The SOMM Journal

June / July 2017

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16 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } JUNE/JULY 2017 { one woman's view } WHEN A WINEMAKER LOVES tequila, you don't expect him to be too picky about alcohol. But Randy Dunn is not your ordinary winemaker. Indeed, Dunn created quite a flap a few years ago when he vowed never to make a Cabernet over 14% alcohol. "I'm not against alcohol per se," he explains, citing his tequila passion. "But wine should be a beverage that goes with food. In the old days, two people could easily polish off a bottle of wine over dinner. I can't say that for many wines now." The irrepressible Randy Dunn, along with his that-apple-didn't-fall-far-from-the-tree son Mike, did a phenomenal tasting of 11 of their Cabernets (dating back to 1984) recently in Napa Valley. Virtually every wine was a knock out—especially the 1984, 1985 and 2012. Both men have been outspoken on the issue of high-alcohol wines and unapologetic about using reverse osmosis to dealcoholize if they need to. "A raisin tastes like a raisin," says Randy. The production of high-alcohol wines has led to diminished varietal character. It's bad for the whole industry when wines from every place taste essentially the same." When they need to use reverse osmosis, it's generally to de-alcoholize about ½ a percent. "Somms freak out, but de-alcoholizing is an elegant solution," says Mike. Adds Randy, "Back in the '70s and '80s, everyone in California had a water hose. No one wanted to go over 14% alcohol because of the extra taxes." The Dunns, father and son, give the impression of not giving a rat's rear end about what other people think, and they clearly don't check in with a PR department before they speak. Although as a kid Mike was pressed into helping around the winery, he didn't join his father until 1999 after giving up his mountain and road bike shop. "I used to think White Zin was terrific," he says. ""It was a gateway drug." The Dunn wines are legendary for their structure and their ability to age, but Randy doesn't have much to say on the topic of how Howell Mountain (where their vineyards are located) contributes to the character of his wines. "Maybe gives them a little earthiness," he shrugs, explaining, "We don't drink a lot of other people's wines. We don't go to tast - ings. And we're bad at writing stuff down. We don't remember what the weather was like; we always say we won't forget a vintage, but then we do." The Dunn Cabernets are made in what might be thought of as the "old-fashioned" way: hand- harvested grapes, no sorting table, no cold soak, indigenous yeasts, vigorous pump overs, sterile filtering, barreled for 32 months. "Science plays a small part in great wine," says Randy. "It's background protection. But what prob - ably matters more is just simple intuition." Cabernet the Old-Fashioned Way by Karen MacNeil Karen MacNeil is the author of The Wine Bible and the digital newsletter WineSpeed. She can be reached at karen@ PHOTO: H. J. CHA RANDY DUNN AND HIS SON MIKE RELY ON SIMPLE INTUITION TO PRODUCE KNOCKOUT WINES

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