Our guest on California Wine Country with Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger today is Doug Nalle from Nalle Winery. Their story starts in the 1890s with his first Swiss ancestors arrived in Sonoma County. In the 1920s, his wife’s grandparents bought property that they still have in Dry Creek Valley. They founded Nalle Winery in 1984 and they built the current winery in 1990.
Dan Berger and Doug Nalle have been friends since the 1980s. They both agree that Doug’s style of wine is “old school” which Dan describes as “…balanced, structured, great with food, beautiful aromatics, gorgeous structure and acidity…”
Doug’s son Andrew works with the family winery now, after growing up around the winery. After a degree in philosophy, he took many wine courses and worked in wine in South Africa. He is finishing a Master’s winemaking at Fresno State. His wife April also has a Master’s in viticulture and also works with the winery.
They are tasting a Hopkins Ranch Pinot Noir from 2021 which is “a little young” but Dan “Lay It Down” Berger still enjoys it. Doug might prefer to pour a 2020 right now, but there was so much smoke in the air due to the fires that broke out in late August of that year that the vintage was ruined. Doug attributes it character to the clone used, to the soil and weather. It’s not a deep color but the aromatics are pure varietal character. It’s a lighter stye, “sprightly” says Doug. The acidity works with the intense fruit flavors.
Hopkins Ranch is located on the east side of the Russian River on East Side Road. West Side Road has several wineries, notably Rochioli. It is cool enough to give the desired acidity, and warm enough to give “faint plumpness” as Dan describes.
The next wine tasted is a 2021 Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley. Doug calls it old school and Dan just calls it delicious. They have been making this wine in the same style for 39 years.
The last wine tasted is a 2020 called Ranch Red. All the smoke that year made it hard to produce a wine from red wine grapes, but this one came out “like a champion,” says Dan Berger. It is 60% Zinfandel and 40% Cabernet.
Finally, they taste an estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Dry Creek Valley, another 2020. Dan Berger mentions that there are not a lot of 202o wines available due to smoke taint that year, but if you are looking to put away some 2020s, this would be the one.