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2017 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mtn

2017 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mtn

97 VM


Critic Reviews

The 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain is sure to make Dunn fans happy. Powerful and ample, it marries the natural intensity of the year with the savoriness that makes Howell Mountain Cabernets so distinctive. Dark blue/purplish fruit, graphite, spice, leather, dried herbs and lavender imbue the 2017 with striking intensity and character. I can’t wait to see how it ages. The 2017 is a positively stunning edition of the Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.

Antonio Galloni | 97 AG
Already more open than the 2018 Howell Mountain, the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain boasts slightly piney, resinous herb notes—thyme and rosemary—along with classic cassis and blueberry fruit. Yes, there’s a cedary coat of oak, but the fruit comes through loud and clear, adding a rich, velvety textural component and mouthwatering berry flavors on the lingering finish.

Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 96+ RP
Fresh ripe cassis, blackberry and plum fruit flavors course through, carried by tar and apple wood notes that are well-embedded, giving this a muscular but sleek feel. Features a great tug of dark earth and licorice snap on the palate-staining finish.

Wine Spectator | 95 WS
From a challenging vintage due to heat spikes and devastating wildfires, the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain nevertheless is a terrific wine. Giving up lots of darker currant and cassis fruits as well as scorched earth, graphite, and obvious minerality, it’s medium to full-bodied, has good overall balance, chalky, slightly drying tannins, and a good finish. It should evolve for another decade at least, but the tannins will need to be watched.

Jeb Dunnuck | 92 JD

Wine Details for 2017 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mtn

Type of Wine California Red : Whether it's Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Zinfandel, Californian red wine producers have a lovely habit of taking a varietal and expressing its essence in a unique, never before seen way. From Napa Valley to the regions south of Los Angeles, there's a red for everyone - and it's never too late to start exploring.
Varietal Cabernet Sauvignon : It is recognized worldwide, referred to as “king of grapes” and has easily become the most popular grape variety in the world. Cabernet Sauvignon has seemingly taken the world by storm. It has seen exponential growth and popularity in American and around the world over the past thirty years. The phrase “Cabernet is king,” is a common maxim in the world of wine. Cabernet Sauvignon wine has become so popular that when being referred to can be recognized by simple slang, such as “Cab” or “Cabernet. It might appear simple, straightforward and easily understood; yet, interestingly remains an enigma, which has both baffled and excited oenologists since its discovery.

The exact origin and circumstances of this world-altering event are still enigmatic; however, at the end of the 20th century, UC Davis Scientists (John Bowers and Carole Meredith) were able to solve part of the mystery using DNA fingerprinting technology that proved Cabernet Sauvignon to be the offspring of a surprising spontaneous crossing of Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. By the 18th century there were already records of Cabernet Sauvignon being well-established on the west side of the Gironde Estuary (Left Bank) in the Medoc and Graves.

Although tremendously popular in California and what seems to have become the identity of Napa Valley winemaking, Cabernet Sauvignon’s birth took place in the Bordeaux region of southwest France by fortuitous unification. Whereas Napa Valley experienced a winemaking renaissance during the 1970’s and 1980s (greatly due to the 1976 Judgement of Paris) quality wine from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape has been produced in the Medoc, on the Left Bank of Bordeaux for over 400 years.

Cabernet Sauvignon’s first recorded plantings in California can be traced back to the 1850’s when Antoine Delmas, a French nurseryman, brought French vines (including one called ‘Cabrunet’) to the Santa Clara Valley. Early cultivation suffered due to obscurity of the varietal and improper planting in inhospitable soil. It wasn’t until pioneers such as Robert Mondavi, Randy Dunn and Warren Winiarski with their amazing foresight and understanding of terroir, would the grape variety finally find its niche in California winemaking.

Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in warm climates moderated by a cooling marine influence. It is perfectly attuned to gravel-based soils with good drainage. Whether on flat land or a hillside, the Cabernet Sauvignon grape flourishes in proper climates and terroir, producing incredible yields. The thick grapevine is extremely vigorous allowing it to exploit its natural host. Its distinctive small, black berries (reminiscent of blueberries) adhere firmly to the stalk and are capable of a very long “hang time.” These berries are extremely concentrated, producing intensely flavored fruit. The thick skins of the grape are characterized as having highly astringent flavor, high tannin, acidity and dark color. Coincidentally, the variety has a special affinity for oak, which helps soften the bitterness.

Today, the Noble Bordeaux varietal of Cabernet Sauvignon is planted on 340,000 hectares (741,300 acres) of vineyards across the earth’s surface. From Sicily to Sonoma, Chile to Bordeaux, South Africa to Napa. It has found symbiosis in terroir hotspots that mimic that of the Medoc and Napa Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon’s globetrotting has allowed the grape variety to take root all over the world, captivating its inhabitants and influencing winemaking. This serendipitous marriage between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc centuries ago, which offered to the world its progeny, has changed the landscape of winegrowing, winemaking and the face of the entire wine market forever. It has influenced blending, changed civilization and has cultivated a place for itself in today’s world… the very pinnacle.

Country US : As one of the most prolific and innovative wine regions in the world, America is a joy to explore. Most wine connoisseurs will agree that the nation's finest and most compelling wines are being produced today, which means that we have front-row seats to one of the most inspirational stories in wine history. While other regions tend to focus on specific wine styles and have somewhat strict rules as to which varietals you could grow, areas like California have few such restrictions in place. As a result, creative visionaries behind America's most reputable estates have been able to develop compelling, unique, and innovative styles, with a level of terroir expression that rivals even France's largest giants.
Region California : With a history of wine production that dates back to the 18th century, California currently sits as one of the world's most prolific and reputable wine regions. With an area as vast as California, you can expect a colorful collage of terroir profiles, a series of microclimates, and micro-environments that give the wine a unique, memorable appeal. The region's produce is far from homogenized in that sense, and it would take you countless hours to sample all of it. While the region boasts scars from the Prohibition era, it went through what can only be described as a viticultural Renaissance sometime after the 1960s. At that point, California went from a port-style, sweet wine region to a versatile and compelling competitor on the world market. Today, no matter which way your taste in wine leans, you can find a new favorite producer among California's most talented.

Notable sub-regions include legendary names like Napa Valley and Sonoma County, places that any wine lover would die to visit. California's quintessential warm climate allows for incredibly ripe fruit expressions, a style that provides a stark contrast to Old World-inspired, earthy classics. Even where inspiration was clearly taken from staple French appellations, Californian winemakers put their own unique spin on the wine.
Subregion Napa Valley
Appellation Howell Mountain


Producer Dunn Vineyards : Not all great wine stories begin with instant success, nor does every include a history that dates back centuries, or involves a wealthy family owned property handed down to a fortunate heir. Sometimes the ones that develop from hard work, determination and understanding of the importance of terroir transcribes a closer reality to what it means to be a California vintner. Randy Dunn’s passionate and stanch approach to winemaking along with his unwavering ideal that wine should reflect the terroir makes his story one of humbled accomplishment in Howell Mountain and Napa Valley.

Howell Mountain was Napa’s first Sub-Appellation, trailed closely by Carneros in 1983. Dunn was one of the founding vintners who laid the groundwork for creating the Howell Mountain AVA (American Viticultural Area). Over the years he played a vital role, consulting and winemaking for several of his neighboring vintners, including Lombardi Vineyards, WH Smith and several other wineries around the valley including Pahlmeyer.

After graduating from UC Davis in 1975 with a degree in Enology, Dunn began his career path at Caymus Winery. His resume would swell over a short period with time spent working with wineries such as Livingston, La Jota, Pahlmeyer and Palmaz. Then, in 1978 Dunn purchased his first vineyard, high atop the fog line in the Howell Mountains. The 14-acre parcel included 5 acres previously planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. Dunn, being a fulltime wine maker in Rutherford, began tending the vines in the evenings and on weekends. Dunn’s patience, hard work and determination would eventually reward him with a successful family operation that well exceeded even his expectations.

Dunn Vineyards is located in a very rural part of Howell Mountain, surrounded by native vegetation. His understanding and respect of the natural landscape and ecosystem was a driving quality and aspect of his success. Dunn Purchased 64 acres of nearby land and immediately donated it to the Napa Land Trust so that it can never be developed. A second donation was made to the same organization in the amount of $5 million, which enabled the trust to purchase a 3000-acre property on Howell Mountain reserved for conservation. This refreshing philosophy in keeping a natural balance between the native vegetation and their vineyard is a testament to Dunn’s insistence that wine should reflect the terroir. These generous donations were a testament to his humble approach to winemaking. He could easily have cultivated the land and increased his holdings; however, Dunn isn’t in this business for fame or fortune, but is rather a proponent of quality over quantity. He is a purist who loves the land, the art of winemaking and the joy and happiness it brings not only to his family but to those who consume, collect and cherish the wines he produces.

Today 42 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon are farmed on Howell Mountain, which the Dunn family has been nurturing with a hands-on approach in the vineyard, crush pad and in the cellar. The goal is to produce wine that tastes like Cabernet Sauvignon from Howell Mountain. The vineyards lie on a red-stony soil, mixed with volcanic ash, high above the famous Napa Valley fog. At 1,400 feet in elevation, the vineyards see sunshine each day and the heat tends to be more moderate. The terroir is unique to Howell Mountain and as Randy Dunn insists, “The Mountain really determines the style of the wine.”

Dunn’s flagship is a true expression of the Howell Mountain appellation. It is a tannic, classic style of mountain grown fruit that makes no apologies to anyone; produced from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon which is bold, huge, dense and massively structured that demands aging. Patience is rewarded with one of the most concentrated, rich and cassis-laden wines that rival the very best California Cabernets for longevity and sheer quality. Dunn also produces a Napa Valley 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, comprised of grapes from his Howell Mountain estate, as well as fruit purchased from some of the best vineyards on the Napa Valley floor which contributes to the wine’s earlier approachability and softer tannic structure. Yields are kept low, producing a mere 4,500 cases split between both the Howell Mountain and Napa Valley bottlings.

Randy Dunn’s no nonsense approach to winemaking, his unrelenting advocacy for conservation and his level of humility contributes to his being one of the most well-known and respected figures on Howell Mountain. This dirt-loving cowboy does not produce wines for recognition or to win awards but rather the enjoyment of collectors with patience and the appreciation of wines that reflect their natural environment. Dunn vineyards is the embodiment of California winemaking in its most unadulterated fashion, producing wines that tell a story. Not a story of instant gratification, fame, or fortune but one of humility, sheer determination and a vision for unprecedented quality.

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