Dunham Cellars Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 'VIII' 2002
We did a drop in at Dunham Cellars tasting room in Woodinville during our Seattle Wine Dine Experience back in 2018. We have acquired a vertical collection of this label spanning nearly a decade over the years but have been holding them thinking we might do a vertical tasting some time. Alas, after a decade it hasn't happened so I pulled this vintage release label from the cellar to drink with roast beef charcuterie, cornichons, fruit, olives, cheese, dip and crackers for a casual midweek dinner.
As we have nearly a dozen vintages of this label, the vintage was based on selecting an older bottle, likely to be nearing the end of its drinking window, and the same vintage of the wine we consumed over the previous couple of evenings for a mini horizontal comparison tasting. Clearly, the Columbia Valley Cabernet held up better than the Elouis Christman Park Taylor Petite Syrah Eldorado Tempranillo 2002 we consumed earlier this week.
Reading other Cellartracker notes on this release, we too were pleasantly surprised by the vibrancy and robustness of this in its eighteenth year, showing no signs of diminution whatsoever. This exceeded my expectations, both for that, and for its general flavor profile with its complexity and balance.
My previous recorded tasting experiences for this label were the 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2003 releases, hence I was please I selected a different release to try this evening. I could've just as easily picked one that I had already tasted.
Tonight's tasting experience was the most enjoyable and best showing of the four other vintage releases I had tasted. It was similar to but even better than our last tasting of this label was back in June of this year when I wrote the following:
We stopped by the tasting room during our Washington Wine Experience back in 2018 but it was a drive-by without a reservation and the place was packed. We didn't realize they had the Walla Walla facility and we failed to connect there while we were in town during our Walla Walla Wine Experience back in 2018.
Dunham was founded by Winemaker Eric Dunham. Eric started his career with a 6-month internship at Hogue Cellars in Washington, moving on as Assistant Winemaker at L'Ecole No. 41 in the Walla Walla Valley. With Winemaker Marty Clubb's blessing, Eric began making small lots of Dunham wine at L'Ecole with his first bottling the 1995 Dunham Cabernet Sauvignon I.
After a few successful vintages with Dunham's receiving great acclaim, with some help from his parents, he set out on his own in warehouse space in an old WWII airplane hangar in Walla Walla. A couple of years later, David and Cheryll Blair were introduced to the Dunhams and joined the business to pursue their collective dream of making and pairing great wine with hospitality.
Part of the branding approach from that first vintage was to affix to each vintage the Roman Numeral of the numerical order of each release. Hence, this 2003 Dunham Cabernet Sauvignon, the ninth vintage release, adorns IX on the label.
Dunham Cellars Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
At eighteen years of age, this was holding its own, showing no diminution of aging.
Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, a structured core of black berry and black cherry fruits with notes of spice, anise and black tea with hints of oak.
RM 89 points
Dunham Cellars Columbia Valley Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 and 1998
Tonight provided the opportunity to open a pair of vintages and I was prepared to open more, but we didn't have a large enough group to consume more wines.
Hence, tonight we opened our two oldest bottles of this collection as aging would dictate drinking the oldest first.
An interesting element of Dunham's branding is that each vintage/ label is adorned with the roman numeral denoting the sequence in the series of vintages for that label, this 1997 being III, their third such release in the line.
Previously, I opened their 2003 release (above), noted as 'IX', their ninth release. We've also tasted and noted their 2000 vintage or VI release.
When Dunham's first vintage, a 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon was released, it was deemed one of the finest wines made in Washington by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Subsequent vintages and varietals have consistently earned high marks with both consumers and trade.
Proprietor Eric Dunham is winemaker and also an artist who creates original artwork that is featured in a series of 'Artist Series' labels for Dunham Cellars vineyard designated and special bottlings.
The 100% Cabernet Sauvignon fruit for this 1997 vintage wine was sourced from the Seven Hills, Pepper Bridge, Portteus, and Bacchus Vineyards.
This was showing its age and is most likely past its prime, and as such, is entering the late stages of its drinking window.
Dark garnet colored with slight bricking on the edge, an ever so slight tinge of brown rust color starting to set in. This is medium bodied with bright tangy black cherry predominates followed by tones of black raspberry, smoke, tobacco leaf and eucalyptus with hints of cassis and creosote turning to tangy slightly astringent dark cherry, floral and cedar on the moderate tannin lingering finish.
The 1998 vintage is also 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, but this is sourced from Seven Hills, Pepper Bridge, Portteus, Konnawok, Bacchus, Williard, Wauluke, and Vanessa Vineyards.
Upon opening this started as musty, earthy and leathery, but over the course of an hour the tangy cherry fruits emerged and eventually converged to mirror the profile of the earlier '97. By the next day, the '98 was brighter and more lively than the '97 which was somewhat shrouded in the smokey cassis layer.
Time to drink ... RM 87 points.
Having tasted previously the 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2003, this was the most enjoyable and best showing of the four other vintage releases I had tasted.
Most similar to the 2003, this was dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, nicely balanced and complex with a structured core of black berry and black cherry fruits with notes of spice, anise and black tea with hints of pepper, graphite and oak with a pleasant lingering finish.