity and as a result the menthol, tobacco, dust and herb notes really pop. On the palate the tannins are more or less resolved and this drinks more smooth/slick than all of the other wines tonight. Enjoyable and very good on its own, but a laggard in the context of the other 9 Dunn HMs tonight. (91 pts.)
  • 1996 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    Takes an adjustment after the more forward, giving 01 and 99. But with a little time and focus, this is clearly the best of the three and still has the most upside. Sneaky good nose that is powerful with loads of herb, dust, menthol and bright fruit. The palate is just starting to become generous with good depth to the red fruits, but the tannins are still firm and grippy. Great now, will be even better down the road. (95 pts.)
  • 1995 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    Another of my favorites tonight. The nose here is more classic and Bordeaux-like with cassis and plum fruit, herbs, menthol and cedar. The palate is quite expansive with good depth and complexity of flavors. Tannins are fine and quite manageable now. (93 pts.)
  • 1995 Mayacamas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
    Snuck this one blind into a Dunn HM vertical dinner. Quite obviously a classic Napa Cab to all tasters. While this was nice, it wasn't as exciting as a bottle tasted a few months ago. Well balanced and all in proportion, I just found the intensity a bit lacking and that the wine showed simple relative to the Dunn HMs. (88 pts.)
  • 1993 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    A fairly lush and giving nose with loads of leafy tobacco, cedar and damp earth notes. Palate is lush and ready to go. Nice layering and earthy complexity. Good now, though not as intense and nuanced as many of the other Dunn HMs tonight. Don't expect this to get better, though it should hold. (91 pts.)
  • 1991 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    This didn't get much air, so it was disadvantaged relative to the other bottles tonight and I'd bet it would have shown considerably better with a little decanting. The nose is compact but with swirling and air you can see how complete the aromas are here with lots of everything -- cassis fruit, dust, cedar, menthol, and cedar. The palate is initially brooding but really wakes up and becomes fresh/intense with ~30 minutes in the glass. Probably a classic vintage and definitely upside from here. (92 pts.)
  • 1990 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    A gorgeous ethereal nose here with fantastic layering of rich cassis, cedar, herb, tobacco and pine notes. The palate is muted and lighter in intensity. 94 point nose. 88 point palate. Perhaps just an awkward phase. (91 pts.)
  • 1985 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    An epic, epic Napa Cabernet. Huge nose with layered and mature aromatics of aged red fruits, smoke, asphalt, wet earth, tobacco leaf and dust. The palate is delicious and complex with excellent energy for a 30+ year old wine. Fruit is still lush and tannins are silky. A refined Cab. (96 pts.)
  • 1984 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    Corked. NR (flawed)
  • 1982 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    Full nose with maturing red fruits and menthol that is fresh and intense. The palate starts out strong with depth, freshness and even at times sweet red fruit. It does, however, fade quickly on the midpalate as the richness and intensity fall off. (90 pts.)
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#5 Post by R Nanda » May 17th, 2017, 8:28 pm

A. So wrote:I think the most stunning thing about the vertical was the sheer consistency of the wines. It's a bit pejorative to say that all the wines tasted the same, but there was definitely a large amount of commonality between all the vintages we had. Certainly different vintages had different characters, but through it all was a common theme of ripe fruit, menthol, and a touch of dust. The oak treatment here is brilliant and seems to be more to tame the grape tannins than to impart any unwanted flavour. The reputation that the wines take forever to come around is not quite right, as some of the younger wines were certainly approachable; on the other hand, we had to go back thirty years to find any secondary development. The inevitable conclusion is that these are world-class cabernets, well deserving of a place in the cellar.
Spot on summary, Adrian.
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#6 Post by Ed Steinway » May 17th, 2017, 8:35 pm

Well done. We have been buying Dunn HM for a many years, and have a few that you tasted. My favorites from your tasting are the '96 and '01. Thank you both for sharing your notes.

Thanks,
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#7 Post by p@ulbortin » May 17th, 2017, 10:35 pm

Knock it off! Scores go hand in hand with notes! The 90' seems more exciting than your WOTN

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#8 Post by JoeD » May 18th, 2017, 5:11 am

Thanks for the notes guys, I'm a big Dunn fan. The interesting thing about a handful of the vintages you tried is that a few of the HM are upstaged by their Napa peers IMHO.
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#9 Post by Michael S. Monie » May 18th, 2017, 5:45 am

paul bortin wrote:Knock it off! Scores go hand in hand with notes! The 90' seems more exciting than your WOTN
Adrian is one of those people who do not realize that the first time it's clever but the second time it's boring. Yawn.
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#10 Post by A.Altman » May 18th, 2017, 6:25 am

I'd rate this thread an EASY 93 points.

Very cool tasting, I am very jealous.

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#11 Post by Jay Miller » May 18th, 2017, 6:48 am

Nice tasting, but...

"1984 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
Corked. 93-"

A little harsh on the rating, don't you think?
Ripe fruit isn't necessarily a flaw.

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#12 Post by salilb » May 18th, 2017, 7:04 am

Nobody ever said he's an easy grader.
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#13 Post by Brandon R » May 18th, 2017, 7:29 am

Michael S. Monie wrote:
paul bortin wrote:Knock it off! Scores go hand in hand with notes! The 90' seems more exciting than your WOTN
Adrian is one of those people who do not realize that the first time it's clever but the second time it's boring. Yawn.
I kind of had the same thought. Great tasting, and cool notes, but 93s are distracting. We get the point!

Back to the OP, would you say that the consistency of the wines is a good thing, or would you prefer a little more variation due to vintage and age? I've never done a vertical of Dunns, or one of any wine this comprehensive, so I can't tell whether or not I, personally, would like it if all wines had a strong similarity and consistency, even through the years. Would it be more "interesting" to note clear differences vintage to vintage (but, with a consistent house "style"), or more novel in which the house style overrides some of the vintage variation?

Is Dunn fruit always from the same sites on Howell Mountain through the years?
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#14 Post by M A T T H A R T L E Y » May 18th, 2017, 7:57 am

Jay Miller wrote:Nice tasting, but...

"1984 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
Corked. 93-"

A little harsh on the rating, don't you think?
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#15 Post by Markus S » May 18th, 2017, 8:23 am

No Napa's to compare? Too bad, because more people probably see more of those.
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#16 Post by John Coop » May 18th, 2017, 8:52 am

I opened a 1992 Howell Mountain last Sunday, it was fantastic!!

Decanted only 2 hours but it still had plenty of life in it. I didn't take any notes, it was too nice outside and we just enjoyed it with Lamb Chops.

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#17 Post by R Nanda » May 18th, 2017, 8:56 am

Brandon R wrote:would you say that the consistency of the wines is a good thing, or would you prefer a little more variation due to vintage and age? I've never done a vertical of Dunns, or one of any wine this comprehensive, so I can't tell whether or not I, personally, would like it if all wines had a strong similarity and consistency, even through the years. Would it be more "interesting" to note clear differences vintage to vintage (but, with a consistent house "style"), or more novel in which the house style overrides some of the vintage variation?
I think the house/site consistency, with clear vintage-driven and age-driven markers, is a big plus. To be clear, not all the wines were the same ... not even close ... plenty of vintage and age driven variety. Kudos to Dunn for making a wine that lets the Howell Mountain site shine through and that delivers such a consistent experience over 30+ years. I liked Dunn coming into this vertical tasting, I like it even more after the fact.
Brandon R wrote:Is Dunn fruit always from the same sites on Howell Mountain through the years?
I believe the Howell Mountain bottling is from the same estate vineyards, each and every year. More info here ... http://www.dunnvineyards.com/vineyards/
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#18 Post by Brandon R » May 18th, 2017, 12:28 pm

Thanks, Rich.
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#19 Post by Drew Goin » May 19th, 2017, 7:59 am

Thanks for the notes!!!

I have not had any of Mr Randy Dunn's wines, but I expected to read a lot more about oak flavors, given what most articles mention of his winemaking process. Also, no booziness is cited. I think this just goes to show that:
• individual taste trumps everything else;
• the (predominantly) mountain fruit is sculpted in a fashion that integrates these elements nicely.

Again, I appreciate your detailed TN's. :)

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#20 Post by R Nanda » May 20th, 2017, 7:36 am

Drew Goin wrote:Thanks for the notes!!!

I have not had any of Mr Randy Dunn's wines, but I expected to read a lot more about oak flavors, given what most articles mention of his winemaking process. Also, no booziness is cited. I think this just goes to show that:
• individual taste trumps everything else;
• the (predominantly) mountain fruit is sculpted in a fashion that integrates these elements nicely.

Again, I appreciate your detailed TN's. :)
Hi Drew - I thought the oak was 100% imperceptible in the wines' flavors. We actually talked about this quite a bit at the table. I suspect the oak integrates well with time and is much needed to soften the sturdy tannins and big fruit.
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#21 Post by Doug Schulman » May 20th, 2017, 10:02 am

Drew Goin wrote:no booziness is cited.
Randy dealcoholizes his wines, I believe keeping everything below 14%. I don't know when this started, but older vintages would have been naturally lower.
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