I was recently able to taste the new Dunham Cellars lineup with head winemaker Dan Wampfler. Dunham Cellars was created in by Erik Dunham 1995 and is one of the older and most prestigious wineries in Walla Walla. Wampfler came onto the Dunham team and has been crafting some incredible wines, as I’ve been impressed with his recent releases that combine richness with great terroir. Dunham wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Trutina (Bordeaux style blend), Three Legged Red (red table wine), Riesling and the "Shirley Mays" Chardonnay. They also have an offshoot project called Pursued by Bear and Baby Bear, that are impressive releases. 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. Some of their older wines have shown incredibly well, including their 2007 Lewis Vineyard Merlot and the 2007 Syrah. Here is my recent interview with Dan Wampfler, followed by my reviews of recent releases from Dunham. #dunhamcellars
WWB: Can you talk about your new value wine release, the 2013 Dunham Three Legged Red?-
Wampfler: This is Cab, Merlot, Syrah and is Cab dominant. It has 10 months in experienced oak and there is some Cabernet Franc, Sangio [Sangiovese] on any given year and we are trying to create this Wednesday afternoon soft burger and pizza wine. This is our entry level and attractive so that you can just pour a glass.
WWB: What do you think the differences between the 2013 vintage vs. the 2012 vintage?-
Wampfler: '10  and '11  were super cold and 12s [2012s] started to warm up, '13  warmed up and 14  even warmer. '12 became a transition year going from cold to warm year and the fruit was actually ripe and easy to work with. We didn’t have significant challenges in the vineyard or the cellar. I think the  wines were a lot easier than '10 or '11. '12 was a reset year and a lot longer on the vines and extract the skins a colors and back to the warmer year and the 1'3 was comfortable back with a hot vintage again.
WWB: Many people have called the 2012 vintage a signature vintage for Washington. Would you agree with that contention?-
Wampfler: I think that is too quick to tell and the 2012 Three Legged Red was killer and now we are on the ‘12 for Truitina and I think the benchmark is the Cab. So we will have to see how that Cab turns out.
WWB: Can you talk about the last few vintages of the Truitina? –
Wampfler: So '10  and '11  took their sweet time and turned the corner. I think '10 is getting together now and '11 is a year out and '12 is already there and ready to drink.
WWB: I was impressed with your 2011 Cabernet, considering the vintage. Can you talk about the winemaking for the 2011 Cabernet? –
Wampfler: By far this is my favorite vintage [for Cabernet] and it is a differentiation from the '11 and '12 Truitina and this is going to get better with age but is rocking the show right now. I am so pleased where this is at. Of all the wines that we made this was the hardest and maybe we spent the most amount of energy getting this wine where it is but I am so pleased where it is. I was just trying to get it in the door and get it ripe. Style was out the window because it was literally, we had not a single grape come into the door above 23 brix. That is lower than any red and the other challenge in 2011 is we fermented and brought in all our fruit in 17 days and didn’t start harvest until October 6. '14  we started a month earlier and the challenges was getting the fruit in the door and where to ferment it and by leaving the wines on the skins we were extracting more flavor and we had to do that in '11 but we were so limited in tank space that everything came in in that window. But the Cab comes in last and you don’t have to rush it to barrel. All of the Cab had all of the time in the tank that it needed. I was waiting and waiting for ripeness and as soon as things were approaching ripeness it started raining and getting cold and that was a problem. We had less than three weeks [for harvest].
WWB: Regarding the winemaking in the 2007 Lewis Merlot-
Wampfler: It has this amazing too pure and too fake cherry and strawberry profile and then there is not herbal or minty but sagebrush. Like when you drive through Yakima and if the sagebrush is blooming it is a combination of eucalyptus and minty and it just slightly mingles and layers in the wine that I absolutely love.
2013 Dunham Lewis Vineyard Riesling-1.8 residual. Lemongrass, cut grass, oak, mushroom. Winemaker noted they he's trying to make this as Germanic as possible. He likes the 2013 better. Slate and lemon lime on the palate. Minerality is very nice. Very clean and refreshing. -90
2013 Dunham Shirley Mays Chardonnay- Buttered toast and oak with slight melon undertones. Palate has oak, golden delicious, pear with nice cream finish. Drink now. -91
2013 Dunham Three legged Red- Anise, red cherry, and cherry tomato on the nose. Palate has blackberry, red cherry, and cherry tomato. Open and round, drink 2015 on. -89
2011 Dunham Syrah- 100 percent Syrah. 20-22 months in new and old oak. Classic Dunham Syrah nose. Red currant, smoked meats, black pepper and oak. Palate has blackberry, anise, in this Northern Rhone style that is balanced and smooth. Impressive considering the vintage. Drink after 2015. -92
2007 Dunham Syrah- smoked meats and creme de cassis on the nose. Palate has anise, smoked meats, and red cherry. Delicious. Drinking good as of 2015. -93
2007 Dunham Lewis Merlot-Nose is compelling. Prune, red cherry, rose petals, and toast with a vegetal quality on the nose. Palate has great viscosity. This is seriously impressive, up there with the best Washington Merlots. Red cherry, nutmeg, anise, blueberry, tomato leaf and spice cake. Serious wine. Drink after 2014. -94