Tasting ACORN Winery's New Releases Over Dinner with Friends

ACORN Winery is located in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley. Founded in 1990 by Betsy & Bill Nachbaur, they produce roughly 3,000 cases of wine annually.  Each wine they produce is made entirely from Estate Fruit. Their 32 acres (Alegria Vineyards) are Certified Sustainable. More than 70 grape varieties are grown on their property and every wine they bottle is a Field Blend. That means the grapes for each wine are harvested, crushed, fermented and aged together.

The ACORN Wines are reasonably priced for regular consumption and intended to be enjoyed with food, in good company. Each year, regardless of which wine, they let the vineyard and vintage conditions dictate the outcome. Taken as a piece, over a period of well more than a decade that I’ve been drinking them the ACORN wines tend to outshine their price-points by a fair margin. These wines are well worth the time, effort and money it takes to acquire them. Most of their releases, in the majority of vintages, are also cellar worthy. The ACORN Wines are proportionate and generally blessed with verve and firm acid. Over time I’ve had the opportunity to sample back vintages of many of their wines and the results are largely quite impressive.

A couple of weeks ago I was staring at a box stuffed to the brim with the latest releases from ACORN. Based on all of my prior experiences with these wines, I was practically licking my lips in anticipation of tasting them. And truthfully I almost dug into them immediately, but something stopped me. It occurred to me that rather than taste these by myself I should do so among friends, over a lovely meal. I have a small group that gets together for wine dinners 5 or 6 times a year. There are four of us that attend all of them and we invite a few others, never more than 10 total. I’m in charge of the wine theme and my friends pick the restaurant. So, for the latest incarnation I decided we should taste the current releases from ACORN. To add a bit more intrigue to the proceedings, I also pulled a couple of older bottles to taste alongside the current offerings.

Ten of us gathered at Pairings, a terrific restaurant, in Cranford, NJ to drink and feast. I passed out index cards and pens, asking anyone who was interested to write down their comments about any of the wines, if the spirit moved them. My notes on the wines are below in the order we tasted. Each is followed by my friend’s comments in italics.

ACORN 2018 Rosato ($29)

As with all ACORN wines their Rosato is a field blend. In this case Sangiovese (31%), Zinfandel (30%), Syrah (15%), Dolcetto (11%), Cabernet Franc (10%), and other (3%). Strawberry and rhubarb aromas emerge the minute you stick your nose near the glass. Red apple flavors are at play alongside red berry fruits and a tiny hint of vanilla on the medium weight palate. The finish is long and pleasing with a final burst of Bing cherry to close things out.

“Berry flavors and dry”

“Yummy and delicious”

“Easy drinking and refreshing yet rich in feel. Could easily make this my go-to summer wine”

“Clean, great Summer wine, light and refreshing”

ACORN 2015 Cabernet Franc ($42)

A field blend of Cabernet Franc (93%), Malbec (2%), Merlot (2%), Petit Verdot (2%), Cabernet Sauvignon & Tannat (1%).  Cherry and leather aromas lead the charge here. Black cherry, plum and currant are evident on the palate along with a core of spices. The long acid-rich finish shows off bits of toast and a hint of chicory.

“Acidic, soft on the tongue, very drinkable”

“Spicy, pepper. I want to drink this on a snowy afternoon, by the fire”

“Refreshing cherry, vanilla and dry raisin”

ACORN 2015 Sangiovese ($35)

A field blend of 23 clones of Sangiovese (98%), Canaiolo (1%), and Mammolo Toscano (1%). Red violets and a bowl of fresh red fruits burst from the nose. Red Cherry and red raspberry flavors dominate the palate. Savory herbs, black pepper and a dusting of baker’s chocolate all emerge on the long finish. A rich vein of acid runs through the heart of this wine from the first whiff, to the very last sip.

“Velvety, I keep licking my lips”

“Incredibly easy drinking and wakes up my tongue”

“This reminds me of reds we drank with Sunday Dinner in the 70’s. I want to be drinking this from a juice glass!”

ACORN 2015 Dolcetto ($38)

This is a field blend of Dolcetto (94%), Barbera (3%), and Freisa (3%). A combination of black raspberry and floral reference points drive the aromatics. The palate here is studded with sour red fruits and an underlying core of spices. Bits of chicory and toast emerge on the pleasing finish. There’s something about this wine that always brings mushrooms to mind for me, and I pair it with dishes loaded with them whenever I can.

“Berries and earth”

We tasted 3 vintages of Medley. This offering is a blend of the different Field Blends. Each year more than 60 of the varieties planted in their vineyard are incorporated. As it represents the whole of Alegria Vineyards this is their de facto flagship wine.  For nearly 20 years now, blending this wine is their top priority.

ACORN 2009 Medley (N/A)

At 10 years old the 2009 Medley is a heavily perfumed wine. Aromas of leather and a wisp of light smoke are present. Subtle dark fruit flavors, bits of mushroom and black tea are all evident on the palate. The long finish is earth-laden and pleasing. This particularly impressive wine still shows off some tannin.

“Earthy, I can taste forest”

“Smoky, fabulous, bounces on the tongue”

“Amazing, smooth, perfection”

ACORN 2011 Medley (N/A)

Red cherry and violet aromas burst from the nose. The palate shows off red raspberry and spice. There’s still a lot of fruit here at 8 years old and it carries through the persistent finish.

“Vibrant, fruity”

“Floral, sour fruit. More cherries and berrier than the 2009”

ACORN 2015 Medley ($50)

Black raspberry and bits of toast peak out from the nose. The palate is stuffed with both red and black fruit flavors, spice, and a bit of baler’s chocolate. The finish is extremely long, deep and persistent. While the current vintage of Medley is delicious, in truth it’s a baby. I would cellar it for a couple more years for maximum pleasure.

“Balanced, smooth, great with food”

“Great wine for now. Loved the punch / spice”

ACORN 2015 Axiom Syrah $48)

A field blend of 3 clones of Syrah (98%), and Viognier (2%). Blackberry, vanilla and hints of toast waft from the nose. The palate has bits of smoked meat, black cherry, black raspberry, and intermingled bits of spice. The finish is firm and a bit lusty, pulling you back to the glass for sip after sip.

“Very dry but creamy, feels rich”

ACORN 2015 Heritage Vines Zinfandel ($48)

This Zinfandel is a field blend of Zinfandel (78%), Alicante Bouschet (11%), Petite Sirah (9%), and the remaining 2% composed of 15 other varieties. This is a truly classic example of Zinfandel. It features lots of rich red fruit aromas. The palate is laces with black plum, blackberry, dark chocolate and a bevy of spice notes. The finish is long and somewhat firm. Rich acid is evident throughout.

“Lively, lovely, tasty. Fresh and easy going”

I took an informal poll at the end of the night asking each person to name one or two favorites among everything we tasted. Knowing the ACORN portfolio, the results didn’t surprise me. Every single wine was named as at least one person’s favorite. The three wines that were mentioned more than the rest were the Rosato, Zinfandel and the 2009 Medley. Everyone gathered for dinner would now likely give the same advice I do, drink ACORN wines!