Matthiasson Napa Valley White 2017
This wine is our conception of a mythical “ideal” wine…a California wine with a spiritual connection to Friuli, Italy, but also drawing inspiration from the great whites of the Loire, Burgundy, Graves, Alsace, the Rhone, old-school Napa and Sonoma…actually the list of great whites we are inspired by goes on and on, and it is all wrapped up in this wine. This wine is an attempt at getting at the core of what white wine is all about, the archetypal “white wine,” thus the name. It’s a very intentional blend of four varieties from two vineyards. The blend is roughly 50 percent Sauvignon blanc, 25 percent Ribolla gialla, 20 percent Semillon, and 5 percent Tocai friulano. The Sauvignon blanc brings a clean fresh citrusy acidity and some tropical character. The Ribolla gialla brings seashell minerality, nuttiness, and structure to the blend. The Semillon contributes viscosity and waxiness that adds gravity and weight. The Tocai friulano adds spicy aromatic notes. The acidity and fruit expression is balanced by a rich lees character and a faint backdrop of creamy oak. There is interplay in the wine between lightness and richness, and focus and complexity. The 2017 White Wine has its trademark spice and mineral quality, and despite the warm year the wine carries its trademark acidity and freshness. This was partly the result of more leaf cover in the vineyard, and partly due to earlier harvesting. Trademark flavors include white peach, kafir lime, lychee nut, beeswax, ripe fig, and pineapple, with prominent wet stones, flint, oyster shells, and freshly baled straw. The fruit was very lightly whole-cluster-pressed. All four varieties were blended immediately upon dryness, racked and returned onto the lees for aging until bottling. As always we used 20% new Boutes barrels, with no stirring. To preserve all of the acidity the wine was prevented from going through malo-lactic fermentation. After ten months of barrel aging, the wine was filtered to prevent further malolactic fermentation, and then bottled. Intended to age, the White Wine is held in bottle for at least a year before release, but will reward much longer aging.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Most of this blend is made up of Bordeaux varieties— semillon and sauvignon blanc—while ribolla gialla and tocai friulano, two varieties from Friuli, contribute 30 percent. They combine in a cool and spicy white with salty lemon flavors and a honeyed scent. Round and sapid, it’s suited to grilled squid with green olives, or grilled fish with capers. (727 cases)
MATTHIASSON is a family endeavor, the effort of Steve and Jill Klein Matthiasson, and their two young sons. Steve & Jill both have had life-long careers in sustainable agriculture, and they apply those ideals of balance, restraint, and respect for the individual—and for the whole—to their wine.
Production at MATTHIASSON is simple but careful. This concept is central to the tradition of viticulture and winemaking. Respect for this tradition forms the core of their work. To that end, their hands literally touch every vine and every bottle.
As a vineyard consultant Steve teaches and makes decisions, such as when to water and how to prune, on vineyards throughout Napa and Sonoma. Steve's current clients include Araujo Estate, Spottswoode, Chappellet, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Stags Leap Wine Cellars, Long Meadow Ranch, Trefethen, Limerick Lane, and others. On his own vineyards, however, Steve cares for the vines with his own hands, driving the tractor at night, and working with the crews on Sundays.
MATTHIASSON moved to Napa in 2002. In December 2006, they took their wine plans another step forward and bought a small parcel tucked behind a subdivision just west of the city of Napa. They began replanting the property's 3 1/2 acres of vineyard to an initial lot of Ribolla Gialla - traced back to Josko Gravner's vineyard in Friuli -- Merlot, Refosco, and Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2009 MATTHIASSON had the chance to plant a vineyard on the West slopes of the town of Sonoma. The Michael Mara vineyard is now one of the most sought after sights for Chardonnay in California. Steve also farms a few parcels in Napa for their signature blends.
MATTHIASSON's crowning achievement is a white that combines the spirit of Bordeaux and northern Italy's Friuli region - a mix of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Ribolla Gialla and Tocai Friulano, the latter two almost nonexistent in California. This wine has quickly become one of California's best white blends. Their Red Blend is composed of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, and Petit Verdot.
These blends have revolutionized the idea of thinking outside the single varietal and sourcing grape varietals from their most appropriate locales up and down the Valley. Steve has also redefined the term "ripeness" in California in terms of picking wine grapes. MATTHIASSON currently picks 3-4 weeks before most of his neighbors. However, as each vintage moves on, there are more and more of farmers following the lead of Steve Matthiasson and following the trail that he is blazing through California.
One of the world's most highly regarded regions for wine production as well as tourism, the Napa Valley was responsible for bringing worldwide recognition to California winemaking. In the 1960s, a few key wine families settled the area and hedged their bets on the valley's world-class winemaking potential—and they were right.
The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980s, when producers scooped up vineyard lands and planted vines throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, and today Napa is home to hundreds of producers ranging from boutique to corporate. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Napa whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that claim specific characteristics based on situation, slope and soil. Farthest south and coolest from the influence of the San Pablo Bay is Carneros, followed by Coombsville to its northeast and then Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford. Above those are the warm St. Helena and the valley's newest and hottest AVA, Calistoga. These areas follow the valley floor and are known generally for creating rich, dense, complex and smooth reds with good aging potential. The mountain sub appellations, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs, include Stags Leap District, Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley (farther east), Howell Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain District and Diamond Mountain District. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from a lot of time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
With hundreds of white grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a soft and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is more fragrant and naturally high in acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.