Sonoma County region
91 Points, Wine Enthusiast magazine, Highly Recommended
Bill Nachbaur began his professional career as an attorney in San Francisco. For a number of years he built a successful practice and he personally evolved into the general consul for a bank holding company that was active in the legislative areas of the banking and savings industry.
One day he decided he needed a change in his life and Nachbaur headed north across the Golden Gate Bridge and wound up in grape-conscious Sonoma County. He had enjoyed wines since his early twenties and always felt he possessed a penchant for farming. Bill and his wife Betsy settled around Healdsburg and Bill decided to take some viticulture classes from Santa Rosa Junior College to augment the experience he had enjoyed as a youth when helping his father make wine. While taking the classes, he also began an earnest search for a piece of property that he felt would meet his immediate needs.
When the nearly 150-year old Alegría Vineyard became available in 1990, Nachbaur quickly snapped it up. “For my purposes, the vineyard was exactly what I needed,” he recently confided. “It was one of the oldest continuous vineyards in Northern California that was predominantly planted in Zinfandel. It came with a great reputation and a following among the local vintners. It also allowed me to make use of what I had just learned in my college classes before I had time to forget everything.” Most of the production from Alegría Vineyard was sold off to neighboring wineries until Bill and Betsey decided to open their own winery in 1995. A lovely grove of about twenty oak trees in the middle of their property provided the Acorn Winery name.
“Everyone is familiar with the phrase ‘Mighty oaks from little acorns grow,” Bill Nachbaur smiled. “In our case we truly hoped that a fine winery would eventually emerge.” Bill also felt that the Acorn Winery name gave recognition to the fact that oak is the preferred wood of choice in making wine barrels and the name Acorn also fit the winery’s smallish size to the proverbial “t.”
Acorn Winery’s initial release was around 400 cases of estate Sangiovese that had been planted a few years earlier. The winery production has grown slowly until it reached its present production level of under 3,000 cases annually. Bill Nachbaur sees immediate growth slightly beyond the current case-level, but won’t comment on any further growth. They also continue to sell grapes to other premium wineries. Nachbaur recently turned 60 and has been intrigued by the aspect of organic farming. Acorn prudently avoids insecticides and limits other artificial inputs through a labor-intensive process that requires almost individual attention to each vine. While the vineyards are not certified organic (a process that takes a minimum of three years to complete), Bill Nachbaur feels his vines could easily meet the certifying standards.
“It is an incredible experience to deal with 150-year old vines,” he added. “Each and every one has its own personality. Each is like a sculpture and must be dealt with individually. In the beginning, I did all the pruning myself but lately the process has become too demanding so I let my workers do a lot of the physical work.” But Bill Nachbaur is right there in the vineyards each day, directing his labor of love. Some time ago, he became interested in Italian varietals like Sangiovese and Dolcetto and now produces wines from each. Just recently, Acorn Winery introduced its first Cabernet Franc and Nachbaur is excited by how well it has been received.
Betsy Nachbaur also works full time in the winery and handles most of the office duties as well as the sales end of the business. Together, they make a formidable, personal statement in a business that is often populated with high profile wineries and personalities.
“We were first wine drinkers and we’ve just taken it a few steps further,” Nachbaur concluded. “But we are really small as wineries go and the competition is quite fierce. We are fortunate to have our wonderful old vineyards and the Russian River Valley as the basis for our business. Together, they are quite formidable.”
Not every winery can boast old vine wines nor can many match the sense of dedication the Nachbaurs bring to their business. We are delighted to offer you this month’s Platinum Series Selection from Acorn Winery. Enjoy!