Matson Vineyards Celebrates 30 Years
Roger Matson’s story is all about how his life experiences prepared him to appreciate the traditional methods his father used as a grower and home wine maker. Now he incorporates them with new and creative approaches to viticulture (wine growing) and wine making.
Inspired by his parents’ early efforts, Matson earned his degree in 1982 from the University of California at Davis in fermentation sciences. He worked as a consultant for wineries in Mendocino County and alongside some master wine makers. One season he traveled to Australia to help with the “crush,” when grapes are crushed to release their juices before and during fermentation.
Matson returned to UC Davis in 1991 to complete his master’s degree in nutrition, and he met and married a classmate, Keiko Goto, a native of Japan. The couple lived in Japan for a while, where Matson taught English. Each applied to their country’s Peace Corps program, and both were assigned to projects in Guatemala.
When they returned to California in 1999, Matson was ready to “come home to the wild spaces” of his youth. As he set about beginning to expand the business, he continued to “really value the wild space” and made conscious efforts to protect the environment. That philosophy permeates the 12 ½-acre property in Redding, a small vineyard in Happy Valley and their latest expansion in Inwood, near Shingletown, where 2 ½ of the 15 acres have been planted. All kinds of animals, both wild and domestic, many rescued, share the spaces with thriving vines.
Matson’s wealth of knowledge and world experiences have given him a broad view of the art of wine making. He loves to experiment with blends of the 20 varietals he grows. “American vintners tend to believe in ‘pure’ varietals,” he says. The rest of the world, he explains, has been blending for a long time. “I am proud to bring a blending approach to my wine making.”
He likes to take a larger perspective than the traditional, stereotypical Napa Valley view of wine making. “Shepherding” his wines allows Matson to “capture elements expected by distinctive nuances of varietals and add complexity with the blends.” Blending helps “overcome the challenges in warm climates.” Water management and his choice of varietals also factor into the wine-making process.
Originals produced by Matson Vineyards have surprised even Matson as he has experimented with new blends. His Glacier is an aromatic, fruity, dry wine that one guest says has “an explosion of flavor with a smoky hint.” Lynette Shaw, Matson’s marketing manager, calls it a “poolside wine, very refreshing.” The Anglianico is a port produced in honor of family members with grapes from the Happy Valley vineyard. Tamiko, his Cabernet Sauvignon, is wrapped with a Japanese-inspired label and named after Matson’s mother-in-law. Another original label designed by friends adorns bottles of Tango, a unique blend of Tannai and Tempranillo varietals. Celebrating its 20th anniversary with a limited extraction, the Stellar Red is a signature wine named for Matson’s mother. Matson describes it as lighter, not so astringent, and rich with an outstanding finish. It is a good compliment to Italian food, he says.
Matson admits the business is a labor of love, requiring a very hands-on workforce from the boss and the marketing manager to the volunteers who roll up their sleeves when work needs to be done. The straw-bale warehouse stores inventory that is shipped in growing quantities through their wine club and distributed locally in several markets and restaurants.
Magic takes place in the cellar after the crush ‒ filtering, blending, fermenting, settling, cold stabilizing ‒ the space permeated with musty oak cask smells. It’s where new styles evolve, where the winemaker experiments and enjoys the outcome when new strengths are joined. “Blends may change from year to year, but they will retain similarities,” he says. “It is okay to stray from the originals.” Matson embraces the past as he embraces innovation, as he lives by “Old world traditions - New world blends.”
www.matsonvineyards.com Tastings by appointment (530) 222-2833
Local outlets that carry Matson wines: • Safeway • Liquor Barn • Kent’s Meats • Raley’s • Holiday Market • Tops Sunset Market • Jack’s Steak House • Savory Spoon