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Nalle in the family

A 2004 Sonoma/San Francisco travelogue; part 1

by Thor Iverson

14 August 2004 – Sonoma Valley, California

In-N-Out Burger – The 800 number Theresa’s got programmed into her cell phone pays off, and after the up-and-down drive north from SFO, through San Francisco, and across the Golden Gate Bridge, we easily find midday sustenance at our favorite not-really-all-that-fast-food joint, thanks to a helpful voice on the other end of the phone. I’m working from the “secret” menu yet again (2x4, fries well done), and this time Theresa joins me, not unexpectedly adding more “cheese” to her burger. I’ll keep asking until I get an answer: why can’t all roadside joints be this good?

[Theresa & Mustang at Nalle]

Car Nalle knowledge
Nalle – Doug Nalle’s demeanor is grossly out of proportion to his reputation, though in a way adamantly opposite to what’s usually defined by that phrase. Quiet, friendly, studious, open but perhaps a bit shy; does he know he makes some of the loveliest zins in the world? In any case, the basic zin is all I’ve had from this perpetually (and sadly) under-the-radar winery, as other wines don’t see much shelf time in Boston. Today, they’ve got two bottles open, which Doug pours into a small handful of glasses rotated through an office sink by (his wife?) Lee. She, too, is earnest and casual to a fault.

We’re tasting on an upturned barrelhead, with cases of unshipped wine fronting barrels of same. I wonder, for the zillionth time, why anyone would prefer a slick tasting room to this experience.

Nalle 2002 Pinot Noir Hopkins Ranch (Russian River Valley) – Plum, red cherry, strawberry seeds, and walnut skins in a crisp, juicy, balanced package. The wine comes on so lively and zingy that one is almost unprepared for the extremely long finish. It won’t please lovers of pinot-as-Porto, but the effortless ease of its quality is something much more to be admired.

Nalle 2002 Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley) – As juicy and acid-crisp as the previous wine, showing blueberry, boysenberry and dark plum, with a long finish. I can’t help but feel that even with my expressed enthusiasm I’m underrating these wines, which have all the balance and food-worthiness that’s so lacking these days in wines from…well, just about everywhere. Doug admonishes me to let this age, but I protest with some justification that a wine this tasty is very, very hard to hide in the cellar.



Copyright © Thor Iverson

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