Interview with Steve Matthiasson of Matthiasson Winery

WAS THERE A MOMENT THAT YOU REMEMBER WHEN YOU KNEW THAT YOU WANTED TO BE A WINEMAKER?

The first time I stepped foot in a vineyard I wanted to grow the grapes and make them into wine.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST WINE JOB?

Working for Four Season Ag Consulting, helping grape growers farm more sustainably. That was back in 1995.

CAN YOU SHARE MORE STYLISTICALLY ABOUT MATTHIASSON WINES?

Our wines are the equivalent of a perfect carrot at a farm to table restaurant. Organically farmed fruit grown on well-tended vines living in healthy soil, picked at it’s peak, and carefully made into balanced lively wine that is naturally full of flavor, complements food, and evolves with time. Our mantra is weight without heaviness. The wines are energizing.

IN ADDITION TO YOUR OWN LABEL YOU CONSULT FOR A FEW OTHER WINERIES CAN YOU SHARE MORE ABOUT WHICH ONES AND WHAT KINDS OF WINES YOU MAKE FOR THEM?

I have consulted on grape growing for lots of great wineries, including Araujo, Dalla Valle, Chappellet, Spottswoode, and many more. Most of my work over the years has been on the grape growing side, which is actually a lot more challenging than making wine. However I’ve made the wine for a few small brands, the best known of which is Ashes and Diamonds, but also Kanpai and Convexity. I’ve made lots of different wines, but the common thread is balance and food-friendliness, and respecting the vineyard.

OVER THE YEARS YOU’VE MADE QUITE A LOT OF VARIETIES OBVIOUSLY SPECIALIZING IN NAPA VALLEY VARIETALS, WHAT CAN YOU SHARE ABOUT ALL OF THE VARIOUS WINES YOU’VE MADE OVER THE YEARS?

We approach grape growing like organic farmers, so we love to explore different heirloom grape varieties. We make 10-15 different varieties every single year. The climate in Napa is very conducive to growing all sorts of grapes.

WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE ABOUT NAPA VALLEY’S WINE COUNTRY THAT MANY CONSUMERS MAY NOT KNOW OR HAVE A MISCONCEPTION ABOUT?

It’s a true community of farmers and winemakers who care about the land. And the soil and climate is actually as good as its hyped up to be, its truly a special place for wine.

YOU AND YOUR LOVELY WIFE JILL RECENTLY OPENED A TASTING ROOM AND ACQUIRED A SECOND WINERY (IN ADDITION TO THE VINEYARDS WE’VE TASTED AT TOGETHER WHERE YOUR HOME IS). CAN YOU SHARE MORE ABOUT THE WINERY/TASTING ROOM SPACE?

It’s a down home Tasting Room, comfortable and old school, the winery is about making the best wine possible, and the tasting room is a space to learn about the wines. No fluff, but great hospitality.

AS A WINEMAKER YOU TASTE (AND SPIT) LOTS OF WINE, WHAT WINE DO YOU FEEL BAD ABOUT SPITTING BECAUSE YOU LOVE IT SO MUCH?

I always feel bad about spitting wine, but especially when the wine was made by a friend, and the friend is standing right there! We do need to drive though, so you need to save the wine drinking for the appropriate time (which is every night at dinner for us).

WHAT WAS ONE OF THE BIGGEST MISTAKES YOU HAVE MADE IN YOUR WINEMAKING CAREER?

Worrying too much about fads in the market, you need to make the wine that is true to your vision, period.

WHO HAS BEEN THE MOST INFLUENTIAL MENTOR IN YOUR CAREER?

Warren Winiarski, who won the Paris tasting back in 1776.

YOU’RE BOTH A FARMER AND A WINEMAKER, CAN YOU SHARE MORE ABOUT EACH ROLE AND HOW THEY’RE DIFFERENT YET OVERLAP?

To me they are one and the same, we grow wine in the vineyards.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE AFTER WORK DRINK?

Cold beer, right now Moonlight Reality Czech Pilsner

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LOCAL SPOT IN NAPA VALLEY?

Can’t say, the owners are all friends! I’ll leave someone out. It’s a tight community. Any of our independent restaurants and wine bars.

TELL US SOMETHING THAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE ABOUT YOU?

I worked as a bike messenger in San Francisco for three years, back in the days before email!

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