An American Hero - Dan Berger's Vintage Experiences, December 2011
It takes a lot of fortitude to stick to your guns in a vinous climate that seeks bigger, more forceful wines— especially when you know that style is a fleeting aberration. Most wineries, both here and in other countries, have caved in and now follow a path of least resistance in wine making. So it was refreshing to reconnect with Doug Nalle. Doug has been involved in the industry for four decades, working at Souverain, Jordan, Quivira, and at various other wineries, always making wines of a classical (i.e. Euro-centric) style. But the reason I rate Nalle an American wine making hero is that he has carefully brought his son, Andrew, into the winery venture that once was the exclusive domain of Doug and his wife, Lee.
Andrew today is a believer in the “less is more” style of wine I believe to be the right path for all fine wine. Another aspect to this tale is that as a small family-owned winery, the three-tier system of wine marketing is simply an impractical way to sell wine.
By giving up more than half the suggested retail price for the privilege of having wholesale distribution, Nalle sees what he calls “erosion of profit” as pernicious because his cost to make this kind of wine is so much higher than other larger companies.
“Our goal,” he says, “is to slowly reduce the number of outside distributors we use. And at some point to sell most or all of our wines to our wine club, or at the winery.”The Nalles work on a shoestring. There is no formal tasting room. They set up a table in the winery and pour for visitors. Fortunately, the winery is located on well-traveled Dry Creek Road in Sonoma County. They also have just started a wine club in which members get regular shipments that always include some specialty wines. Among them this year was a wine called Zinot Noir, a blend of Pinot and Zinfandel (!), both of which were intended to make reserve-style wines on their own, but which didn’t make it. The blend was terrific. What’s amazing about Nalle’s style is the fact that every wine is structured to show the fruit within the context of great acidity.
Almost seven years ago, in a short feature story I wrote about Nalle, I noted that the pH of all his Zinfandels in a 10-year vertical tasting were in the 3.5 range (far lower than almost anyone else making such wines). The best new is that Andrew has done a brilliant job crafting the Nalle reds with the same dramatic flair.
Our Tasting Notes show some of the drama available in the line. But a word of caution: our toprated wine is in very limited supply at the winery.
So if you want any, I suggest calling the winery (707-433- 1040) or log on to the web site, nallewinery.com as soon as you can.