I learned about Matthes Vineyard through winemaker-friend Cynthia Cosco of Passaggio, who sourced her Grenache Blanc and Marsanne grapes from Henry Matthes for her 2016 vintage of Grenache Blanc. In fact, she didn’t just source those grapes, she struck a deal with Henry — in exchange for his exclusive fruits to use for her own Grenache Blanc, she would help him make his 2016 vintage. The difference between the Passaggio and Matthes styles is that Henry prefers to age his Grenache Blanc in oak, whereas Cindy prefers all stainless. So it takes more time for the Matthes Vineyards estate wines to be ready for release. So, today I present to you a sneak peek at Matthes Vineyards 2016 Grenache Blanc.
According to Henry Matthes, owner and proprietor of Matthes Vineyards, this Rhône-style blend is a bit of an anomaly. His intention is to always focus on Grenache Blanc, using just enough Marsanne to give the wine some backbone and structure. But due to a difficult growing season in 2014 in which much of the Marsanne failed, Henry and his vineyard team ended up grafting Grenache Blanc onto much of the Marsanne rootstock. Somehow, as Henry says, “The remaining Marsanne grew with unexpected vigor, yielding a huge crop of perfect fruit.” And so it is that he was able to create, for his portfolio, this unique white blend. “A serendipitous event for sure,” he adds.
“Our wine business is the smallest licensed/permitted Vineyard/Winery in Sonoma Valley,” says Henry Matthes, proprietor of Matthes Vineyards. It must be true, the Matthes Vineyards sits on a 1/3 acre parcel of land with just shy of 700 vines on the property. Though Henry started out as a grape seller, his modest vineyard now produces between 100 – 150 cases under his own name. Small-lot, indeed, so it was a privilege when Henry invited me to taste his wines.
John Fones, owner and winemaker of Cellars 33, is no stranger to Sonoma Coast fruit. He cut his winemaking teeth interning for Freeman Winery, in the heart of the Russian River Valley, and worked alongside Ed Kurtzman as Assistant Winemaker for August West — who sources their grapes from the RRV, among other California coastal appellations. So, it’s no wonder that he chose two diverse Sonoma Coast vineyards to create his expression of cool-climate Pinot.
The story behind Cellars 33 is one that many will be able to relate to. John and Katie Fones, co-owners of Cellars 33, found wine through each other. As John remembers it, he had Katie over to dinner one night early in their relationship and wanted to impress her with pairing a bottle of wine with the meal. “It was a Blackstone Merlot, I think,” says John. An $8 bottle of a grocery store wine was enough for the young couple to start “collecting.” “We had a little wire wine rack we kept on the top of our fridge,” remembers John, admitting that it was probably the worst — and hottest — place they could have kept their small collection while living on the top story of their apartment complex in balmy Baltimore.
Nevertheless, their grocery store collecting quickly turned them into avid wine enthusiasts. The couple also loves to travel, making frequent trips to the West Coast. And, as John says, if you visit California enough times, you’re going to end up in wine country eventually. So it was that John and Katie discovered their love for California wines in particular. For John, it was more than just the wines he became interested in, it was the winemaking process as well. A former hobbyist beer-brewer, John recalls being much more fascinated with what was happening behind cellar doors than the inside the tasting room.