A few years ago Doug and I took our daughter up to northern California for summer camp. After we dropped her off we went to Santa Rosa and stopped at this funky little joint, called Willi’s Wine bar. We asked our server to recommend a nice bottle of white wine and she suggested a bottle of Matrix Sauvignon Blanc. We absolutely fell in love with it. It was incredible and the minute we got home we promptly ordered a case from the winery.
Well this year we decided to do some wine tasting in Sonoma and simply had to stop by Matrix located in Healdsburg, part of the Russian River Valley to see what other offerings they had. Boy! Were we pleasantly surprised. All this time we thought they were mainly a “white” house but we walked in to find out they actually specialize in reds and make award winning Pinot Noirs.
Three of the grape varietals used by Matrix are designated on the short list as Noble grapes. “Noble grape” is a wine term used to describe those varietals that produce the highest quality wines, though the term isn’t as widely used today because there has been such a proliferation of hybrid grapes. Those designated varietals include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The first wine we tried was of course the Sauvignon Blanc. The 2011 Sauvignon Blanc vintage was crisp and refreshing. The nose is so fruity it is like smelling a bowlful of citrus and tropical fruits. The most prominent flavors on the palate are grapefruit and lime with hints of lychee. It’s a wonderful wine and is one of our favorite Sauvignon blancs.
The other white wine we had was a 2009 Stuhlmuller Reserve Chardonnay which had a butter, poached pear and toast nose. The palate is melon, citrus and buttery with a long, rich, finish. There were only 223 cases of this wine made.
Then it was on to those award winning Pinot Noirs. The first Pinot we tried was the 2010 Warm Springs Ranch Pinot from the Dry creek area. This wine has a fuller body with a ripe cherry candy, fig compote and oak nose. The full mouth feel had flavors of black plum and rich spices. The finish is short with soft tannins and creamy toasted oak.
Next came the 2009 R. Buoncristiani Pinot. The nose of this wine was bright with red, berries; rich ripe cherries and cranberries, with smoky, oak notes on the palate. It’s a very balanced wine and has a long finish.
The 2009 Bacigalupi Pinot is grown in the heart of the Russian River Valley. Bacigalupi winery has a very prestigious past having provided the Chardonnay grapes to Chateau Montelena for the famous Paris blind tasting. That historical event revolutionized and catapulted California wines to the forefront of the wine industry as memorialized in the movie Bottle Shock. This wine has a funky, earthy, nose that incorporates fresh red fruits, tart cherry and a true Pinot vibe. It also has a light body, with a pale ruby color. The wine is juicy with an oaky and floral palate and smooth tannins.
With a production of a 199 cases the 2009 Nunes Pinot is ripe with rich fruits like plum and cherries. Highlighted with wood essences a fuller body and a lingering finish the wine has smooth tannins with oak and caramel.
The 2009 R. Buoncristiani Reserve is barrel select and is a bold wine with polished tannins, a bright acidity and an earthy, spiced minerality on the bouquet. The tangy blackberry, plum and white pepper palate shows well now or if allowed to age a little while will provide for a more evolved wine experience.
Our favorite Pinot was the 2009 Bacigalupi Reserve. This wine is very special, the acid is super balanced and it has a noticeably richer, ruby color than it’s sibling the non reserve. Made from 667 and Wadensville Clones the nose is cherry and earthy with a hint of black pepper. The grapes are hand harvested and has the jammy fruit of cherry and raspberry essences.
The other wine we simply had to buy a bottle of was the 2009 Bacigalupi Petite Sirah. An inky, soft, round and velvety smooth wine, it had a mild chalk and dark berry scent. It’s full of dark berry fruits like blackberries and blueberries, but is evened out nicely with some earth and acid, creating an enjoyable balanced wine with some creaminess through out.
The last wine we tasted was the 2010 Russian River Zinfandel. This is a 50/50 blend from 2 vineyards’ Zinfandel grapes, the Boschetti vineyard and Bacigalupi vineyard. This is a jammy, juicy wine with aromas of red fruits with hints of mild pepper. On the palate blackberry with some plum and hints of oak.
We really enjoyed our visit to Matrix and enjoyed many of the wines we tasted. Matrix has a little bit for everyone while creating a comfortable atmosphere with a tasting room that is very welcoming and unpretentious.
Grapes are the most noble and challenging of fruits.
Malcolm Dunn, Head Gardener to the 7th Viscount Powerscourt, c 1867