gushing about matanzas creek.

It’s been a great but long day of touring Sonoma with Rob and Jen, so I’m going to focus this post on the highlight of our first wine tasting experience in California: Matanzas Creek Winery.

[For a glimpse into the rest of our day’s adventures, view the California photosets from my Flickr homepage or on this site’s Photos section.]

Unlike the overpriced and commercialized estates of Gloria Ferrer and Chateau St. Jean (which both happen to be right off the main highway, and are fairly well-known names), Matanzas is off the beaten path, nestled in a prettily windy back road in Santa Rosa. It took us a good 15 minutes of driving from the main congregation of vineyards, and we nearly turned back, thinking we had gotten lost somewhere. Luckily, we did manage to find the entrance to this beautifully lush property, full of ivy, towering and twisting trees, and a fragrant garden of lavender.

Our tasting menu (aka “flight”) consisted of seven wines. Normally, they only offer 5 of their selection of blends and varietals, but today, they were showcasing 3 of their more distinctive merlots, so we got a nice little bonus. One of the wines was even a rosé; not the kind of rosé that I’ve been desperately seeking, but it was great to try one from the California region.

Results: the 2005 Sonoma Valley Chardonnay and the 2002 Jackson Park Merlot completely wowed our group. The four of us wound up buying 3 of the Chardonnay, which tasted to me like buttery caramel corn, and one of the merlot. This merlot is one of the best, if not the best, I’ve ever had. Bouquet smells of roasted coffee beans and plum. I could have kept my nose in that wine glass all day. It tasted even better: dark, smoky, chocolately, and oh-so-decadent. Mouthfeel like velvet. Not at all acidic or tannic. Yum yum yum!!

For you Sideways nay-sayers: you will change your mind about this grape if you ever get to try this vintage. It’s really too bad that this winery does not cater to retail stores. I may have to take it up with Lorne about getting Matanzas to ship to a PO Box in Point Roberts for a shady cross-border postal pick-up!

Matanzas’ official tasting notes of our purchased wines below (alas, we misplaced the one for the Chardonnay, so all we have is the one-liner from the tasting room price list…).

Update: Found the Chardonnay’s tasting notes from Matanzas’ website. Added below.

our two purchases from matanzas creek (see notes)

2005 Sonoma Valley Chardonnay, $29

Elegant notes of honey and melon balanced with a touch of cream.

A first glimpse of the wine reveals a pale, straw color, quite typical for a sophisticated Chardonnay. The first nose brings a delicate blend of green apple, white peach, and acacia flower, with a surprising addition of the autumn fruits pear and quince. After a swirl, the second nose reveals the more mineral note of crushed stones, the mark of an exceptional Chardonnay. The palate is round and velvety with a prolonged, flavorful finish of honey and melon. There is also a unique and subtle hint of smoke, derived from basalt, an ancient ocean floor rock found in Bennett Valley’s soil.

Although this Chardonnay was crafted with 95% malolactic fermentation, it is far from a heavy, buttery wine. Francois aims to create an elegant wine which is crafted to complement the finest foods. In addition, he is able to preserve the fullest potential of the Chardonnay by employing a Champagne-style vinification that is gentle on the fruit during crush and prevents any bitter note in the finish. If allowed to age, this wine promises to further increase in minerality and develop a luscious, butterscotch characteristic.


  • 90 Points – Robert M. Parker Jr., Wine Advocate November 2006
  • Double Gold Medal – 2007 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
  • Silver Medal – 2006 Sonoma County Harvest Fair
  • Silver Medal – 2006 Houston Livestock Show, Rodeo and International Wine Competition


Continuing a tradition of more than a quarter century of winemaking excellence in Sonoma County’s Bennett Valley, the 2005 Matanzas Creek Chardonnay remains a Sonoma County Classic. Driven by a shared desire to surpass expectations, Vineyard Manager Brandon Axell and Winemaker Francois Cordesse have pooled their collective expertise to produce a Chardonnay that is consistently superior.

According to Francois, fruit sourcing is an art and critical to making an excellent vintage. This outstanding wine has been masterfully blended from the best fruit available in the Carneros and Bennett Valley regions, where cooler climates yield Chardonnay grapes that give the wine refined and complex characteristics. We are particularly proud of the wonderful fruit produced on our Estate-owned vineyards in Sonoma County’s newest American Viticultural Appellation (AVA), Bennett Valley. The result is a Chardonnay that is bold and fruit forward, yet soft and elegant.

  • Blend: 100% Chardonnay
  • Source: 60% Carneros, 40% Bennett Valley
  • Production Statistics: 14.5% Alcohol; 0.5 TA; 3.6 pH; 8 months barrel-aged in 1/3 new, 1/3 one-year old, 1/3 two-year old French oak

Jackson Park, Bennett Valley 2002 Merlot, $49

This is the second vintage of our single vineyard Merlot sourced from our Estate-owned vineyards in Jackson Park. The picturesque mountain vineyard is located over 900 feet above Bennett Valley’s floor and overlooks Matanzas Creek Winery. Bennett Valley provides ideal conditions for Merlot to develop due to its long growing season brought about by the coastal fog that flows into the valley from the Pacific Ocean. In addition, the unique terroir in Jackson Park has an excellent, loamy soil structure and contains Basalt, an ancient ocean floor rock that addes smoky characteristics to the fruit grown there.

The rich, deep, plum colour of this Merlot offers the first hint of its bold and fleshy personality. The initial nose whispers of dried herbs, chocolate, and fresh-cut hay. The mouth-feel is round and voluptuous with a lingering aftertaste of exotic wood. This wine can be aged for up to 10 years, developing some mineral and leather characteristics.

  • Blend: 100% Merlot
  • Vineyard Sourcing: 100% from Jackson Park
  • Production Statistics: 13.7% alcohol; 0.58 TA; 3.45 pH; aged for 15-16 months in French oak barrels, 40% new

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