Grape grower, vineyard consultant and winemaker Steve Matthiasson of Matthiasson in Napa Valley is a bona fide member of the new wave of California winemakers. But he still has a soft spot for Burgundy.
Recently, he had a premier cru Volnay from Domaine de Montille that just blew him away. The fact that it was an off vintage, the 1997, only goes to show the quality of the producer, he says.
"Domaine de Montille has been holding the torch for traditional Burgundy," Matthiasson explains. His tasting notes for the domaine's 1997 Volnay premier cru "En Champans" read: "Classic, classic, classic. Razor focus. Red fruit, mineral, fresh tannins."
"I'm pretty sure 1997 was a hot year, yet this wine is so fresh and delicate," says Matthiasson. "The hardest thing in winemaking is to exercise restraint. And in hot years, the tendency is to make big, ripe wines. Especially in a cooler region, it takes a lot of discipline to hold back. Étienne Montille is really carrying the torch for traditionalism and balance in winemaking, and I find his wines very inspiring."
De Montille's winemaking tradition has been honed over generations. Matthiasson's winery, which he owns with his wife, Jill, dates back to just 2003. But his wines, especially the Matthiasson White (a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Tocai Friulano and Ribolla Gialla) are highly sought after.
Matthiasson makes just a few hundred cases of each, and this year he's bottling 15 or so different wines. In addition to his red, white, Linda Vista Chardonnay, Michael Mara Chardonnay, Napa Valley Cabernet, Refosco, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Ribolla Gialla, Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, he's making his first ever Schioppettino from the Italian grape of the same name. And he's just about to finish a new sweet vermouth cuvée.
Also to check out the Matthiassons' affordable everyday drinking wine called Tendu, sold in liter bottles (normal wine bottles are just 3/4 of a liter) and just 11% alcohol.