Taste head-turning field-blends in a down-home Russian River Valley setting.
Bill and Betsy Nachbaur run small ACORN Winery, 3 miles south of Healdsburg. ACORN makes field blends—wines from different grape types grown, harvested, fermented, and aged together. The Nachbaurs believe this process produces richer, more complex flavors, and their head-turning wines bear out the theory.
Blend of Blends
The blend for one of ACORN’s best offerings, the Sangiovese, contains grapes from 23 different clones of the varietal. Even more complicated is Medley, a “blend of blends” with more than five dozen grape types. The wine includes a few extremely rare wine-grape specimens, with even a few a table grapes involved for good measure.
Some of the Medley grapes come from the oldest section of the couple’s Alegría Vineyards, parts of which date to 1890. (Alegría is Spanish for “happiness.”) As was the 19th-century custom, these sections were interplanted with about a dozen and a half other varietals, most notably Alicante Bouschet and Petite Sirah, grapes add color and depth of flavor to the Heritage Vines Zinfandel. Bill assembles this and the other ACORN wines with input from Clay Mauritson, head winemaker at his family’s Mauritson Winery and a consultant to other boutique vintners.
Mighty Nice People
The Nachbaurs showcase their wines in a vineyard’s-edge garage space that’s as down-home as it gets. No frills here, just tasty wines often poured by one or both of the owners themselves. Another plus: in the Russian River Valley, where Chardonnay and Pinot Noir reign, a stop at ACORN, which in addition to the Medley blend and Sangiovese also makes Dolcetto, Cabernet Franc, the savory Axiom Syrah, Alvarinho (aka Albariño), and Rosato (rosé), provides welcome variety. Its owners are also mighty nice people.
By Appointment Only
Visits are by appointment only, with reservations preferably made a day or more ahead. Guests are welcome to picnic alongside the vineyard before or after a tasting.
Why go: impressive field blends; rare varietals; passionate owners; casual atmosphere.
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This story originally appeared online in 2017; it was fact-checked and updated in 2021.