1987 Dunn, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Bottle (750ml) Rating:WS97/AG96

Dunn Vineyards: The Epitome of Napa Valley's Long-Lived Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

When it comes to long-lived mountain Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, few producers have attained the legendary status of Dunn Vineyards. Established by the wine enthusiast Randy Dunn, renowned for his early work as Camus Vineyards' first enologist, Dunn Vineyards has been a shining beacon of Napa's most enduring wines since its inception in 1979. Notably, the industry’s most prominent critics advise that Dunn's wines reach their apex only after a remarkable 15 to 20 years of patient bottle aging. Robert Parker's praise tells us, “these Cabernets are for the patient, but make no mistake about it, in top vintages the Howell Mountain is one of the great wines, not just of California, but of the world.” Dunn Vineyards' wines exude both power and intensity, masterfully balanced with a captivating restraint and polish. If you've yet to savor the sophistication of Dunn Vineyards, it's high time to place a 36-year-old bottle of their exquisite Cabernet Sauvignon at the top of your drinking wish list.

Steady Growth and Success

Randy Dunn's journey in the world of wine began with a deep passion for the craft. Graduating from UC Davis in 1975, he immediately joined the Wagner family at Caymus Vineyards. By 1978, Dunn secured a 14-acre parcel on Howell Mountain, which laid the groundwork for the iconic Dunn Vineyards. During the first three vintages, the wines were produced and bottled at Caymus before finding their perfect aging location at Dunn Vineyards. Randy's Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon proved an instant sensation, leading to a gradual increase in production. In 1982, a second gem emerged: Dunn's Napa Valley bottling, blending fruit from Howell Mountain with select offerings from the Valley floor.

Over the years, Dunn Vineyards has steadily expanded its production and vineyard holdings. Initially producing a modest 666 cases in their debut vintage, they have now reached impressive production levels, ranging from 4,000 to 5,000 cases. Presently, Dunn Vineyards proudly manages 35-acres of Napa's prestigious Howell Mountain, which officially gained recognition as a sub-AVA in 1984. This victory was a significant triumph for Randy Dunn, who, along with Bill Smith of La Jota, tirelessly advocated for Howell Mountain's distinction within Napa Valley.

Elevated Advantages

The distinctiveness of Dunn's Howell Mountain vineyards arises from their exceptional position within Napa Valley. Nestled at an elevation of 1,800 to 2,000 feet above sea level, these 35 acres rest majestically above the fog line. This advantageous location allows the vineyards to bask in ample sunshine during the summer while experiencing milder afternoon heat compared to the valley floor. Moreover, the high elevation provides enhanced drainage and airflow, effectively shielding the vineyard from the detrimental impacts of winter frost.

A Winemaking Family

Randy Dunn's winemaking approach is a testament to his unwavering dedication to tradition. Remarkably, his methods have remained largely unchanged since the 1980s. For instance, he forgoes the use of a sorting table, preferring to "leave the junk in the field." Surprisingly, despite the tannic structure for which Dunn's wines are renowned, the total time on the skins amounts to a modest 10 to 12 days. Presently, Dunn ages his wines in 100% new oak for a span of 31 to 32 months. The wines are filtered, resulting in sophisticated Napa Cabernet that boasts a remarkable capacity to age gracefully for decades.

At Dunn Vineyards, excellence is a family affair, with Randy's wife, Lori, skillfully managing the estate, and their son, Mike, expertly leading the production and vineyard management teams since 1999. Though Randy has entrusted many responsibilities to Mike, he remains actively involved in the day-to-day workings of the storied estate. This family-run operation has been producing some of Napa's most long-lived wines since its inaugural vintage. Stephen Tanzer of Wine Advocate has even likened Dunn's Cabs to the enduring wines of Saint-Julien and Pauillac.

Patience Rewarded

Undoubtedly, when discussing the most age-worthy Cabernets in Napa Valley, Dunn Vineyards commands the spotlight. As Robert Parker rightly emphasizes, “for those with patience, these are among the finest values in long-lived, classic Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.” For connoisseurs seeking the savory, Old World style of age-worthy wonders, Dunn Vineyards unequivocally belongs on your radar. Their wines are not only worthy of collecting but are guaranteed to reward the fortunate few who possess the patience to savor them fully. For those who prefer not to wait a minimum of twenty or thirty years to indulge in the wines' full potential, we recommend seeking out an older vintage that is ready to be enjoyed. And, fortunately, you may have just arrived at the perfect place to do so.

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