2008 DuNah Pinot Noir DuNah Estate Vineyard Russian River Valley
 
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Dunah Vineyard & Winery Russian River Pinot Noir and Hibernating Wholesalers

It's hard to imagine in today's overheated market, but in the spring of 2008, even the most promising new wineries of Russian River were shaking in their boots. Months after the collapse of Bear Stearns, many in the valley chose to ignore signs of the fiscal storm to come, pushing forward blindly, hoping the clouds would blow out to sea. No such luck. It wouldn't be long before the music stopped — and wholesalers stopped answering the phones — forcing some of the most exciting young Pinot Noir ventures to shut their doors. This was one of them.

In the early 1990s, Greg La Follette was recruited by Beaulieu Vineyards to work beside the legendary André Tchelistcheff. A few years later, La Follette's stock took off like a rocket ship. In 1996, at barely 30 years of age, Greg was named GM and head winemaker at Flowers, crafting some of the most sought-after Pinot Noirs on the coast.

At Flowers, La Follette was constantly on the lookout for new Pinot Noir plantings. In 1999, he got a tip on a 10-acre vineyard owned by Rick and Diane DuNah. La Follette hopped in his truck and headed down-valley to the Petaluma Gap. One look at the land and La Follette pulled the trigger. A year later, Greg crafted one of the most revered Flowers Pinot Noirs of its era, the 2000 Andreen-Gale — drawn entirely from Rick DuNah's hillsides.

DuNah Vineyards is set at the southern tip of the Russian River Valley and whipped by chilly breezes from the Gap. Perched at 600 feet in elevation, just a single ridge separates the parcel from the Pacific. Looking southeast, you have a clear view of Mount Diablo 55 miles away. The Geysers are on full display 35 miles to the north. Days are warm, but nights are cold, with a summertime diurnal temperature shift of nearly 40 degrees.

In 2007, with the Pinot Noir market on fire, Rick DuNah decided to follow Flowers's lead. After setting aside the finest rows on the property for himself, DuNah called Greg La Follette and asked the master Pinot Noir-maker if he'd make a few hundred cases of estate-grown DuNah Pinot Noir.

In both 2007 and 2008, La Follette worked his cellar magic. While the 2007 DuNah Pinot Noir was the darker of the two, it would be a tiny 16-barrel production of the 2008 Pinot that sent critics reeling.

Late winter and early spring of 2008 were exceedingly dry. Then a devastating flash frost hit in April, the worst since 1972. A May heat wave made for an irregular set. By the time summer got under way, the crop load was down nearly 30 percent off the highs of 2007. July and August were mild, slowing down the maturation cycle. When September ushered in cool days and blue skies, Rick DuNah delayed the call to harvest, a decision that paid huge dividends when the picking began in the last days of the month.

The 2008 DuNah Pinot Noir DuNah Estate Vineyard Russian River Valley is just now coming into its own. Brilliant deep ruby to the edge, infused with vibrant aromas of red raspberry, strawberry jam and cool-climate sweet herbs. Rich and finely textured on the attack, filled with crushed red-fruit preserves, the finish is firm, bracing and marvelously persistent.

Rick DuNah had done everything right. Still, the brilliant 2008 he released in the spring of 2010, with the U.S. economy still on crutches, never had a chance. One-third of Greg La Follette's brilliant Pinot Noir went out on release. The rest was stuck in the DuNah cellar — waiting for hibernating wholesalers to wake up.



Tasting Notes

2008 DuNah Pinot Noir DuNah Estate Vineyard Russian River Valley
"The 2008 DuNah Russian River Pinot Noir is just now coming into its own. Brilliant deep ruby to the edge, infused with vibrant aromas of red raspberry, strawberry jam and cool-climate sweet herbs. Rich and finely textured on the attack, filled with crushed red-fruit preserves, the finish is firm, bracing and marvelously persistent. Drink now--2018. Superb."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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