Just outside of bustling Santa Rosa, on a lovely road that showcases all that is good and rural about Sonoma County, sits Matanzas Creek. Matanzas has been a leader in efforts to preserve the beautiful Bennett Valley and get the area declared its own viticultural region. For this alone, they’d be worthy of support. The high quality wine has always been another reason to keep coming back for more.
For many years, Matanzas’ winemaker was a remarkable Frenchman, Francois Cordesse. M. Cordesse’s creations remain for sale at Matanzas and should definitely be snapped up when you visit. Apparently, Francois is now at Coppola which should result in some fine creations at that winery.
Representing the best of French technique with some of America’s best fruit, Francois’ wines for Matanzas are all great, embodying the unique terroir from which they grow. Francois’ sauvignon blancs and merlots (in particular merlots from the Jackson Park vineyard) always delight. (The 2006 Jackson Park merlot drinks very nicely; I also just sampled a 2006 cabernet sauvignon that was pretty darn good, particularly with full-bodied cheeses.)
The winery’s higher end productions from their “Journey” label are worth trying and showcase Francois’ best handiwork for the vintages he produced. The 2007 chardonnay is everything a chardonnay actually should be: a balanced, delectable sipper with a pleasant creamy, roundness to it that plays off the light tang of the fruit. (Sorry to report, but I am not a fan of the extremely bad habit California producers have gotten into over the past decade, in which chardonnay tastes like an old, wet oak plank smeared with butter flavoring.)
The 2007 Journey Chardonnay is darn near perfection and has cellared well. The really nice lady at the tasting room said that Francois, the wine’s maker, thinks it could be put away very nicely for up to 4 years. (That is, if you can avoid the obvious temptation of drinking it now, but as we’re in 2011, you have an incentive to drink it now, given the tasting room lady’s guidance). My mom and my step-dad enjoyed it as they’re both fans of French white bordeaux.
Though there’s no longer a Frenchman at the helm, Marcia Monahan is now creating for Matanzas. In August 2011, I tasted the fruits of her labor in the form of a highly drinkable and pleasantly crisp sauvignon blanc. It’s nice to know that the winery has a history of featuring female winemakers; the incomparable Merry Edwards also once created for Matanzas. I look forward to seeing what Marcia creates from the amazing fruits of Matanzas terroir.
Though some things have changed behind the scenes at Matanzas, others remain the same on the front-end. The staff are always friendly and really helpful. There’s none of the pretention that, sadly, permeates so many other wineries, particularly those in Napa. The folks at Matanzas like and enjoy wine. They want you to like and enjoy it too.
Enjoyment is further enhanced by the beauty of the Matanzas property. The deck is a great place to sit and sip surrounded by lovely greenery, with sweeping views of the lavender gardens and the mountains across the way. The bocce ball court is another fine spot, perfect for a picnic and a glass or 2 of one of the refreshing whites or roses made at Matanzas. There are a few additional picnic tables and benches tucked away around the gardens as well, should you wish to enjoy your wine outdoors in a more secluded way.
In keeping with enjoying the Wine Country lifestyle, Matanzas hosts many events for the public and for members throughout the year, most notably, their legendary Lavender Festival. Be sure to take a look at their Web site for the events schedule and plan your visit so you can take part. If you live in San Francisco, Matanzas is also one of the best wine clubs to belong to, both because of the excellent wine and the great member events throughout the year.
Matanzas is located at 6097 Bennett Valley Road, on the outskirts of Santa Rosa. More info, including listings about events is at: http://www.matanzascreek.com/ Get there quick so that you can get a bottle or two of Francois’ divine creations and eventually say, “I got this wine before he became truly famous….” (That is, if you can manage not to drink these delightful wines now.)