A few days ago I had the opportunity to taste the latest Dunham Cellars lineup with Dunham General Manager John Blair and head winemaker Dan Wampfle Dunham Cellars was created in 1995 by Erik Dunham and is one of the older and most prestigious wineries in Walla Walla. The winery has evolved in recent years with the change at head winemaker, hiring their winemaker from Columbia Crest.
Dunham wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Trutina (Bordeaux style blend), Three Legged Red (red table wine), Lewis Vineyard Riesling and the "Shirley Mays" Chardonnay. They also have an offshoot winery called Pursued by Bear, that makes some impressive reds. Particularly in in the past few years, Dunham wines have been heralded by two of the most prominent wine publications, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. In fact, Dunham wines have received scores of 96 and 97 by Wine Enthusiast, which is exceptionally rare, as typically only Leonetti, Cayuse and Quilceda Creek typically receive such a rating.
These guys have been on fire since they changed their winemaker, as their Cabernet has received scores of 93, 96 and 92 in the past 3 vintages. Over the years Dunham has been one of my favorites. Some of their older wines have shown incredibly well, including their 2000 Trutina, 2002 Cabernet and 2003 Syrah that I’ve had in the past year.
Here are some of the great Dunham wines that I have tried recently.
2012 Lewis Vineyard Riesling- Nose is more reminiscent of a Spatlase than a Kabinette style. Pear, golden delicious on the nose and mushroom. Richer than the 2013. Slate, lemon lime, green papaya and grapefruit. Drinking good now. -92
2013 Lewis Vineyard Riesling- 1.8% residual sugar. Lemongrass, cut grass, oak, mushroom. Winemaker noted they he's trying to make this wine as Germanic as possible. He likes the 2013 better than the 2012. Slate and lemon lime on the palate. Minerality is very nice. Very clean and refreshing. Drink now. -90
2012 Late Harvest Riesling- Around 12% residual sugar. 130 cases made of this small production wine. Rich, golden color. White peach, golden delicous, Welches white grape juice. Palate has minerals with white peach, pear, creme brûlée, ripe tangerine and apricot. Complex and delicious now but could cellar for 5 plus years. -95
2013 Shirley Mays Chardonnay- Buttered toast and oak with slight melon undertones. Palate has oak, golden delicious, pear with nice cream finish. Drink now. Winemaker mentioned that it has cellaring potential for 10-15 years. -91
2012 Three Legged Red- this wine is blended differently each vintage. This year it is Cabernet dominant with 30% Syrah, and the rest Merlot, Sangio and Petite Verdot and Malbec with Cab Franc. Same fruit but high percentage of Lewis fruit. Spicy nose with black fruits. Palate has black cherry, red currant, anise and tomato leaf. Very solid. No new oak and 100% hand harvested. -89
2011 Truitina- Christmas spice on the nose with prune, oak and a blackberry. Winemaker says 18-20 months in new and is more layered and more brooding. Bordelaise style. Lighter style but has nice balance. Red cherry, anise and spicecake. Needs 2-3 years of aging. -90
2010 Trutina- Blackberry and raspberry with dried herbs on the nose. Palate has nice richness. Fruit structure has evolved considerably since trying 6 months ago. Red currant, black cherry, chocolate and anise with blackberry pie. Smooth and has really come together. Drink now or cellar for 1-2 years. -92
2009 Trutina- Classic Washington ripe fruit on the nose, getting blackberry and raspberry with oak. Palate has good depth and acid structure to cellar for many years. Raspberry, anise, figs, blackberry and oak are dominant. Nice balance. Drink now or cellar for 1-2 years. -92
2011 Syrah- 100% Syrah. 20-22 months in new and old oak. Classic Dunham Syrah nose. Red currant, smoked meats, black pepper and oak. Blackberry, anise, in this Northern Rhone style with the Washington Syrah. Smooth. impressive considering the vintage. Drink now or cellar for 1-2 years. -92
2010 Cabernet- Released in October 2013. When the wine is released he winemaker says that it is ready to drink but can also cellar for 10 plus years. Black fruits predominant on the nose like black cherry, anise and the wine maker noted a texture to the smell. Clearly a very compelling nose. Palate has blackberry, anise, spice cake, vanilla and black tea. Layered and delicious. Great acid structure and needs at least 3 years of cellaring. Drinking slightly better than when I tried it at the Taste of WA. -93
2007 Lewis Vineyard Merlot- Nose is compelling. Prune, red cherry, rose petals, and toast with a vegetal quality. Palate has great viscosity. This is seriously impressive, one of the best Washington Merlots I've had in a while. Red cherry, nutmeg, anise, blueberry, tomato leaf and spice cake. Serious wine, drink now or cellar for 2-3 more years. -94
2005 Lewis Vineyard Syrah- Smoked meats and blackberry with black pepper on the nose. Wonderfully perfumed nose. Smoked meats, blueberry, light tannins on the palate as this wine is still youthful. Anise, blackberry as well, drink now or cellar for 2-3 years. -94