If you haven’t listened to the podcast “I’ll Drink To That” with Levi Dalton, you should. Much of the bits below about Steve came from a talk Levi had with Steve Matthiasson in February 2014.
A man of the land—who at 23 years of age was fresh off a college career of studying philosophy, a part time bike messenger, home brewing small batches of beer, and recognizing that the most rewarding part of his day was a visit to his plot at a community garden among the buildings of San Francisco. A random drive to visit UC Davis with a friend pinged Steve with a light bulb moment where he was surrounded by an entire institution that was completely committed to agriculture. He was mesmerized…and enrolled. When asked what that experience was like his response was, “Kid in a candy store.” The guy is an agriculture learning machine. A mind like a cognoscente vacuum, able to gobble up volumes of information and apply it back into practice.
Steve states, “I don’t like the excessively concentrated wines.” One of his vineyard mentors is Warren Winiarski of Stag’s Leap Winery Cellars, who Steve says delivered a bounty of metaphors on vineyards, farming, harvests, and wine. One that cemented in his mind, and obviously guides his winemaking decisions to this day, was about overpowering wine. Warren had said, “Overly concentrated wine is like, rather than watching the fireworks, it’s like having the firework right in your ear.”
Steve continues, “You feel the sensation, but you can’t even see or hear anything. If you dial the concentration back then you can actually make out the beginning, middle, and end of the wine, and hear the story. That is part of the joy with transparent wines. There is this incredible intellectual stimulation versus that more visceral thing of having a big fat wine—where you experience the power but there’s no story.”
He also doesn’t think his wines are “low alcohol” or that they are part of a fad. Wine production shows plenty of historical precedent that 12.5%-13.5% alcohol levels are the norm across most regions, for generations. If percentages went higher they were considered outliers. The contrary is that 14% alcohol and above wines on a routine basis really kicked in over recent history, over the last 20 years, and there is strong evidence a decline is happening in that category.
Steve’s voice popped with a realization… “That’s the fad right. So, what we’re seeing with the pendulum swinging back is a fad fading. We’re moving back to this really time honored, well established in many different wine regions, sense of what makes a balanced, classic wine.”
Steve worked in Lodi for a stint and that is when Jill recalls he admitted that Zinfandel just wasn’t doing it for him, he didn’t enjoy it all that much. That is why getting your hands on this Zin is important. I am convinced when a farmer/winemaker has a varietal they aren’t excited by, but then they produce it under their own label, they must have been dazzled by a vineyard’s components and fruit quality. There must have been a moment where Steve thought, “I can make an outstanding ‘Limerick Lane Vineyard’ Zinfandel because this is transcendent fruit.” This is the second vintage under the Matthiasson label and the vines were planted in 2008. The juice is co-fermented in open top bins with a 5% dollop of Petite Syrah and received two manual punch downs a day. Aged for 18 months in neutral Burgundy barrels, only 143 cases were produced.