Matt taking a selfie in a Petite Sirah vineyard that is ready to pick.
About Matt: I was born in Chicago and moved often as a child. My father was an academic (hence the frequent job changes and moves) and self-styled gourmand. Wine was always on the dinner table and I was allowed tiny, watered-down tastes until I was about 7. At that point I continued to get a tiny taste each night but without the water. I found wine fascinating, beautiful to look at, and delicious.
20+ years ago I moved to San Francisco and finally earned enough money to rediscover wine. I moved to Napa Valley 12 years ago and never want to leave! In addition to operating my label, I have made wine for Seavey Vineyard and Quixote. I am now the winemaker for Benessere Vineyards and I consult for Burgess Cellars.
Bill: How or why did you come up with the name Peoples Wine Revolution?
Matt: My wife, Marcy, and I have always wanted to share our love of wine. Many of our friends were turned off when they paid good money for what turned out to be not very good wine. We wanted to make sure there was at least something on the affordable shelf that would be exciting to drink. We wanted to make Wine for the People, and decided that called for a People’s Wine Revolution (PWR).
Bill: Was winemaking your first career? If no, what sparked your interest in becoming a winemaker?
Matt: Winemaking was nowhere near my first career. I started out as an economist working on environmental issues. I was disappointed by the bureaucracy and being stuck in an office all day. I ended up in San Francisco tempting while trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. On my lunch hour one day I bought a book called Homemade Wine, by Judith Irwin. Irwin is English, so she includes many unusual recipes for wines made from vegetables and from fruits other than wine grapes. I enjoyed experimenting with her recipes and at last put together my love of wine and the fun I had making it, and decided to pursue winemaking as a career. I enrolled in the Viticulture & Enology program at UC-Davis.
Bill: Do you have a favorite varietal and why?
Matt: I love to drink everything! Each grape variety has so much to offer and I love exploring. Blends are great, too. There are many varieties I have not yet had the pleasure of working with, but Syrah is my favorite to make so far. I find that it is very responsive to different winemaking techniques while remaining true to the growing site.
Bill: Do you have a new varietal or something special in the works you would like to share?
Matt: Nothing new in the works for PWR at this point. I am ever on the lookout.
Bill: Do you drink other winemaker’s wines? Is there a region or country you prefer?
Matt: Of course! Most of the wines we drink come from California, but I am also excited about Walla Walla in the US, and I remain an adoring fan of the wines from the Rhone Valley and Burgundy. There are some exciting wines that are also surprising values coming out of France’s Languedoc.
Bill: When you are not working in the winery or vineyard what are you interests?
Matt: I have a six-year-old daughter so my main interest is playing with her and watching her grow before my eyes. Fortunately she shares many of my interests such as mushroom hunting, nature watching, and making art.
Bill: Your wines are mostly Rhone styles (besides the Zinfandel). Do you drink a lot of Rhone’s or do you have great relationships with growers?
Matt: I probably drink more wines from the Rhone than from any other area outside of California, and as I mentioned Syrah is really rewarding to make, but I think the real reason PWR has leaned that way is that the Rhone varieties are undervalued in California. We have to seek inexpensive grapes to keep our prices low. I can get excellent Syrah for 1/3 the price of Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir of comparable quality.
Bill: Screw cap vs. Cork, we talked about this before. What is your philosophy on this topic?
Matt: I want the consumer to taste the wine I made. All cork imparts subtle flavorings. Whether those flavors are pleasant (often citrus or vanilla) or unpleasant (mothballs), they are not the flavors of my wines and I do not want them there. TCA remains a concern, too, though I think the industry has made great progress in reducing the incidence of corks that are actually tainted.
If you have a winemaker you would like me to interview or have questions please drop me an email at Bill@BillsWineWandering.com. Cheers!
Life is too short to drink crappy wine! Expand your palate and keep trying.