Dry Creek Valley—Top 10 Wines You Can Buy Now

Dec 31, 2014

Yesterday, I published my Top Ten Wines of the Year that I pulled from my own cellar—wines that I had purchased or that I had received as a gift.

Based on a few comments and a couple of emails, it was clear to me that some of you actually read this blog for recommendations of wines that you can actually purchase. With that in mind, I went back over all of my posts from last year and pulled out the top wines that I either received as a sample or that I tasted in tasting rooms over the year.

In other words, wine that is (probably) still available.

During this exercise, I realized that the wine I reviewed this year fell into to two broad categories: Wine from Dry Creek Valley and wine from everywhere else. Today, I will focus on the former.

This year was a special one for me as I was formally introduced to the Dry Creek Valley and its many great wines and fabulous people. Although I spent just about a week total in the Valley, I feel that I have a fairly solid grasp of some of the wine being made there, even though there are numerous fine producers that I have yet to explore.

I started with all the Dry Creek Valley wines that I have reviewed on this site and tried to narrow it down to the 10 best wines I have tried, listed in alphabetical order:

2009 Del Carlo Cabernet Sauvignon: Retail $30. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Black currant and a bit of pepper come out of the glass with a bit of a swirl, and some black cherry and mocha are introduced on the palate. The acidity and tannins are wonderfully in balance, leading to a lingering finish. $30 for a Cab this good? That is practically stealing. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.

2011 Dry Creek Vineyard Zinfandel DCV2 Four Clones: Retail $40. This needs time. Let me repeat: This needs time. At first, fruity and rather one-dimensional, but as the evening wore on, the wine revealed some more depth and secondary flavors. Dark red fruit, licorice, cassis–really inviting nose. On the palate, a wave of fruit initially with some chocolate. The finish really wants to linger, but fades a bit too soon. In a year or two? I think this firmly achieves Outstanding. 91-93 Points.

IMG_45242008 Frick Winery Syrah: Retail $24. Only 70 cases produced and still $24? That’s a bit crazy. And so is this wine. Before he poured it, Bill Frick stated that it was reminiscent of a Côte Rôtie from the Northern Rhône. Had I not tasted through the previous dozen wines, I would have been skeptical. The wine was just that, however. Big and meaty, with great fruit and balance. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.

2007 Rued Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley: Retail $45. A spicy, peppery nose leads to a fruity, yet balanced palate, with great structure and depth. This wine has a long way to go—5-10 years easy. Buy a few of these, lay them down, forget about them for at least a couple of years, open them in 2017 (or later) and have a nice steak ready. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.

2011 Unti Vineyards Syrah: Retail $28. I took a bit of time with this 100% Syrah, trying to figure out is it was more new-world (as exhibited by its great fruit) or old-world (a pronounced earthy, spicy component). That is what us geeky wine guys do. In the end, this is particularly delicious with fruit, spice, and just the right amount of tannin. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.

2008 Vineyard of Pasterick Estate Syrah: Retail $48. Big and bold with a multitude of aromas and flavors. I know it is a bit cliché, but I could have simply sniffed that wine for an hour: blackberry, earthy notes, a bit of smoked meat, and white pepper. Wow. On the palate it did not disappoint either, with great fruit upfront, and a depth of flavor that is rare. The finish was long and lingering. While it is drinking very well at the moment, this has a very long life ahead of it. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.

I know I said that I wanted to provide you with a list of wines you could purchase now. Well, the following are either sold out or very difficult to obtain. So why include them? Simple. There will be a new vintage for (most of) these wines coming out soon and you should gobble them up since they will not last long either.

IMG_24512013 Kokomo Grenache Rosé Pauline’s Vineyard: Retail $24. Erik Miller, the owner and winemaker, makes this wine from grapes that are grown to make a rosé, which makes all the difference. It also comes from one of the best vineyards in the Valley, which does not hurt either. Call Kokomo today and reserve a case of the 2014 rosé—you will not be disappointed. Outstanding. 91-93 Points. 

2011 Estate 1856 Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Reserve: Retail $42. Janice Schmidt, the winemaker and part owner told me that she doubts they will make another Barrel Reserve. You should call her and urge her to do so—it was wonderful. Regardless, this is a label that should be on your radar—all the wines are fantastic. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.

IMG_28602007 Nalle Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel: Retail ??? I am not sure how much of this is still for sale, but give Doug Nalle a call and see. This was wonderful–great red berry and violet nose, but understandably a bit tight initially. Once it opened up some, it was a show-stopper: fruit, acidity, and tannins in near perfect harmony. A wonderful wine. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.

2013 Vineyard of Pasterick Viognier: Retail $34. I first tasted this as a barrel sample and then a few months later from bottle. This is only available through the wine club, which is more than enough reason to join it. One of the finest Viogniers I have ever had. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.

So there you have my Top Ten Wines that I tried in Dry Creek Valley this year. No, I have not visited all the wineries there—I have no doubt that there are many more wines that would vie to be included here, but you will certainly not go wrong with any of the wines listed above.

There is one more wine that I need to include, and that would be my Wine of the Year. I know that is a grandiose statement and I would agree that it is virtually impossible to whittle down a year’s worth of wine to one single bottle.

But.

There have only been a few times in my life that I have actually had goose bumps when tasting a wine, and this was one of them. It is not really available for purchase (again, unless you are a wine club member, and even then it is difficult to get), but I felt I had to include it here.

The Angle of Repose

The Angle of Repose

2008 Vineyard of Pasterick Angle of Repose Syrah: Retail $80(?). 44 cases produced, only made in the best years. I was lost in the aroma of this wine. If you are a wine lover, no matter what type of wine you like, this wine has to be on your bucket list. I doubt I have ever said this but this wine is other worldly: this will likely change your life. I hesitated to taste the wine since that meant I could no longer smell it. I will not try to describe it here since my words would never do it justice. Unworldly is as close as I can come. Incredible. 97-99 Points.

There you have it, another Top Ten list. I plan on posting the final Top Ten List on Friday.

Happy New Year everyone!

About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this “job” I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.

Fall 2022 Wine Club News

The 2022 vintage will be Doug Nalle’s 50th harvest! And the estate old vines turn 95. Big milestones here at Nalle.

Along The Wine Road: Multigenerational Family Wineries

We love reading articles from Along The Wine Road, from there monthly varietals to their winery spotlights. That is why we are so excited to be featured in part 3 of their series on multigenerational family wineries. This series explores the history of family run...

What’s in the bottle?

Where do wineries get their grapes? Nalle is estate grown and bottled, meaning we grow our own grapes and bottle at the winery. It might be hard to tell the difference when you see wines on the store shelf, but a lot of wines are outsourced fruit or pre-made juice...

Wine Grape Harvesting – When and How

In a nutshell harvest looks something like the following although it is my highly simplified version: Starting in August sometime, we begin brix sampling, which means we go through specific blocks of grapes to assess their sugar level. For example, we like to pick our...

Dry Farming and Drought

Simply put, dry farming means no use of irrigation water, and relying solely on natural precipitation. This is an old-fashioned, labor-intensive way of farming. In Dry Creek Valley, this method has traditionally depended on the Mediterranean climate here in Sonoma,...

Crack This Classic: Huevos Rancheros with Corn Tortillas

We love Huevos Rancheros for breakfast and dinner! Savor this egg-based dish with a combination of beans, fire roasted tomatoes, serrano chiles, lime juice, cilantro, hot sauce, and corn tortillas Find this recipe on food.winetrails.net and discover the perfect Nalle...

Not Your Average Chicken Salad

Ditch the celery and mayonnaise for a delicious next-level chicken salad that will have your guests asking for seconds. The dish offers a wonderful combination of fresh crisp mustard greens and pine nuts for the base of the salad, topped with lightly toasted bread...

A local favorite, Big John’s Market

Less than a 5-minute drive from Nalle Winery, one of our favorite partners is Healdsburg’s biggest little independent supermarket, Big John’s.

Indulge in Italian: Shrimp with Toasted Pine Nuts and Pasta

Try this Italian-inspired recipe for your next weekend get-together with family or friends. Lightly browned shrimp paired with a sweet sauce made with lemon rind, raisins, and pine nuts. This dish can be eaten alone, or along with a simple pasta for a full course....

How To Get The Perfect Yolk: Eggs Sunny Side Up

Need inspiration for next weekend’s brunch? Indulge in fried eggs served sunny side up over white rice Cuban style! We can’t get enough of the sautéed pineapple and plantains paired with a spicy habanero sauce.

Catelli’s Burrata & Prosciutto Pairing

 You would be hard pressed to find a Catelli’s review online that mentions their Burrata and Prosciutto and doesn’t carry a 5-star rating. This delicious appetizer is made with triple-cream mozzarella and San Daniele Prosciutto, which is served between fresh arugula...

Catelli’s Lasagna Pairing

Visitors say that you will feel like you’re lost as you venture those few extra miles up 101, or perhaps 128 if you’re coming from the east. But let your stomach be the guide and you will be delighted by the delicious food and family feel of this Geyserville gem....

Catelli’s Meatball Sliders Pairing

Even if you are new to Catelli’s, you may have heard of their famous meatball sliders on Guy Fieri's Diners Drive-Ins & Dives. This dish arrives as a trio of sliders, meatballs cooked to order, and covered in a light and flavorful slow cooked tomato sauce. Our...

Club Members Get The Goods

Let the good times roll! Thank you @kahana11 for sharing your good times with Nalle! Join the Squirrel Club for priority access to our zintastic limited production wines and new releases twice a year (spring and fall) at 20% off.   View this post on Instagram...

Wine On The Dime – Nalle Zinfandel Review

Join Wine On The Dime & Boozy Chef as they review our 2017 Dry Creek Valley Classic Zinfandel at the Historic Pearl in San Antonio, Texas! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNNYV2CEZq0

Decanter – The Zenith of Zinfandel

Quality fruit + great family = a rich tradition of food-friendly wine! "Doug Nalle & his wife Lee started their winery with the intention of making elegant, lean & complex Zins in the European style of noble red wines" - Decanter Read More

Lee’s Famous Creme Caramel/Flan

This is great for a large crowd. It has become Lee's most-requested dessert in the Dry Creek Neighbor's Club. She usually has to make a double-batch and rarely has anything left over to take home! 1/2 c. sugar 4 Tbsp. water, plus 2 Tbsp. cold water 4 whole eggs 4 egg...

Auntie Norma’s Tamale Pie Recipe

This is a family recipe featured in the Savoring Dry Creek Valley cookbook. Ingredients for cornmeal crust: 1 c. yellow corn meal 1 tsp. salt 1 c. cold water 2 c. boiling water Preparation: In a medium saucepan, mix corn meal with cold water. Add boiling water and...

Mexican Style Chicken Kiev Recipe

4 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts (12-oz. ea.) 1 can whole green chilies (7-oz.) 1/4 lb. Monterey Jack cheese 1/2 c. fine dry bread crumbs 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated 1 tsp. chili powder 1/2 tsp. garlic salt 1/4 tsp. ground cumin 1/4 tsp. ground black...

Easy Baked Chicken Kiev Recipe

4 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts 1/4 c. butter or margarine, softened 1/2 tsp. oregano leaves 1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped 1/4 lb. Monterey Jack cheese 1/2 c. fine bread crumbs 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated 1 tsp. oregano leaves 1/2 tsp. garlic salt 1/2 tsp/...

Artichoke, Leek and Potato Soup Recipe

This is a Food and Wine Affair Recipe by Dan Berman, now applying his food expertise on the Big Island of Hawaii. Serves 8 Ingredients: Nalle Chardonnay, 1/2 cup 1 lb potatoes, peeled and sliced thin 1/2 lb yellow onions, sliced thin 1/4 lb leeks, white part only,...

Cinnamon Cure for Pork Recipe

The following recipe was used by Barbara Hom of Night Owl Catering (nightowl2@earthlink.net or 579-7801) at our Passport events. You'll love them just as much as the attendees did. For 1 whole pork loin or 1 pork shoulder or butt. Ingredients: 2 cups water 1 cup pinot...

Barbara’s Asian Cole Slaw Recipe

This recipe was also used by Barbara Hom of Night Owl Catering (nightowl2@earthlink.net or 579-7801) at our Passport events. Mix in bowl: 1/2 head shredded red cabbage 1/2 head shredded green cabbage 4 green onions chopped fine 2 tbs toasted sesame seeds 1/2 cup...

Three Berry Sauce for Nalle Pinot Recipe

Ingredients: 1/2 cup raspberries 1/2 cup blueberries 1/2 cup blackberries 4 tbs chopped shallots 1 tbs chopped ginger 2 tbs butter 1 cup Nalle Pinot Noir 2 cups beef stock 1 tps 5 spice powder (available in the spice section of most markets) 1 tbs honey 4 tbs soft...

Braised & BBQ’d Short Ribs Korean Style Recipe

Serves 4 Ingredients: 2# boneless beef shortribs dipped in flour 1 carrot peeled and cut into 6 pieces 1 onion peeled an cut into 1/8s 6 cloves garlic 2 stalks celery cut into 2" pieces 1/4 cup corn oil S and P to taste Enough stock, wine or water to cover- about 1-2...

Korean Style BBQ Sauce Recipe

Ingredients: 1/4 cup Ko chu Jang (a soybean paste w/ red peppers) available in Asian markets 4 garlic cloves chopped 2 T rice wine vinegar 2 T soy sauce 1 T sesame oil 1 T sesame seeds toasted 2 green onions - chopped 4 tsp sugar Preparation: Mix all Ingredients:...

Decanter – Heart of Zinfandel

Our 2015 Dry Creek Valley Zin was a top pick in Decanter magazine's 2018 "Heart of Zinfandel" article! Rich & juicy with blueberry + cherry aromas, this Zin is both refreshing & complex. Read more: Read More

Poke Recipe

Ingredients: 1# grade no. 1 ahi - cut into 1/2" cubes 2 roma tomatoes - peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2" cubes 3 green onions - chopped 1 T cilantro chopped 4 Tsp soy sauce 1 T sesame oil 1 T toasted sesame seeds 1 Teaspoon cinnamon 1 tsp chili flakes Salt and pepper...

Wine Weirdos – Nalle Zinfandel Review

Short, sweet, and to the point! Watch Mike and Brandon from @wineweirdos review our 2015 classic Dry Creek Valley Zin in under one minute: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laWrgYmhwFw

Zinmaster Nalle Winery of Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma CA

Join Zinmasters April & Andrew Nalle as they discuss Nalle's 100+ year family history, the power of Zin & Andrew's winemaking philosophy on Episode 218 of Wine for Normal People https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8c9KaGS9Gw

The New California is an Old Story

The New California is an Old Story The move from power to finesse in Californian wine is the next big thing, but also a very old story, explains Mike Steinberger. In case you haven’t heard, the new thing in wine is the so-called New California. That’s the catchphrase...

California: Sipping Sonoma Flavors

What makes Sonoma County special? Doug Nalle talks fermentation, climate, and wine critics with New Zealand writer Alex Robertson. Read the full article: Read More

Sense of Restraint About Zinfandels

Eric Asimov THE wine panel generally explores a particular region, genre or vintage in all its manifestations. We might examine the 2007 Barolos, for example, or survey recent Mosel kabinett rieslings or Mendocino pinot noirs. Our tasting coordinator, Bernard Kirsch,...

Bohemian – Nalle Winery

We loved meeting @northbaybohemian columnist James Knight during his visit to Nalle in 2012! James explores the physicality of our wine, the crispness of the tannins, and Andrew’s studies at the university of Doug. Read More

Zinfandel – Is Bigger Better?

In the 2002 Wine Enthusiast article, "Zinfandel: Is Bigger Better?", contributing editor Paul Gregutt dubbed our 1999 Dry Creek Valley Zin a top pick due to its precision, vivacious berries & lip-smacking acids. You can give it a read here: Read More