Style: Full Bodied, Sweet
Matthiasson No. 4 Sweet Vermouth Napa Valley
First off, this vermouth is primarily about the wine. The base wine. It is 80% Flora, which is a variety bred at UC Davis by the legendary Harold Olmo back in the 1950’s. Flora is a cross between Semillon and Gewurtztraminer. Though Olmo isn’t with us any more to confirm Matthiasson’s theory, they believe he bred it specifically for fortified wines. The California industry moved away from these types of wines and Flora fell into obscurity. When Matthiasson heard that Flora still existed in the organically farmed Yount Mill Vineyard they immediately begged for fruit. This fruit is a rare exception for them—normally they try to grow all of their own fruit—but the temptation to make wine from this rare and historical variety was too much to resist.
For the Vermouth No. 4 Matthiason also used 20% Muscat of Alexandria, which they harvested as raisins and aged in barrel for four years.
Batch No. 4 is a non-vintage blend of the 2016, 2017, and 2018 vintages. The older wine gives the dried jammy fruit and nutty flavors, and the younger wine is more vibrant with fresh fruits. Since the Vermouth is always non-vintage they only make a new batch every two to three years.
Each year the fruit was picked very late, with some botrytis and raisins at harvest. Besides the natural high sugar, the must was sweetened further by chaptalizing with organic cane sugar, to around 45 brix.
The grapes were fermented whole cluster (skins and stems) in open-top fermenters with manual punch downs twice a day. They let the fermentation stop naturally, with 120-170 grams per liter of residual sugar remaining due to the high brix when the grapes were crushed, and pressed the wine into partially full used barrels.
They added no sulfites during elevage and didn’t top, instead allowing the wine to slowly oxydize and develop the wonderful nutty and dried fruit flavors. The wines were barrel aged between 18 and 40 months.
To complement the natural grape aromas of the Flora Matthiason made infusions of their own home-grown blood oranges and sour cherries, along with coriander seed that they purchased. The infusions were made in a base of high-proof neutral grape spirits.
The bittering was mainly done by adding an infusion of their own home-grown cardoons, but we also purchased chinchona bark and blessed thistle to infuse for a little more complexity.
The three vintages were blended and the infusions added into the wine right before bottling.
The wine was bottled unfiltered. 590 cases of half bottles were produced. 17.0% ABV.
The Napa Valley Sweet Vermouth No. 4 makes a great boulevardier, blood and sand, negroni, manhattan, or even better, can be served neat as an aperitif or to accompany dessert.
About the Winery
Matthiasson is a family endeavor, the effort of Steve and Jill Klein Matthiasson, and their two young sons. Steve & Jill both have had life-long careers in sustainable agriculture, and they apply those ideals of balance, restraint, and respect for the individual—and for the whole—to their wine.
Production at Matthiasson is simple but careful. This concept is central to the tradition of viticulture and winemaking. Respect for this tradition forms the core of their work. To that end, their hands literally touch every vine and every bottle.
Matthiasson moved to Napa in 2002. In December 2006, they took their wine plans another step forward and bought a small parcel tucked behind a subdivision just west of the city of Napa. They began replanting the property’s 3 1/2 acres of vineyard to an initial lot of Ribolla Gialla – traced back to Josko Gravner’s vineyard in Friuli — Merlot, Refosco, and Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2009 Matthiasson had the chance to plant a vineyard on the West slopes of the town of Sonoma. The Michael Mara vineyard is now one of the most sought after sights for Chardonnay in California. Steve also farms a few parcels in Napa for their signature blends.
These blends have revolutionized the idea of thinking outside the single varietal and sourcing grape varietals from their most appropriate locales up and down the Valley. Steve has also redefined the term “ripeness” in California in terms of picking wine grapes. Matthiasson currently picks 3-4 weeks before most of his neighbors. However, as each vintage moves on, there are more and more of farmers following the lead of Steve Matthiasson and following the trail that he is blazing through California
Check out more at: Matthiasson