Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Visit to Matthiasson Vineyard

A visit to Matthiasson Wines was high on my list when I created my schedule for my harvest trip to Napa this year. I had discovered their Ribolla Gialla last spring and I was so struck by what a different wine it was for Napa Valley that I was curious to go and see what was happening there. 

Steve Matthiasson was off-site overseeing the impending harvest for one of the wineries for which he consults, a peril of visiting wine country during this time of year. His wife, Jill Klein Matthiasson, graciously received my husband and I at the family's homestead where she gave us a taste of the current releases out back at a picnic table overlooking the vineyards while she shared some of their story with us.

They started making wine together when they were in grad school at UC Davis. They got their grapes from the student vineyards. Both she and Steve had a background in agriculture and both had been promoting sustainability. Jill was involved in the local food movement and Steve was a vineyard consultant. By 2003, an encounter with the best Merlot grapes ever would convince Steve that it was time to put more focus on making wine and on their own family farm.

They immediately began making more wine using grapes from Steve's clients. By 2008, they were able to make their first vintage from their home vineyard. They still get grapes from some of Steve's clients but also lease land which they choose to farm organically themselves. When I asked Jill why they weren't certified organic, she replied that the paperwork is simply too overwhelming. They got into this because they loved farming and winemaking; sustainability and organics are important to them but hours of secretarial work is not.


She talked about recent issues they had faced. They had a problem with Pierce's Disease and had to replant part of the vineyard. They had hung shade cloths for the grapes that were taking high heat from the western sun causing some uneven ripening. They dealt with another insect issue that had destroyed any potential for an olive crop that year. She also felt that it was "crazy to be harvesting in August" and they were about a month ahead of where she expected. 

Koda, their vineyard dog stayed with us through the tasting. Jill told us that these dogs have the ultimate life, "it is what you hope to be reincarnated into..."

The tasting:

  • 2014 "Linda Vista Vineyard" Chardonnay Napa Valley (SRP $27)- This vineyard site is a neighboring property that the couple leases and farms themselves. Because of high acid levels of the vintage, almost half of this wine went through malolactic fermentation, all neutral oak. Fresh aromas and flavors of honeysuckle, apple and melon, medium body, slightly creamy, clean finish. 
  • 2012 "Michael Mara Vineyard" Chardonnay Sonoma Coast (SRP $55)- More intense aromas and rich flavors- fresh peach, orange peel, mineral finish. Produced from high acid clone 4 Chardonnay grapes, this wine underwent 100% malolactic fermentation with some new oak barrels used. The biggest difference between the two Chardonnays is the the soil, according to Jill who described this vineyard site as a "super rocky soil" and regaled us with the difficulty in planting that vineyard.
  • 2013 Napa Valley White Wine (SRP $40)- Jill calls this the wine they became known for, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, Ribolla Gialla and Friulano; Crisp yet weighty, citrusy, tropical, a bit creamy with a bit of nuttiness in the finish, concentrated, unique.
  • 2013 Ribolla Gialla "Matthiasson Vineyard" Napa Valley (SRP $45)- This was the wine for which I came here showing off a brand new label on the not yet released bottle. Fresh, balanced with aromas and flavors of baking spices, baked pear, toasted nuts; rich, structured, a bit more oxidized than the previous vintage due to some earthquake damage but delicious.
  • 2012 Refosco "Matthiasson Vineyard" Napa Valley (Sold-out)- Quite a treat to try this very limited production wine from three rows in their home vineyard grafted with this ancient Italian variety from Fruili. Aged primarily in neutral oak, this wine was intense, powerful, somewhat earthy with concentrated flavors of mixed berry jam, white pepper and a distinct mineral finish.
  • 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $60)- The 90% Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the vineyards of three of Steve's clients and the 10% Merlot comes from their home vineyard. Intense aromas and flavors of mixed ripe berries, black plum with licorice and chocolate; medium body, balanced structure, long finish.
  • 2010 Napa Valley Red Wine (SRP $90)- This classic Bordeaux-styled blend was made for aging, cherry/berry aromas and flavors with a bit of chocolate and forest floor; structured, black tea tannins and a long finish.

All are highly recommended wines worthy of seeking out.

An intimate tasting and look at the vineyard with Jill Klein Matthiasson, great wine with a wonderful host in a picturesque setting, another fantastic Napa Valley experience.