Indie Wine of the Week: Matthiasson
One of the major benefits of writing a wine blog is (occasionally) getting access to wine makers that I may not have had as a non-blogging wine consumer. On Sunday my wife and I took full advantage of this access by spending the afternoon with Matthiasson wine maker, Steve Matthiasson and his wife Jill Klein. Jill and Steve graciously invited us to their home in Napa for lunch on Sunday. That lunch turned in to a five hour visit with great food, excellent wines, conversation and interesting insights in to the wine world.
For both of us, this was the highlight of our trip. As Steve prepared lunch, Jill gave us a tour of their property – vineyards, organic garden and barn – while we sipped on a glass of their 2007 Matthiasson Napa Valley White (I was thinking I would get to drive the tractor, but nope, didn’t happen).
The Matthiasson Napa Valley White, $35, is an interesting blend of Sauvignon Blanc (50%), Semillon (22%), Ribolla Gialla (22%) and Tocai Friuli (6%). I didn’t take thorough notes during lunch so I may be off with the blended percentages. This was my first exposure (that I can recall) to the Italian Ribolla Gialla varietal. There is not much of this varietal planted in Napa/Sonoma so this was certainly a treat – Steve referred to the Ribolla Gialla as an “uber geek variety.” I’m geeky so it worked for me. The wine clocked in at 13.3% alcohol. This white blend was a perfect accompaniment to the crab cakes and lemon aioli that Steve made. Very crisp and fresh with a full nose of citrus, lakebed stone and an apricot aroma that really stuck out to me. I liked how the acidity of this wine was well balanced with a heavier than expected mouth feel (from the Semillon?) with really ripe apricot, mineral and lemon with hints of spice in the mouth.
Next on the menu for lunch, the main course of grilled lamb chops and fresh vegetables from their garden, paired with the Matthaisson 2005 Merlot and Matthiasson 2005 Napa Valley Red. The lamb chops were perfectly grilled and matched well with both of the reds. In my opinion, the 2005 Matthiasson Merlot was the standout of the two – at one point I zoned out while tasting and then interrupted someone mid-sentence to ramble about the long finish.
Matthiasson 2005 Napa Valley Merlot
Outstanding. 100% merlot. ~ 14% alcohol. $75/bottle. My first impression was ‘surprise’ at the liveliness of this wine. On the nose I picked up ample cherry, earth and slight hints of mocha. In the mouth, I found dark fruit, chocolate powder with a lively and fresh raspberry finish. The wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered (the way it should be).
Matthiasson 2005 Napa Red
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) and Merlot (40%). 14.4% alcohol. $75/bottle. Although I personally liked the Merlot better, I found this blend exceptional. I feel this one will progress in the next couple of years – we may have had it before its prime. On the nose I picked up that same cherry and earth as in the Merlot along with an herbaceous component. To me, the tannins were firmer in this blend and had a stronger earth taste along with bell pepper, blackberry and mocha. This wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Matthiasson produces about 600 cases of wine per year – 300 of the red blend and 300 of the white blend – made from organically grown grapes. Like many small wines, the Matthiasson wines are made with passion and a great deal of attention.
Jill/Steve, thanks for a great lunch, wine and conversation – we sincerely appreciate your hospitality!