Now that we’re more than one year into Le Metro, I can officially say that one of the most gratifying parts about this whole project has been the opportunity to not only share the wines made by winemakers whom I admire, but to also collaborate with them creatively.
Volume XII: Stop and Smell the Rosé has provided me with the chance to work with one of the most respected wineries in California (and, of course, to drink their wine myself!) and it is with immense pleasure that I introduce you to Jill and Steve Matthiasson.
The 2013 Matthiasson Rosé was the first wine selected for this collection – in fact, my faith in the Matthiassons is such that I chose to include the wine before it had even been bottled. I hope that you enjoy the wine as much as I do, and that this interview helps you get to know the people behind it.
Check back here next week for Jill and Steve’s food pairing recommendations for the wines from Volume XII!
Aaron Epstein, Curator
Jill & Steve Matthiasson
AE: Tell me about that pivotal moment when you decided to dedicate your life to wine. (Come on, we’ve all got one…)
SM: I became very interested in alcohol and food as a teenager—alcohol to get into an altered state, and food because I was into cycling and gardening, and that connection between nutrition, healthy produce, and European traditions gelled. By college in the 80s I was into wine, which was the natural progression given those interests (which grew to include reading the beatnik writers, who loved their wine), but I came to “dedicate my life to it” a few years later, after working in my first vineyard, which caused everything to come together. Standing in the vineyard, my path was clear.
AE: What food(s) did you find most comforting as a child?
SM: The top of the list would be tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese baked with sausage and tomatoes, and the Icelandic dessert Panakukker, which are buckwheat crepes filled with jam and whipped cream.
AE: And what does “comfort food” mean to you today?
SM: The classic “comfort food” formula of familiarity combined with simple flavors and lots of fat and umami really works for me. I don’t think it’s cultural, it must be how we are wired. Nature, not nurture. I truly believe that wine “balance” is more physiological than cultural as well, which is why I think the current low acid/high alcohol trend is a fad, and that we will return to balanced wines.
AE: Do you have a go-to “house wine” that you always have stocked at home?
JM & SM: In our case we almost never have the same wine twice—the world of wine is so diverse that each wine moment is an opportunity to learn and explore. That said, we go through a heck of a lot of our own rose’ every summer. It’s low alcohol and refreshing, which is critical for a house wine.
AE: When you’re planning a meal, do you generally develop it around the food, or the wine?
JM & SM: We try to keep enough different wines on hand that we can plan the meal around the produce that happens to be fresh, seasonal, and available at that moment, and choose the wine accordingly. Tonight was grilled fava beans and lamb chops with a big salad, so we chose a Northern Rhone-style California Syrah.
AE: Is there a dish that you’re famous for among your friends?
JM & SM: We love to get people together over an entire animal. An asador lamb, or a pig in the Caja China, or a goat in a pit. Friends bring sides and wines, and we eat and drink our way into the night.
AE: How do you decide where to eat when you’re traveling?
JM & SM: Our situation is a little specific, since we like to experience restaurants that carry our wines. Within that group of options, however, we rely heavily on word of mouth from people in the restaurant business. We love places where people in the hospitality industry get excited to eat—the food is usually unpretentious but incredibly well-executed.
AE: What is your favorite place to shop for food?
SM: In order: the garden, direct from farmers, the farmers market, ethnic shops, independent specialty markets, and finally high-end grocery stores like Whole Foods. When I go into a normal supermarket I get completely disoriented…where is all the food??
AE: Imagine yourself as a culinary ingredient or grape variety. What would you be, and why?
SM: This is a tough question. I posed it to our younger son Kai, and he said bread dough with lots of nuts. I had been thinking curry powder.
AE: Would you consider your approach to food & wine pairing to be more scientific or intuitive?
SM: All of my cooking, winemaking, and food and wine pairing is intuitive, but is based on a scientific understanding of what is happening. I’m a big believer in establishing a solid basis in the fundamentals of how things work, and then using that foundation in an intuitive manner. So for food and wine pairing I think about the nuts and bolts, like acidity or bitterness in the wine or the food, but then let my imagination guide which wine to reach for within the general “scientific” parameters I’ve considered.