Matthews Winery, Woodinville winemakers Alex Stewart, Jesse Schmidt, Hal Iverson, and owner Bryan Otis

L to R: Alex Stewart, Bryan Otis, Jesse Schmidt, Hal Iverson, Matthews Winery.

Matthews Winery in Woodinville made a huge splash in 2021 when it hired the Quilceda Creek winemaking triumvirate of Alex Stewart, Jesse Schmidt, and Hal Iverson. Proprietor Bryan Otis has long had grand ambitions for the winery. This was his vision for the next big step in Matthews’ evolution. That vision is now realized in the 2021 Matthews wines, the first reds released from the new winemaking team.

“There wasn’t a step or process that wasn’t radically changed,” says Otis.

In the vineyard, the winemaking team is working with an exceptionally diverse palette. Fruit comes from across eastern Washington, including vineyards in the broader Columbia Valley, Royal Slope, Red Mountain, and Horse Heaven Hills. There is also diversity of clone. The 2021 Matthews Cuvée, for example, is comprised of 11 vineyards and 10 different clones. The goal is to create added layers of complexity.

“One of the things that really excited Alex and team to come over was that, at the blending table, they have all these AVAs, all these vineyards, and all these clones,” says Otis. “They are constantly looking to fill in gaps anywhere in the wine so that, aromatically and on the palate texturally, front to back, side to side, you’re getting a very complete, holistic experience.”

Many of the vineyards with which the winery works were cropped down by approximately 30% of the yields they had traditionally carried. The fruit was also given significant additional hang time. The goal was to increase concentration.

“We were picking Cabernet on September 28. Now we’re picking our Cabernet on October 28,” Otis says. “Just in the vineyard, those are two dramatically different flavor profiles.”

Matthews has also made innumerable adjustments in the winery. This included substantially changing its fermentations.

“Our fermentation times went from 7 to 14 days to now a 2 day cold soak, a 14 day ferment, and then it’s an additional 14 days of maceration on skins,” Otis says.

The results are wines that present significantly differently than previous Matthews wines. “If we were to make any one of those changes, crop lighter, pick later, ferment and macerate longer, or add new clones, any one of those would have changed the Matthews flavor profile,” Otis says.

The Matthews wines have always been high quality since the winery was founded in 1992. The 2021 vintage red wines move quality up across the board. They are rich and flavorful, but they aren’t all flash. There is also balance, completeness, and length. The wines also punch well above their weight class.

“I think one of the exciting things for the winemaking team coming from Quilceda was, ‘How can we take our knowledge and pack it into a $45 or $50 bottle of wine?’” says Otis. “Really, there’s no secrets in those wines. There’s just a lot of care.”

There are other important changes afoot at the winery. In 2022, Matthews was added to Winebow Imports as part of the company’s Upper Left initiative. This opened up 18 national markets for Matthews.

“We work with some of the top wholesalers,” Otis says. “It’s a dream.”

Matthews currently produces approximately 14,000 cases annually. The goal is to bring the wines – and Washington – to audiences far and wide and overdeliver on quality.

The Otis family became involved with Matthews in 2004 and purchased the winery in 2008. For Bryan Otis, who is now in his 21st year in the wine business, the results on the 2021 wines and subsequent vintages in barrel have been rewarding.

“I’m at peace with the wines,” Otis says. “I know we couldn’t have worked any harder than we did. I think Matthews has never had that quality at that price and at that scale, meaning like it’s nationally distributed.”

Images courtesy of Matthews Winery. Reviews below originally published January 22, 2024.

Matthews 2021 Claret Columbia Valley $55
94 points, Critic’s Choice
This is the first release of the Claret from Matthews’ new winemaking team, and it commands attention. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (34%), Merlot (29%), Malbec (5%), and Petit Verdot. Fruit comes from seven appellations across the Columbia Valley and includes 22 different clones. Aged 19 months in French oak (27% new), it’s aromatically brooding, with notes of coffee, earth, blackberry, cherry, dried herb, dark raspberry, and spice, with the aromas pleasingly melded together. The black cherry flavors are plump and immediately approachable, showing detail and sophistication. It’s not brawn that impresses here. It is pinpoint detail, finesse, and balance. 14.9% alcohol. TCA-free micro-agglomerated cork. 5,083 cases produced.

Matthews 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $50
93 points, Critic’s Choice
This is the winery’s first Cabernet from its new winemaking team, and it flat out impresses. Fruit comes from seven appellations and 15 different vineyards across Columbia Valley. It was blended with 15% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec. Aged 19 months in French oak (25% new), aromas of herb, black cherry, flower, and chocolate lead to plump-feeling dark fruit flavors. The tannins give a gentle squeeze. It’s all beautifully proportioned, with plenty of texture and richness. The balance is spot on. 14.9% alcohol. TCA-free micro-agglomerated cork. 7,364 cases produced.

Matthews 2021 Cuvée Columbia Valley $55
93 points
This wine – the first from the winery’s new winemaking team – is a blend of 65% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Malbec. The fruit comes from Conner Lee, Wallula Gap, Red Mountain, Quintessence, Solaksen, Stillwater Creek, Stoneridge, Scarline, Bacchus, and Dionysus vineyards. Aged 19 months in French oak (40% new), fruit aromas are at the fore, with notes of black and red cherry along with plum, followed by black licorice, pomegranate, and a medley of herbs accented by barrel spices. The coffee and cherry flavors show focus, precision, and balance. The finish is long and effortless. This is not a wine that hits you over the head and exclaims its beauty. Rather, it wins on its exquisite proportions, character, and persistent length. 14.8% alcohol. TCA-free micro-agglomerated cork. 1,461 cases produced.

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