Dunning family wines WAY off the beaten path, and worth it, 8/25/22
Met with Bob Dunning on 8/25/22. Drove back into a residential area on a 1-lane dirt road and wondered “where are we going”? Ended at a older farmhouse property with wine processing equipment. Hope it’s not offensive, but reminded me of Prohibition scenes, wine processing in the back woods! :). At first NO one at all seen on the property and we wandered a bit. Rustic would be a word.
When we finally found Bob, we learned that the Chardonnay had to be harvested that morning, and he and the team had been up since 5 a.m. pulling it in and ended at 10:00. We were the only appointment that day.
Bob dunning has been making wine for over 31 years. Sells to a niche market. The game plan is more Direct to Consumer, hoping for 95% one day. They sell a little bit of wine to restaurants and high end retailers, but the business plan is that maximum profits occur direct to consumer.
Bob’s approach to winemaking is food wine that is not super hot, integration of all of the flavors; allow the grape to be reflected and create a finesse and elegance of it. This starts in The Vineyard by making sure that the grapes have enough hang time to allow the seeds to turn brown and get rid of green tannin. He then integrates the flavors of that fruit to its maximum potential and then integrate the characteristics.
1. Chardonnay – buying grapes at first, asked to take cuttings and planted on his property. A nursery grafted UC Davis rootstock #4 in order to protect against philoxera.
Very ripe and creamy with a spice that’s unusual. Pear, citrus, nutmeg, elegant soft flavors. Creamy creme brulee-like tones from the French oak, toasty flavors. Aged for 3 to 5 years. More like a delicate white burgundy. Sur-lees aged, nice oak flavors but not an oakey wine. Soften ed the edge of the acid with malolàctic acid processing allowed. Alcohol was controlled and got to 13.9% instead of the hot 15s. That’s delicate. At $34 a bottle it is a mid priced layered and interesting value.
2. Estate Pinot Noir. They are the closest and highest to the ocean to get cooling effects even in Paso Robles, so one of the rare ones attempting it. Bob says it will be different in Paso Robles and so he believes it succeeds. Grafted a reproduction of a new clone on a 25-year-old grapevine base. $38. .
Wow, interesting burst of flavors. A spicy unique burst of ripe cherry, pomegranates and allspice. Unusual for Pinot it has a lush mouth feel, medium acid, not thin. This has more fruit and not earthy. Bob controls the ripeness so it stays full of lovely fruit, nice medium acidity and balance. Sell direct customer only. We got one.
3. Meritage. 2018. A classic Bordeaux style with 70% cab and Cab Franc. Power of tannin in this one. I agree with their comments of wildberry and dark black current and dark raspberry. Aged 28 months and 35% new oak, added structure and balance and rounded some of the acidity. It can definitely lay down for a little longer. $45 a bottle.
Cabernet Sauvignon is all sold out and just bottled for the next year.
4. The estate Private Reserve Zinfandel, 2019. This has a lot of integrated tannin and fruit flavors. Not overpowering or astringent. Definitely would be amazing with some food. Raspberry, blueberry and spice, very ripe product. Made it like a Bordeaux without being overly sweet but very jammy. $45 a bottle.
5. Grenache – wow does this let the varietal show itself. Very red fruit (their notes say cherry pie) with a good tannin an acidity base. Their notes say white pepper and I agree.
6. Forged by two reserve is a new release. It a unique blend of Grenache, Petite, Zinfandel and Cabernet.
7. Petite Syrah is lovely but in a potent grape that is toned down here a little bit. Eight tons of it are made, shared with another winemaker in the local area where he shares some of his products.
8. Cabernet Franc – this is absolutely lovely. It is an approachable Cabernet Franc. While it has grippy tannins, it is bot overpowering, a great interesting Cabernet alternative.
Enjoyed meeting with a mature wine maker and learn his strategies and ideas. The wine is ALL very good and we didn’t dislike anything. Hope to help in having this come to Ohio.