Today Matthews Winery in Woodinville announced a new winemaking team, headed by Alex Stewart. Stewart was previously winemaker at Quilceda Creek, one of Washington’s oldest and most highly regarded wineries.

“I’ve been a big fan of the wines that’s he’s produced,” says Bryan Otis, proprietor of Matthews. “Alex and I have been friends for a long time, and the stars aligned right now. We’re very excited to have him on board.”

A native of Snohomish, Washington, Stewart started out as an intern at Quilceda Creek in 2004 before subsequently being hired as enologist in 2006. In 2014, Stewart, who has an enology degree from California State University, Fresno, was named production winemaker. In 2018, he was promoted to winemaker.

“First and foremost, it was just the opportunity to work with friends,” Stewart says of joining Matthews. “It’s not every day that a longtime friend approaches you and says ‘Hey, I’ve got this opportunity for you guys.’”

The “you guys” Stewart refers to includes two other members of the Quilceda Creek winemaking team, Jesse Schmidt and Hal Iverson. Schmidt, who will serve as winemaker at Matthews, was hired as a cellar hand at Quilceda in 2009 before being promoted to assistant winemaker in 2014. Hal Iverson will also have the title of winemaker at Matthews. Iverson became assistant winemaker at Quilceda in 2017.

“It’s really clear, getting to know them all, how they function as a unit,” Otis says. “I buy the wines and love the wines that this team has produced. The fact that they’re coming over and working on wines that we feel passionate about is really, really special.”

Stewart says the opportunity to continue working with Schmidt and Iverson was an important part of joining Matthews.

“We’ve always considered ourselves dynamic, like a sports team,” Stewart says. “We can anticipate each other’s moods and finish each other’s…”

“Sentences!” Schmidt calls out from another room.

At Quilceda Creek, the three were largely focused on Cabernet Sauvignon. At Matthews, in addition to Cabernet, they will also have the opportunity to make varietally labeled bottles of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc, in addition to the winery’s Cuvée, Claret, and Blackboard wines.

“Washington produces some of the best Bordeaux varietals in the world,” Stewart says. “I’m excited to try to elevate the quality level of the rest of them along with Cabernet.”

Founded in 1992, Matthews is one of Woodinville’s oldest wineries. The Otis family, which had previously been investors in Matthews, purchased the winery in 2008. Over the ensuing years, the family has slowly grown production, honed the portfolio, and made major investments in the vineyards that they work with and in the winery. This is a continuation of those investments.

“For us, the idea of taking the craftsmanship that you have with this team and bringing it to the wines we make is really exciting,” says Otis.

Matthews makes 15,000-17,500 cases of wine annually. Aryn Morell, who also makes his own wines at AllerombThe Royal Bull, and Morell-Peña, had been winemaker at Matthews since 2007.

Image left to right: Jesse Schmidt, Alex Stewart, and Hal Iverson. Picture courtesy of Matthews Winery.