2015 Fallon Place Nacimento Vineyard Cabernet



Can you remember the last time you mistook a $30 Cabernet for a $100-plus Cabernet? Let alone a $29.99 Sonoma contender against the all-time champion Napa Cabernet? I can, because it happens to me every time I taste Fallon Place’s Nacimento Vineyard Cabernet. Here’s the deal:

Nacimento is a tiny postage stamp of a one-acre vineyard nestled on the Sonoma side of the Mayacamas mountain range that divides the region from Napa Valley. Technically, for those California AVA completionists out there, it’s in the sub-AVA Moon Mountain. Singular stuff, this is! The elevation, well-drained soils, and meticulous farming practices chisel these tiny berries into pure mountain terroir. The results are an intensity, definition, and absolute cut that thunders onto the stage:

This dazzling effort is both gorgeously opulent but with a serious backbone and structure to it as well – all hallmarks of mountain-grown fruit. In a few words – yes, it’s concentrated, but with energy and lift, it also fires on all cylinders. It is perfect for your sommelier friends who will delight in its mixture of fruit, savory, and mineral characteristics; but also great for everyone’s inner pleasure-seeker: It opens with an enticingly complex bouquet of black fruits, chocolate, cedar, cassis that intermixes with black truffle and savory herbs. It is already five years old, so the tannins and acidity (the structure) are in perfect harmony right now, although this will last another decade.

From whence did this heavenly wine come to be? Wisconsin, of course.

Cory Michal is a winemaker I can totally appreciate – in his late 20s, he got an opportunity to live in Europe, he camped around the mainland and developed a thirst for wine. Settling down just a touch in England, he lived near a charming old pub that specialized in European wines – Burgundy, Bordeaux, Barolo, the Loire. I can completely dig it, because as Cory notes, “I can’t explain it, but tasting these wines changed me forever.” Me, too.

Upon returning home to—you guessed it – small-town Wisconsin, life just wasn’t the same. Cory made a plan to head out to San Francisco. Scoring a day job and a flat in the Russian Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, he took night and weekend extension classes at UC-Davis.

Cory found an empty cellar at the bottom of his building, and the landlord graciously turned a blind eye to his turning it into a winery. For years he would buy fruit from Sonoma and Napa, truck it down to San Fran, load it down the rickety alleyway staircase, and produce wine. That building was called Fallon Place, and so Fallon Place Winery was born.

Of course, loading 100 pounds at a time of fresh fruit down steep urban alley steps is a ridicilous idea, and eventually things got out of hand. Cory’s avocation grew to the point of being a vocation, he had a wife and newborn baby, and things needed to change. So he took a leap of faith, and several years ago launched as a professional winery.

Now, Cory isn’t a Wisconsin trust-fund baby (at least to my knowledge), so all his fruit is sourced. He looks for single-vineyard, site-specific, terroir-driven wines to be made in a minimalist (not naturalist) winemaking style. He looks for organic and sustainably farmed vineyards that result in naturally low yields and intense flavors.

And that is where I come in – every year Cory comes back to Wisconsin and does a few presentations around Appleton for his mom and dad’s friends. I (randomly, another long story) found this out over the web. We talked, we tasted his wine together, and simply put, I was blown away. We cut a deal on this outstanding Cabernet. He made just a few cases, so whatever you do, don’t hesitate.

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