Wine of the week: Paul Mathew Vineyards, 2018 Bohemian Vineyard, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
While pinot noir is tasty to uncork all year long, it’s a lovely winter wine to savor when wild mushroom season is at its height.
That’s the thinking of Mat Gustafson. The co-owner and winemaker of Graton’s Paul Mathew Vineyards is a foodie who managed restaurants before delving into the world of wine.
Gustafson is behind our wine of the week winner — the Paul Mathew Vineyards, 2018 Bohemian Vineyard, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 13.5%, $65. This tangy pinot weighted to red fruit — Bing cherry, rhubarb and strawberry — ends with a kiss of vanilla. Buoyed by crisp acid, this pinot is balanced and refreshing. It’s impressive.
Other tasting pinots, at a range of price points, include: Domaine Carneros, 2019 Carneros Pinot Noir, 14.2%, $45; Merry Edwards, 2019 Georganne Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 14.4%, $70; Starfish, 2018 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 13%, $38; and J Bucher, 2019 Three Sixty Bucher Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 13.9%, $65.
What gives the Paul Mathew pinot noir an edge, Gustafson said, was the preparation of the vineyards for the pick.
“Getting rid of damaged fruit from mold, mildew, bird damage and sunburn makes natural fermentation way healthier,” he said.
Crafting boutique wine with little intervention in the cellar is Gustafson’s goal. His hands-off approach calls for indigenous yeasts, adding as little sulfur as possible and bottling without filtration.
“Natural winemaking leads to seamless wines with great texture and balance,” he said. “We say we’ve been native since 1999, showcasing the fruit and just the right amount of new oak to get the texture right.”
Gustafson was a fan of German riesling as a teen, and he developed a love for white Burgundy in his late 20s when he was a sommelier in Bolder, Colorado. Later, when he moved to Northern California and tasted a 1975 Russian River pinot noir, his inclinations shifted again.
What many don’t know about pinot noir, Gustafson said, is that less is more.
“A lighter pinot noir tends to age longer and better than big, ripe pinots and pairs better with food,” he said. “Ours is a lighter style, with lower alcohol and higher acidity. … This pinot has bright red fruits that pair with wild mushroom risotto, roast duck with mushroom sauce and broiled salmon with vindaloo curry spices.”
Gustafson’s background is diverse and wide-ranging. He worked at Napa Valley’s Joseph Phelps Vineyard in the cellar and then as a sales representative. He also was the wine buyer and sommelier at John Ash & Co. in Santa Rosa and later opened the Oakville Grocery in Healdsburg, where he was the wine buyer and assistant manager.
“Our goal,” Gustafson said, “is to continue making wine under the Paul Mathew label, not to exceed 2,000-case production and maintain 100% control of the fruit that makes high-quality wines. Our philosophy is to create the best wines from vineyard sourcing, low-input winemaking and staying true to the varietal.”
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-521-5310.
Wine, The Press Democrat
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