Sunday, November 28, 2021

Dunn Vineyards and Caymus #40 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons

Dunn Vineyards and Caymus #40 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons

For another dinner with visiting relatives Jan & Bill, Bill pulled from the wine cellar a couple labels he was eager to try - a aged vintage Dunn Vineyards and a Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Dunn Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1986

Jan and Bill accompanied us when we visited the Dunn Vineyards estate up at Angwin on Howell Mountain during our Napa Valley Howell Mountain Wine Experience back in 2008. We were hosted by Kristina Dunn that day but we had the privilege to meet winemaker, producer, patriarch and Napa Valley pioneer Randy Dunn. 

Randy started his wine career working for Charlie Wagner as the first enologist for Caymus. He was  instrumental in establishing Howell Mountain as a sub-AVA of Napa Valley. He is hands on from the vineyards to the cellars.

While not one of the larger holdings in our cellar in terms of number of bottles, it may be one of our broadest holdings in terms of number of vintages in our vertical collection of this label, and the flagship premium label Dunn Howell Mtn Cab.  We also collect Randy Dunn's "Feather" label that he produces for the Long Shadows Vintners Collection Series in Washington State.

Our Cellartracker records indicate we have a vertical collection of several mixed cases of each label from almost two dozen vintages dating back to 1981. 

Selections from Vertical Collection of Dunn Napa Valley Cabernets

This label release got 92 points from Robert Parker. It has a Cellartracker average rating of 92.7 from 92 user reviews.

With Randy Dunn at Dunn estate high atop Howell Mountain.

Dunn is known for age-worthy long-lived Napa Cabernets, especially the premium Howell Mountain label.  Robert Parker tasted both Dunn labels at ten years of age in 1996 and wrote: "Two of the most impressive wines in these tastings, both of Dunn's 1986s tasted like 3-4-year old Cabernets rather than 10-year old adolescents.... Rich, pure, and youthful, this 1986 is accessible now, but will unquestionably last another 20+ years." That would bring this wine to 2016 and here we are five years later. 

Amazingly, at 35 years of age this 1986 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is still holding its own showing some but little sign of diminution from age. The fill level, foil, label and most importantly the cork, were all in good, acceptable condition. 

The bottle still has the pricetag sticker on the bottle showing $49.95, which would've been the purchase price back on release in the late 1980's.

Dark garnet colored with a slight brownish tinge on the rim starting to set in, medium bodied, musty dark blackberry and black raspberry fruits holding on but starting to give way to notes of dusty tobacco, leather, hint of graphite, espresso and cassis with nicely integrated tannins on a round lingering finish. 

RM 88 points.

1986 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley


We then opened this widely popular classic Napa Cab Caymus. 

Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon #40 2012 

As I've written here in these pages several times,  Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon is an amazing wine, always a fan favorite. This 2012 vintage was spectacular as usual and was a perfect compliment to our beef steak dinner with dark chocolate dessert. I always find it remarkable how Caymus consistently produce such a wine in such large quantity sourced from so many different growers and vineyards. 

We visited the Caymus Vineyards estate during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2018 for a private tasting. One of the most well known and established brands in Napa Valley dating back to 1972, since then, their production has grown from 240 to 65000 cases per year. They're most known for Caymus Cabernet - their two Cabernets Sauvignons; “Napa Valley” and the venerable “Special Selection”. Both are crafted by winemaker, founder and patriarch Chuck Wagner.

We collected “Caymus Special Selection” for the 1990 vintage (and many vintages since), birthyear of son Alec, and Wine Spectator Wine of the year for 1992. We served this at Alec and Vivianna's wedding celebration.

For this 2012 release, they produced a blockbuster for the vintage, and changed their long standing branding and packaging to this celebratory bottle and commemorative label. The numerical foil that they began with this vintage and every vintage since, signifies the anniversary of the release of this label dating back to the 1976 inaugural vintage release. In this vintage release, they also offered a one liter bottle which provides a nice mid-point step up between the standard size and the 1.5 liter magnum packaging. 

Tonight's tasting was consistent with earlier notes and posts in 2014, 2015 and 2016. 

Dark inky purple, full bodied, big brooding ripe tongue coating plum, black and blue berry fruits predominate turning to a layer of mocha chocolate with a hint of cassis on a big finish The 2012 vintage release also shows the classic characteristics of Caymus Estate Cabernet at its best - early approachability and drinkability as a young wine.

Typical legendary Caymus Cab style - dark blackish ruby/garnet colored, medium to full bodied, nicely structured, complex but smooth, well balanced and polished, it opens with sweet ripe blackberry and raspberry flavors highlighted by layers of milk chocolate, subtle tones of cinnamon, vanilla and hints of caramel and kirsch giving way to a smooth lingering modest tannin finish.

RM 93 points.