Randy Dunn makes big wines. At least he used to make big wines, but now most other winemakers have left him in the dust. It’s hard to think of a Dunn Howell Mountain wine as medium bodied, but that’s exactly what has happened. The alcoholic powerhouses of today are over-the-top for even Dunn and recently he sent a mass email to the press decrying the 15% ethanol Port-like wines being produced by so many of his compatriots. You can read that email and other coverage on Appellation America at:
A telling point in all of this is that Dunn notes that his famed Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon has consistently come in between 13.2 and 13.8% alcohol over the years. That’s how far things have swung out of control in just a few years as those levels used to be thought of as big, while today they seem restrained. Dunn’s Cabernet is certainly a substantial wine, but gains its complexity and power though the distinctive character of that vineyard and the fruit grown there instead of using overripe fruit flavors and big alcohol to fool consumers with sweet upfront flavors that masquerade as complexity to inexperienced tasters or palates overwhelmed by tasting too many wines in one session.
Dunn is to be applauded for taking such a public stand on a topic that is sure to displease many of his neighbors. I hope it makes a few winemakers think about this issue of out-of-control alcohol levels before flaming shots of cabernet become the next college fad.