Matthiasson wines and California culture are inextricably entwined.
Let’s step back for a moment. It was a warm, sunny, mid-harvest August afternoon in Napa Valley when winemaker Steve Matthiasson’s and his wife Jill Klein Matthiasson hosted a group of SHED staffers at their lush homestead for a picnic lunch surrounded by towering redwoods and thriving vineyards of obscure grape varieties.
It was the perfect setting to understand and appreciate the beautiful, uncommon, sustainable family farming project that is Matthiasson Wines. It was the perfect setting to understand and appreciate the project that is California.
Why plant, for example, uncommon Italian reds and whites like Ribolla Gialla and Tocai Friulano alongside the traditionally reliable Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon varietals of the valley?
“We can grow almost anything here,” Steve said over lunch as he passed the corn salad and grilled sausage.
“By doing so we’re making our own culture. There’s a story to it. A human element. There is culture in agriculture, and in California we’re making our own culture. Californians are the ultimate Americans.”
Steve, who says that he has had both a curiosity about and a knack for farming since his childhood in Tucson, AZ, is now one of the most in-demand vineyard consultants in the Napa Valley.
When he decided to make his own label, he had the pick of several elite vineyards to work from. And he knew what he didn’t want to do. “I didn’t want to make a collector’s item wine that nobody drinks,” he said.
Even though his wine has earned him multiple James Beard Award nominations and the San Francisco Chronicle’s “Winemaker of the Year” title, Steve is adamant that his wines stay accessible.
Steve’s partner in the vineyards, Jill manages the business and the orchards. The two met while studying agriculture at UC Davis and both strongly believe in environmentally-minded farming.
“It’s important to us that this property puts out more energy than it takes in,” Jill said. “It should be as diverse as possible and friendly to pollinators and native plants.”
Jill’s garden has a dozen varieties of pepper plants for the couple’s homemade hot sauce, a patch of heirloom corn so tall it scrapes the sky, a row of cardoons for their vermouth, and all types of Italian tomatoes for red sauce.
With their vineyards, orchards, and the garden producing abundantly, Jill says that they’re “always in full-time farming mode — always preserving, canning, and freezing.”
When Steve and Jill visit SHED on Sept. 22 for a special Taste of Place dinner featuring their wines, they’re sure to feel at home in our Grange; after all, it’s been the scene of so much canning, preserving, pickling, and eating with good company.
Join us for this special event to enjoy Matthiasson wines with the people who made them and a four-course pairing by Napa Valley native Chef Perry Hoffman.
We’re all speaking the same language here — and it’s Californian.