Matthiasson Ribolla Gialla 2020
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.
As one of Napa’s coolest sub-appellations, the area begs for diversity among its vineyards. Merlot and Chardonnay firmly compete with Cabernet Sauvignon for a place here. Some of Napa’s best Zinfandels also come from the Oak Knoll District.
Situated far in Napa’s southern end, Oak Knoll receives a strong cooling influence from both the San Pablo Bay and the Pacific Coast’s evening fog and breezes. Summer days are warm but on average ten degrees cooler than in St. Helena farther north up the valley; summer nights are chilly. A long growing season promotes for leisurely ripening of grape berries, resulting in an impressive balance of sugars, phenols and acidity.
Notable producers include Trefethen, one of the appellation’s oldest wineries, Robert Biale, legendary Zinfandel producer and Lewis Cellars, a family-run, hands-on establishment.
The exact origins of Ribolla Gialla remain unclear, though it most likely came to Friuli before the 1200s by way of Slovenia, where it goes by the moniker, Rebula. Blanketing vineyard hillsides along the Italian-Slovenian border, unconcerned about which side it is on, this pink-skinned variety creates a range of styles from the crisp, dry, still or sparkling whites to the charmingly ephemeral, skin-contact orange wines. Somm Secret—If you’re into orange wines, go visit Collio’s Oslavia and Slovenia’s Goriska Brda regions. They are so close you’ll hardly know you’ve gone from one to the other.