One of the eminent Walla Walla wineries, Dunham Cellars was first founded by the Dunham family in 1995. While Dunham has primarily gained a nationwide reputation for their red wines, I have found that in the past decade they have made some of the best Riesling in Washington. Dunham currently relies on the talented hands of winemaker Tyler Tennyson for their red and white wines. Dunham Rieslings have been excellent in part due to their fruit from the esteemed Lewis Vineyard which was first planted in 1998. The vineyard is located in the foothills of the Rattlesnake Ridge in the Columbia Valley. Set at roughly 1200 feet, the vineyard is owned and managed by Betty Lewis & son, Ken Jr. Having tried the past 10 vintages of this wine, I have found the Lewis Vineyard to be one of the best sites for Riesling in Washington and arguably in North America.
The wines that I tried in the Dunham Riesling retrospective dated from 2007-2012. 2007 and 2008 were near perfect vintages for Washington. 2007 was slightly warmer while 2008 was slightly on the cooler side, these vintages showed beautifully for both red and white wines. The same was true in 2009, a slightly hotter year, which produced some scintillating and concentrated red wines in particular. 2010 and 2011 were cooler vintages that created some ripening issues particularly for red wines in 2011. Both ’10’ and ’11 vintages served up gorgeous growing conditions for Riesling and other white varietals. Finally, 2012 had a late growing season and moderate temperatures which contributed to a near perfect vintage for both red and white wines.
The aged Dunham Riesling wines were all stunning. All wines were made by superstar winemaker Dan Wampfler, currently the winemaker at Abeja. I was struck by the consistency of the agability in the wines. None of the Riesling wines appeared to be near the end of their drinking windows. Each Riesling wine showed a classic style and structure whether it was Riesling from a cooler or warmer vintage. It was remarkable how similar the acidity seemed between very different vintages, as the structure in the ’09 appeared to be similar to that in the ’10 and ’11 Rieslings. It is clear that this high elevation site allows the varietal to retain wonderful acidity despite the heat of a vintage. The Dunham winemaking team also appeared to make wonderful judgment in terms of when to pick that varietal each year. Learn more about Dunham Rieslings at dunhamcellars.com Here are the great aged Rieslings by Dunham Cellars.
2007 Dunham 'Lewis Vineyard' Riesling- Coming from this great vintage in Washington, the 2007 ‘Lewis Vineyard’ Riesling is showing brilliantly at this decade mark. This excellent wine has heavy petrol aromatics with cantaloupe, white peach and white flowers with beeswax. The palate shows nice weight and structure, currently displaying flavors reminiscent of green papaya, wet rock, honey, and minerals with a hugely long finish. This has a wonderful astringency as the sugar content contributes to the mouth-watering effect. Drink 2017-2025- 93
2008 Dunham 'Lewis Vineyard' Riesling- The 2008 ‘Lewis Vineyard’ Riesling is currently showing strong petrol aromas and crushed gravel accents as well as white peach, nutmeg and Pazzaz apple aromatics. The mouthfeel is lithe and powerful right now. This leads to ripe flavors of cantaloupe, Granny Smith apple pie, and white flowers. This has an exceedingly long finish and a wonderful mineral streak. Drink 2017-2025- 93
2009 Dunham 'Lewis Vineyard' Riesling- 2009 was a warm vintage. It is somewhat surprising what structure this wine shows at this juncture as it remains vibrant. This excellent wine opens with white flowers, petrol, Gravenstein apple and wet rock. This leads to flavors of pink grapefruit, New York apple pie, white flowers and pineapple. This is exotic and layered, showing wonderful weight and minerality. This probably has another five plus years left right now. Drink 2017-2024- 93
2010 Dunham 'Lewis Vineyard' Riesling- This cold vintage wine begins with aromatics of green apple, green papaya, lemongrass and wet rock. The stony aspect of the wine becomes more apparent the longer you sit with it. There is a wonderful minerality and astringency as this wine currently displays bright flavors of Granny Smith, pink grapefruit, apple, unripe peach, wet rock and white flowers. This is a pretty style of Riesling that shows great balance and poise in this cold vintage. Drink 2017-2027-93
2011 Dunham 'Lewis Vineyard' Riesling- 2011 was a very cool vintage in the Columbia Valley. It is no surprise that this wine is showing marvelously, as the acidity of this wine is very impressive right now. This Riesling opens with an intense bouquet of gooseberry, wet stone, petrol and apricot with white grapefruit. The wine possesses a bright minerality with flavors of white peach, lemon oil, gooseberry, green apple and unripe pear with petrol. The mouthfeel and silky texture is gorgeous, as is the sterling structure. Drink 2017-2027- 94
2012 Dunham 'Lewis Vineyard' Riesling- The 2012 ‘Lewis Vineyard’ Riesling wine opens with aromatics of petrol, white peach, gooseberry and Red Delicious apple. The minerality of this wine is lovely, as is the mouthfeel and texture. This shows intense flavors of petrol, lemongrass, Granny Smith apple and unripe pear. The finish lingers. Drink 2017-2027- 93