Friday Feature 5/10/13: A Return To California Wine

Hello and Happy Friday!


Just a reminder that we are back with another edition of Routier tonight!  Stop in any time between 5 and 8 pm to try a flight of three wines along with a nibble of cheese and crackers for only $25 per person.


Tonight’s theme focuses on white wines for springtime weather. Inspired by a warming in the weather (finally!!!), we will pour three white wines that will slake your spring thirst and make you hopeful for sunny days to come.


2012 Gorronda Txakoli Basque Country, Spain

2010 Ottella Lugana ‘Le Creete’ Veneto, Italy

2011 T. Labaille Sancerre ‘L’Authentique’ Loire Valley, France




In other news,  Craig will be leaving for Portugal this Sundayand Sheb will be again “holding down the fort”. We will be keeping regular hours EXCEPT for Monday May 13th & Monday May 20th. We will be closed on both those Mondays.



Get your smelling salts at the ready, because today’s FridayFeature focuses on California Wines. (We will give you time here to pass out, then revive yourselves with the aforementioned smelling salts). It’s no secret that we here at PWS have a great affinity for the old world; it is what we buy and drink for ourselves. But sometimes it is easy to get tunnel vision and we must remind ourselves to drink with open hearts and wide awake eyes.

The 1980s and 1990s were a time of big hair, big Cabs and big scores and as a result,  the California wine industry slumped into a boring period of homogeneity. If there was a time to be turned off of California wine, this was it. Hyper efficient yeasts designed around Robert Parker’s monolithic palate, lots of new oak barrels, and ultra ripe fruit dominated the wine scene. Many of us in search for something ethereal, light or nuanced were forced out of our own country, because there was no wine being made in this manner.

The times they are a changing though, and today we feature one new Napa Valley winemaker and two venerable estates in the Santa Cruz Mountains. All three producers give us hope for the future of American wine, and cause us to remember that a great terroir and singular vision of quality can transcend through the years.

Have a great weekend,

Craig & Sheb

Friday Feature

Steve Matthiasson, Napa Valley California

Steve Matthiason makes his living as a vineyard manager in Napa Valley and is in charge of making the day to day viticultural decisions for such luminaries at Stag’s Leap, Araujo & Chapellet. A trip in 2006 to Friuli inspired him to start his own label, under which he produces three wines; a Chardonnay, Bordeaux Blend and Italian White blend. We were taken with the Chardonnay and Bordeaux blend, both of which are now sold out at the winery. 


2011 Matthiasson Chardonnay ‘Linda Vista Vineyard’ 


The most fascinating aspect of this wine is the delicious contrast between its richness and tingly acidity. The vineyard is located out the back of the Matthiassons’ house in West Oak Knoll, and still supports vines planted in the 1960s.


Steve does not allow the wine to go through malolactic conversion, and indeed the total acidity of the end wine reads more like a Sauvignon Blanc than most Chardonnays. Yeast is all natural and the grapes are pressed in whole clusters.


Lastly, to maintain freshness, it is finished in stainless steel and neutral barrels.


$25.99 BTL/ $311.88 CASE OF 12- ONLY 3 CASES AVAILABLE


2008 Matthiasson Red Wine

Steve describes this wine as “Old school… with finesse but with guts.”.


It is a blend of 67% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet France, 5% Malbec & 2% Petit Verdot.


The Merlot comes from a vineyard called Red Hen. This is a very old block of Merlot, planted in the 1940s, yielding very little fruit (less than 1 ton per acre). However, the quality of the fruit is intense and concentrated.


The Cabernet comes from a vineyard called Meadowbrook at the foot of Mount Veeder. The rest of the grapes come from Steve’s vineyard clients.


We wish more Bordeaux tasted as delicious, and was as well made as this.

$73.99 BTL. / $887.88 CASE of 12 – LIMITED AVAILABILITY.



Ridge Monte Bello & Mount Eden Estate in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA
A few years ago I conducted a blind tasting of California wines from the critically acclaimed 1997 vintage. All the big Napa names were there: Silver Oak, Phelps Insignia etc. And out of all those Cabs, the first and second highest rated wines of the night were not from Napa at all, but rather from an AVA called the Santa Cruz Mountain Range. The Mount Eden Estate Cabernet and Ridge’s Monte Bello absolutely crushed the competition, and sang with a structure, freshness and vibrancy that their Napa neighbors couldn’t fathom.

So why did these two wines blow away the competition? There are three main factors that set these wines apart: climate, altitude and vine age.



Ridge’s Monte Bello vineyard is located 2300 feet above sea level, perched just 15 miles from the Pacific Coast line that plunges below.

In 1976, the ’71 Monte Bello Cabernet placed 2nd in the now infamous “Judgement of Paris” tasting. The wine is made, as it was back then, by Paul Draper.

The original vines were plated in 1885, and the first vintage under this label was 1962.  The farming has always been organic, Draper has always employed natural yeasts and exhibited a very light touch in his winemaking. What’s old is new again!


The Wine Advocate awarded this wine 98 points and describes it as “yet another, utterly magnificent, towering masterpiece from Ridge”




2008 Mount Eden Estate Cabernet Sauvignon


A similar history can be divined at Mount Eden Estate.


The Estate Cabernet is grown on a selection  cuttings that originally came from Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux. Martin Ray, the original owner of the site, planted the Cabernet vineyards with these heritage vines, obtained from another vineyard called ‘La Cresta’.


 Mount Eden continues to replant with a selection massale from these orginal vines, a difficult task to say the least. The vineyard is located 2000 feet above sea level, and like the Monte Bello above, enjoys a cool, temperate growing season due to its close proximity to the Pacific Coast.


The wine is composed mainly of Cabernet Sauvignon, with a little Merlot & Cabernet Franc in the blend. It spends 22 months aged in oak barrels before release.


In our opinion, there is not another California Cabernet on the market in possession of balance, age-worthiness and drinking pleasure to be had at this price.



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