The flagship bottling is today’s “Estate Reserve,” comprised of the winery’s finest barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cab Franc.
If you want to know how and why a Claret from Washington’s Columbia Valley landed at #27 on Wine Spectator’s most recent Top 100 list, you have to go back at least to 1999. That’s when Aryn Morell passed up a graduate degree in Chemical Engineering for a cellar job at Silver Oak.
In a move that shaped Aryn’s approach to making world-class Cabernet Sauvignon, he was recruited six years later by one of the top consultancies in the valley. That’s where he got an insider’s perspective on the winegrowing practices at Stag’s Leap, Phelps, Quintessa, Chappellet, and Vineyard 29. When Morell returned to Washington — his home state — to become head winemaker at Matthews, he was prepared with a detailed Napa Valley playbook that would guide a revolution in Red Mountain and Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
“When I came back to Washington, I realized that we were 20 years behind Napa,” Aryn told us during a six-hour visit, after we hopped a small plane from San Francisco to Pasco.
From Morrell’s vantage point, most Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignons were being picked before the fruit was physiologically ripe. “The math is simple. Washington wineries want ripe fruit, but they’re not in a position to pay for it. So growers push the envelope on quantity, and then harvest early to maximize yields. I went to the owners of Matthews and told them that if we were going to produce Cabernet Sauvignon that competes with Napa Valley, we had to pay by the acre, not by the ton. Only then would interests be aligned with the growers. The owners agreed.”
Seven years after returning to his home state, in the tremendous 2013 growing season, Aryn Morell made what may be his two finest Bordeaux blends ever. The first, Aryn’s stunning, 93-point 2013 Matthews Claret Columbia Valley, made a brief appearance on WineAccess this past July; 1,200 bottles disappeared in a flash. We were eager to lock down a second allocation, especially after the Claret landed at #27 on the Wine Spectator Top 100, but unfortunately, there was none to be had. When we called our friends at Matthews, they told us that EVERYONE, except for the lucky few on the winery’s mailing list, would be shut out. That was the bad news.
The good news? As it turns out, the prized Claret is actually winemaker Aryn Morell’s SECOND wine. The flagship bottling is today’s “Reserve,” comprised of the winery’s finest barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate called the 2013 Reserve a “sensational wine,” showing “fabulous purity of fruit and full-bodied richness.” Then the Advocate slapped on a scorching 95-point score, striking fear in the hearts of Napa growers offering lesser wines for 3X the price.
We wasted no time locking in to 480 bottles.
The 2013 Matthews Reserve Columbia Valley is dark purple to the edge. On the nose, ripe notes of red and black currants, strawberry preserves, and plum skin are accented by black tea, dried herbs, and potpourri. The palate is rich and beautifully textured with Bordeaux-like notes of cassis, lead pencil shaving, and leafy herbs. Fresh and elegant with firm but age-worthy tannins. The Wine Advocate suggests an optimal drinking window between 2020 and 2038!! We see no reason to disagree.
95 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Just $49.99/bottle for what may well be the finest and most sophisticated under-$50 Bordeaux blend EVER offered on WineAccess. Only 40 cases are up for grabs. NOT TO BE MISSED.
This is a great wine, one changing my view of Columbia Valley wines to even higher levels. Indeed, on my idiosyncratic rating scheme, this wine received the highest rating of any of the wines I have obtained from you. Full bodied, lots of fruits and a fine lingering finish. This is a wine to be drunk slowly while savoring its glory.
Very impressive. Yet another wine club I've joined thanks to an introduction by WineAccess!
Very smooth and full bodied but didn't like the undertone of the smoke flavor.
Wine was good but not great. It definitely needs to be decanted.
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