Buying older USA Cab

I'm currently looking to buy cabernet-sauvignon based wines from California made in the 90s. I've seen these:

Dunn Howell Mountain
Ridge Monte Bello
Diamond Creek
Château Montelena
Araujo Estate
Dominus
Mondavi

Is one better than the other ones ? A better vintages in that specific decade ? What is average price ?

Will be bought in the US then brought back to Canada (to be shipped in NY state)

dzitt
Original Post
The first producer you have listed (Dunn) is bar-none, my favorite. The remainder are in my Top-10, minus Araujo & Mondavi.

I have experience through many vintages of each of these (minus the Araujo, which I've only had once). I can tell you that it all comes down to personal preference. All of these producers make rock solid wine that will go the distance.

Dunn: I have never had a less than stellar bottle, to include "off vintages" like '98 & '03. Both the "Howell Mountain" & "Napa" Cabs are built to lay down for a LONG time. If I had to pick my favorite vintages of the "Howell Mountain," it would probably be:

- 1987 (My favorite vintage of this wine, and probably my favorite wine in general. Getting kind of tough to find, so scoop it up if you can find it for < $150)

- 1982 (Again, I don't see these come up very often, but they usually sell for around $150)

- 1985 (Easier to find, and can be had for less than $100)

- 1988 (This is exactly why I love this producer. This is an awesome wine, and can pretty easily be found for less than $60)

- 1992 (Arguably the best HM ever produced, and the price reflects. I think the '87 is better, but not by much It usually sells for $150-175, but I have seen it for as low as $120)

- 1994,'95,'96,'97 (Like many producers in California, Dunn had a hot-streak during these years. They're all awesome, but they all need time. We opened a '97 HM at an offline last month, and while spectacular, the wine needs (10) more years. Out of these, the '94 usually sells for the most, at around $120. The rest can be found for less than $100).

...I could go on!

Ridge MB:

Another wine with some serious shelf life. Paul Draper is a master of his craft, and the MB is his baby. Again, I've never had a bad bottle. My favorite vintages are probably the '85 & '91. These get kind of pricey ($175-200), but IMO, they're more than worth it compared to some of the overpriced gas-a-hol crap coming out of Napa today.

Montelena:

IMO, older Montelena Estate Cab (pre "Bottle Shock") is some of the best wine ever made in Napa. At another recent offline, a member brought a '91 Montelena Estate, and it's a contender for my wine of the year.

Diamond Creek:

Awesome stuff. I just opened an '86 "Volcanic Hill" last week (TN's posted), and it was gorgeous. When people say "They just don't make wines like this anymore," older Diamond Creek can always be in the conversation. Out of the bunch, the "Volcanic Hill" is my favorite, and the winery claims it is the longest lived. You can't go wrong with anything from the late '70's - early '90's, and they're often available for less than $100. They also make a "vintage dependent" Cab called "Lake Vineyard," which is both pricey & rare. I have yet to try one.

Dominus:

I love this wine, and it's definitely the most "Bordeaux-like" of the bunch. I'm not sure a bad vintage exists of this wine, to include the '98. We tasted the '97 & '98 side-by-side last month, and both were incredible. Most vintages are readily available for around $120-150. Also, most people will tell you that the '94 is the best Dominus ever produced, and an iconic example of Cali Cab. I have yet to taste it, so I can't comment. But, I have had the '92 (next in line for a lot of people), and it was great.

I better stop here... Big Grin
I agree with Shane re; the Diamond Creek. I had a '94 Volcanic Hill last week and it was outstanding. Several others who tried it agreed that it was very good, but thought that the Diamond Creek from the 80s are even better.

The Ridge MBs are also excellent.

I tried the '96 Dominus a few weeks ago. It was $99. The nose was a bit off - it gave off a metallic/nickle smell that was not real pleasant. But that blew off after a while and the palate was better than the nose.

In addition to the wines that you identified, you might consider Etude. The Etude cabs from '94, '95 and '97 are all very good and drinking extremely well right now. I was able to purchase these during the past few months for $70-80 per bottle.

The '94 Dalle Valle is also a very nice bottle and worth picking up if you can find it. I was able to purchase several bottles for $110 each.
dzitt- is this making it easier or more difficult for you to decide? Basically, thay are all outstanding in their respective years. It's a win/win imho. Good luck choosing and many of us would avail ourselves to you to check for wine of the night. Smile
quote:
Originally posted by dzitt:
I'm currently looking to buy cabernet-sauvignon based wines from California made in the 90s. I've seen these:

Dunn Howell Mountain... pass
Ridge Monte Bello... avoid '98 & '99
Diamond Creek... still young from the '90's
Château Montelena... '91 is very special
Araujo Estate... pass
Dominus... seek out '91, '92 & '94
Mondavi... '91 Reserve very nice

They are drinking well right now. The 87 in particular drinks very well.

quote:
Originally posted by Red guy in a blue state:
91 and 92 are two of my favorite CA cab vintages.

Thread drift: recently saw 87 and 88 Mondavi Reserve for what seemed a reasonable price. Worth a flier?
Anything said here helps. Looking right now through wine-searcher to find something to buy then ship it to NY state at a friend's familly place, then will be brought here after.

I thought that the chance to get a better wine from a good prevenance would have benn from the 90's as their are not too old, but some seems to be available in the late 80's at a good price. Even saw some good price for a 79 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill Smile

Will try to get my hands on something before the end of the year...

dzitt
quote:
Originally posted by PurpleHaze:
Have enjoyed (greatly) the 1992, 1994 and 1999 Dominus (Domini??? Wink) this year. If you can source the 1992 or 1999 at or near $100 with good provenance, go for it. The 1994 has been priced beyond my comfort level over the past few years...... Frown

PH

Indeed, and truly not worth that extra coin if you source the '92 with good provenance.
quote:
Originally posted by GalvezGuy:
They are drinking well right now. The 87 in particular drinks very well.

quote:
Originally posted by Red guy in a blue state:
91 and 92 are two of my favorite CA cab vintages.

Thread drift: recently saw 87 and 88 Mondavi Reserve for what seemed a reasonable price. Worth a flier?


Ditto. '87 Reserve is fantastic.
quote:
Is one better than the other ones ?

dzitt - do you not know any of these wines? Might you not want to try one or two before making a purchase you might really regret? Don't sink real money into something based on random recommendations of strangers!! Go out and buy a bottle or two and drink them. Even if the vintages aren't exactly the ones you're considering, you'll get an idea of the house style.
quote:
Originally posted by GregT:
quote:
Is one better than the other ones ?

dzitt - do you not know any of these wines? Might you not want to try one or two before making a purchase you might really regret? Don't sink real money into something based on random recommendations of strangers!! Go out and buy a bottle or two and drink them. Even if the vintages aren't exactly the ones you're considering, you'll get an idea of the house style.


The problem where I am is the price and the availability of older vintages. What we have is usually twice the price, so I don't mind buyind one or two bottle to build an experience with older USA cab. Never had anything older than 95, but had many old Bordeaux, so if it could be compared, I will enjoy the purchase...

dzitt
Provenance is always the key to buying older wines. I haven't bought anything that old that I didn't get at or near release. However, I have had some GREAT wines from '87 and early 90's. The Montelena '87 and '91 were fantastic. The '91 Heitz Martha's Vineyard was one of the most impressive wines I've had......and I had over a case of that. Unfortunately, I couldn't keep my hands off of them. Sure wish I had saved a few. Don't overlook Spottswood as well in that era if you can find them.......great wines.
Check out "cellaraiders.com"

They have an awesome inventory of older Cali stuff, and I have never had an issue with them.

Also, "JJ Buckley" has a fairly decent selection and competitive price points.

A lot of people are up & down about "Winebid," but I have had nothing but good experiences with them.

* +1 on the Spottswoode.
quote:
Originally posted by dzitt:
Saw a 1979 Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Red Rock Terrace on Cellaraiders website for 85$. Can't find a way to estime the shipping cost to NY state though.

Does it seem to be a deal or a great oppotunity ? 79 is my birth year...

dzitt


That's not a bad price. You'll see these '79-85 (minus the '84) DC's pop up at auction in the $60 range. So, considering the premium, it brings it close to the price you posted.

I say go for it. Those older DC's are awesome wines.
As I wrote earlier this summer, I was lucky enough to acquire a Dunn Howell Mountain '87 for my wife and my 25th anniversary...

We had the man himself Randy Dunn sign the bottle, whilst admiring the pristine condition of the bottle just prior to having it opened at the French Laundry the next day for a once in a lifetime experience...

My CellarTracker notes below from June 29:

The high-point of the evening, opening our 25th Anniversary wine at the French Laundry, we had our bottle signed by Randy Dunn at a visit to the vineyard the day before and Kristina Dunn informed us that the Sommelier team from the Restaurant had been by a few weeks before to try their wines and that they would be stoked to open the '87 for us, Sommelier Dennis Kelly confirmed their visit, and we all laughed at Randy Dunn's 'crusty' reputation, which I confirmed when Mr. Dunn asked me what the French Laundry would be charging us for corkage ($75), Dennis got a laugh out of this as well, truly memorable and the wine was close to perfection - Dark with only slight ambering rim, full bodied with a nose of dusty black and blue fruit, cigar box, green leaf tobacco, mocha and vanilla, AMAZING structure for a 25 year old Cali Cab, completely integrated, soft, silky smooth on the palate with a finish that went on forever, still years left in this beauty, extraordinary! (98 Points). (1332 views)

Good times..

- Ian
quote:
Originally posted by dzitt:
Is a 1988 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley at 60$ a better purchase than the 1979 Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace at 85$ ?

There is many Dunn on jjbuckley at really good price. Is this retailer better than Cellaraider ?

dzitt


They're both good choices at an aggressive price point, but I would still side with the DC. I'm saying that, and Dunn is my favorite domestic producer.

The '88 Dunn Napa is indeed a nice wine, but it pales in comparison to the Howell Mountain of the same vintage. The HM can be had routinely at auction < $60 (plus the premium).

I've bought from both JJ Buckley & Cellraiders. They've never done me wrong.
Shane T killed it. Killed it!

I also agree about Spottswoode.

From your list, don't take any specific advice - try to get samples of all of them as you go and see which best matches your palate.

Taking one comment here and potentially missing a wine you would have loved would be the real bummer.

Out of 'historial interest,' try the Groth reserve, Caymus regular and SS, Silverado cabs of the day, and from that era you could maybe land on a Flora Springs Trilogy, Cain Five, Hess reserve, Far Niente, Mayacamus, or some Heitz; just to get a feel for how things were.

Heck....Johnson Turnbull from that time, Sequoia Grove, Berringer reserve, some of Rombauer's Le Meilleur du Chai, and Duckhorn may please you, as well!
Will try to have a more generic experience trying more than one wine. Still looking to buy online and ship it somewhere near the US border where I can grab it after...which is not always easy. Should have couple bottles to try at the beginning of 2013 Smile

dzitt
quote:
Originally posted by tanglenet:
I use to buy 80's bdx and 80's and 90's CA cabs at auction for experimentation and to share. These were from Winebid, Winecommune and some retailers. I think I had a 30% + experience of corked and flawed bottles. I don't buy older bottles any more.


That is very odd, but the wine/bottle was corked the very day the cork went into said bottle.

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