Zacherle Wines is owned and operated by winemaker Nile Zacherle and his wife Whitney (her family runs Fisher Vineyards, Sonoma County based but also with vineyards in Calistoga). Zacherle’s wines are available through their mailing list.
Nile, while born in Marin County had a connection to the Napa Valley early on; his father used to make the drive north to purchase grapes for his family’s home made wine. In addition his uncle owned a cooperage in Calistoga. While originally studying brewing at UC Davis he branched off into wine making. Today he is involved in both winemaking and brewing. Like a number of his generation of winemakers, International wine related travel is a part of his resume – he interned at wineries in New Zealand, Australia and France. It is this type of International experience that is almost imperative for younger winemakers to have today.
Nile He has already worked at a number of well known Napa wineries including the famed Chateau Montelena, Barnett, Montagna Estate, Sterling Vineyards and is currently at David Arthur on Pritchard Hill where you can sometimes find the parked Mad Fritz Brewery van (Nile’s other business).
It is extremely rare in the Napa Valley to find a non vintage wine of any varietal much less port. Zacherle’s extremely limited production non vintage port is from the Lava Vine Vineyard in Knights Valley just over the county line in Sonoma County. Nile has always tried to find small vineyards and produce wine with unique site expression or terroir characteristics. This vineyard fits the bill in this case – in addition, Nile helped with the initial planting of this vineyards and is actively involved in the vineyard management. The Lava Vine vineyard is very steep, with slopes up to 45 degrees and the soils are mainly composed of volcanic ash, rock and petrified wood.
Their first release of this port-styled wine delivers focused concentrated fruit. This wine is not fortified with brandy, rather grain alcohol is used which helps keep the concentrated varietal flavors at the forefront of the palate. It is composed of three vintages and contains two traditional Portuguese varietals; Tinta Cau and Turiga National both of which are commonly found in parts of Portugal. In our experience after visiting hundreds of vineyards in Napa, these two varietals are extremely rare to find! This wine is dark and dense looking in the glass with aromas of cherry, sage and fully ripe black cherries. The entry is sweet but not overly so with good tannin structure. Flavors include blackberry and coffee bean with a pleasant dustiness on the finish.
Zacherle also produces Syrah; we tried the 2005 Zacherle Syrah – it is a dark inky wine which at the time of our tasting already had almost a year and a half in bottle. As a result the wine had softened considerably since the initial bottling and was tasting very nice. This isn’t a robust in your face meaty Syrah, rather its fairly smooth throughout with an pleasing flavor profile from start to finish.
The 2005 Spring Mountain Syrah on the other hand is about as big and chewy with a strong tannin backbone as you will find in a Syrah. This wine is from the bio dynamically farmed Crowley Vineyard located at about 2000 feet above the Napa Valley floor. Notes of spices and crushed black pepper begin in the nose and continue onto the palate especially on the finish. While drinking this wine we automatically thought of what this wine would drink well with and concluded that something bbq, gamey or even an oven roast would make a good pairing.
Zacherle’s wines are typically produced in quantities of merely several hundred cases with several wines coming in at under a hundred cases. For more information visit: www.zacherlewines.com
Nile’s talents with wine making do not stop there – he and Whitney also runs Mad Fritz Brewing Company in the industrial wine-focused southern section of St. Helena; visits to the brewery can be made upon request. The Mad Fritz tasting room is located around the corner from the Cliff Family tasting room. Visit: www.www.madfritz.com As of our latest update, one can choose a Mad Fritz tasting at Ma(i)sonry in Yountville, the premium collective tasting room that focuses on wine and art.
NOTE: Nil is no longer making Zacherle Wines – rather has devoted his efforts to creating an intriguing selection of very unique beers bottled under the Mad Fritz label.
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