Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Matello Wines - A Little Foolishness Goes A Long Way

2002 was a fantastic year. It was the first vintage of Marcus Goodfellow’s Matello Wines. Matello means little fool in Italian, and some of Marcus’ friends thought starting a winery pegged him as such. He’s always had an “affinity for jesters”, so it seemed fitting to incorporate that in the winery’s name and logo. After becoming familiar with these wines, one might think Genius is a more applicable nickname for Marcus and his wines. The most wine savvy restaurants in Portland are well aware of Matello; the list of where to find his wines reads like a Who’s Who in the Portland food scene.

The wines have unique names; these names say something about the man himself and those with whom he closely works. Marcus often pays tribute to those with whom he has worked alongside, those who have taught him something during his winemaking journey. His Hommage Pinot Noir is named as a “Thank You” to his Oregon winemaking community. Marcus believes the stellar wines many young Oregon winemakers produce would not be possible without the volume of experience and cultural information shared within the Oregon wine family. Major Enology programs like UC Davis cannot always provide detailed, Oregon site specific knowledge. His appreciation for his fellow winemakers is remarkably evident.

Richard’s Cuvee Chardonnay pays homage to 85 year old Richard Alvord, the admired man behind the Whistling Ridge Vineyard in the Ribbon Ridge AVA. Richard, dealing with the effects of rheumatoid arthritis, had until recently cared meticulously for these vines.  The man and the vines inspired a haiku, found on the back label of this 2010 Chardonnay: Old weathered hands, Hardened and twisted as the vines they tend.
Marcus’ Fools Journey Syrah is sourced from Yamhill-Carlton’s Deux Vert Vineyard, which has a following all its own. Mike and Patty Green farm this LIVE certified vineyard biodynamically. This Rhone emulating Syrah often sells out in the blink of an eye. The current 2009 release is sold out at the winery, but may be found around the Willamette Valley in some local wine shops.  The 2009 was co-fermented with Viognier. The Deux Vert Syrah plantings are also among, if not the oldest in Oregon. The Syrah sees the most barrel age of all Matello wines, 2 years of neutral oak. Deux Vert’s latitude is the same as France’s Rhone region, which speaks to the potential for growing the same grapes, making similarly styled wines. He also makes a truly exceptional Deux Vert Viognier bottling from Oregon’s original Viognier plantings. 

“Great Pinot Noir is never made by playing it safe. It comes from meticulous farming, working hard at a craft, and conscientious work in the cellar”, Marcus believes. Meticulous farming is seen in the vineyards, Bishop Creek, Whistling Ridge and Winter’s Hill among them. Matello is a member of the Deep Roots Coalition, a group of wineries and vineyards subscribing to the biodynamic practices and non-irrigated vines, forcing the vines to go deep through layers of rock to find water. Grapes grown in this way develop from the natural, deep water sources below, expressing the flavors of the earth, truly an expression of terroir.

With his 2010 vintage, Marcus embarked on an uncommon endeavor, making a White Pinot Noir. This tiny 25 case production was made at the request of the renowned Herbfarm restaurant to pair specifically with selected menu items; there were 9 cases left for a fortunate few. The fruit comes from Stony Mountain Vineyard in the eastern foothills of the coastal range, just outside McMinnville. Making this uniquely challenging, unfined and unfiltered wine proved beautifully successful, exceeding Marcus’ expectations. By subscribing to traditional methods and little winemaker intervention, he allows the sense of place to speak through the grapes. He refers to this as a “quiet wine”, and sees it becoming remarkably special as it ages in bottle.

The 2011 Rosé of Pinot Noir grapes were also grown at Stony Mountain. 2011 was a challenging year, as this cool site was very late to ripen. It did ripen at the 11th hour, and the fruit was brought in and pressed. These Pinot grapes are grown specifically for this rosé. The beautiful color and label announce the arrival of warm, rose-sipping weather. This crisp, dry beauty is the type sought out within the sea of spring rosé releases. Save yourself the trouble of swimming through entire sea; head straight to this one. 

Other new releases include great white wines for summer.  The 2010 Whistling Ridge Blanc is a blend of Ribbon Ridge fruit, varying year to year. This may be the best vintage yet. The 2010 Clover is 100% Bishop Creek Pinot Gris. Another of Marcus’ favorites, this wine spent 15 months in neutral oak and should be enjoyed on an unhurried afternoon with some Northwest sun. The excellent Bishop Creek Vineyard is managed by Jeremy Saville, like minded with Marcus in vineyard practices of non-irrigated vines with lower yields. The smallest details matter here, even uniquely managing the canopy in order to produce the best fruit.

Seek out these wines, or better yet, join the Wine Club to ensure you won’t be left merely to read about the greatness you could have known firsthand. The brand new tasting room opened Memorial Day weekend. The winery is located here, near the McMinnville Saturday Market. Beginning in June, regular tasting room hours are 10:30-3:30, Friday through Sunday until Labor Day. Contact Matello for more details, or check out their Facebook page.


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