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Matthews Lured Away the Staff Behind Considered one of Washington Finest Wineries. Its First Classic Exhibits Why.

Matthews Lured Away the Staff Behind Considered one of Washington Finest Wineries. Its First Classic Exhibits Why.

As a generational business, change often moves at a snail’s pace in the wine industry. There are times, however, that events unfold rapidly and bring a fresh jolt of energy into a situation, which is certainly the case at Matthews, a well-known name in Washington State wine for three decades. After steadily adding vineyard sites and improving its winery facilities under the stewardship of the Otis family, Matthews experienced an enormous change in 2021, when proprietor Bryan Otis hired the entire winemaking team from Quilceda Creek. Winemakers Alex Stewart, Hal Iverson, and Jesse Schmidt have previously crafted some of Washington’s most acclaimed wines, and the 2021 Matthews Reserve wines more than live up to their legacy.

Focused on expressing “the purity” of the Columbia Valley, Matthews’ new releases in its reserve tier include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and two Bordeaux-style blends, Matthews Reserve Cuvée, made with 50 percent Merlot, 40 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10 percent Cabernet Franc, and Matthews Reserve Claret, which is produced using 70 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 percent Merlot, and 10 percent Cabernet Franc. The red wines all hail from the 2021 season, while Sauvignon Blanc is from the 2022 vintage. Founded in 1992, the winery was recapitalized by the Otis family in 2004 and acquired by them in 2008. From 2004 onwards, the Otises went all in on the winery and learned about every step of the process from grape growing to winemaking. They made notable strides in expanding vineyard sites and fine-tuning the fermentation process, while always maintaining a strong conviction that there was more to be done.

“Our greatest joy as a team comes from assessing potential, and then working as hard as we can to realize that opportunity,” proprietor Bryan Otis tells Robb Report. “Until 2021, we felt the Matthews wines hadn’t yet reached their full flavor potential, and a new winemaking team and winemaking approach was needed to see this become a reality.” Although he and his family were initially looking for a new winemaker rather than a whole team, it seems that lightning struck when winemaker Alex Stewart told Otis that he was willing to make a move under the condition that he and his colleagues were hired as a trio. “There are few chances where an opportunity comes along where you can completely redefine an entire situation. When it was clear we could bring Alex, Hal, and Jesse on board as a team, we jumped,” Otis says.

The Matthews winemaking team

Matthews

It’s clear to us that the new team has delivered incredible results. Across the board the Matthews 2021 Reserve wines showcase an outstanding combination of impeccable vineyard management, a season that offered full concentration of flavors, and the light touch of a winemaker who allows the beauty of the fruit to shine through. “Beginning with the 2021 vintage, our fingerprint on the Matthews wines will be minimal intervention,” Stewart tells Robb Report. “Winemaking is at its best when it is not heavy handed. The style we are striving for are wines that are precise and focused with concentration and balance.”

To that end, Stewart restricts yields in the vineyard to concentrate flavor, sorts grape clusters and individual berries with a meticulous eye, and slowly and gently ferments to achieve maximum extraction. Wines are then rested in carefully selected custom French oak barrels and bottled unfined and unfiltered. Stewart, Iverson, and Schmidt had Mother Nature on their side with this vintage. “The 2021 vintage was incredibly generous to winemakers in Washington,” Stewart says. “The yields on the vine were naturally restricted in the best way, with few, small clusters, and berries to match. The wines are ripe and concentrated, yet fresh and lively, and light on their feet. Quality was stellar across the board. We had the luxury to achieve the phenolic ripeness that is only found in great vintages.”

Stewart and his team are also fortunate that they had grapes from a variety of great sites to work with. The Otis family has been expanding vineyard holdings since early on, because, as Otis says, “For years, our family has known the potential of the Columbia Valley is nearly limitless.” While the wines are labeled with the general Columbia Valley AVA origin, fruit comes from several sub-AVAs including Red Mountain, Horse Heaven Hills, Royal Slope, Yakima Valley, and White Bluffs as well as the renowned Columbia Valley Conner Lee Vineyard.

wine grapes harvested in Washington state.

A great harvest led to some excellent wine.

Matthews

Matthews 2021 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon features a bouquet of blackberry, cassis, and pencil lead with a hint of earthiness. Slightly brambly fruit of the wood flavors are joined by notes of espresso, dark chocolate, and crumbled sage leaf. Opulent tannins and well-integrated acidity drift into a cocoa powder-dusted finish. Barrel-fermented and rested in a combination of new and used French oak, Matthews 2022 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc is full on the palate and offers gorgeous tropical fruit flavors mingling with refreshing acidity.

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For us, the through line running across the 2021 reds in the range includes gorgeous aromatics and a beautiful combination of black fruit, earth, and spice elements wrapped up in luxurious tannins and a sheath of shimmering acidity. “The adventure the last few years made me feel like a kid again, like we are releasing our very first wine for the very first time. I couldn’t be more excited,” Otis says. We are equally excited for this vintage and those to come from the new team at Matthews.

Source: Robb Report

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