2008 Pied à Terre Cabernet Sauvignon From Matthiasson

fingerThe 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from Pied à Terre has all the makings of what I would call, excuse the cheesiness but March Madness has had its influence on me, a Slam Dunk. First of all, and probably most importantly, Pied à Terre is a project put together with Steve Matthiasson at the helm…that alone makes it worth checking out (you may recall Steve’s 2009 Napa White made our Top 10 List for 2010.) Add to this, the fruit is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. Not too shabby. And then to round out the trifecta of people/place/price, you have a bottle cost of $22.98! Woo Hoo, raise your hands in the air, a sub $25 Cab from Napa is always a welcome proposition. Yes, all this is well and good, but what’s it like? I’d say it has that elegant touch common to Matthiasson wines. My notes included “Very elegant. Lots of red fruit with a soft silky finish. But NOT wimpy.” A California Cabernet that I can wholeheartedly recommend and know that the customer is getting a deal? Not as easy to find as one would hope, but here you go.

jillWe’ve carried the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from Pied à Terre for a couple months now and I was lead to believe it was a Matthiasson ‘second label’, in the true Bordelais sense of the word. Even though I’m not a journalist, I thought it wise to double check with the source and asked Steve’s wife and business partner, Jill, to fill me in about Pied à Terre. It was explained to me that the project was started with a NY Sommelier who is a big supporter and fan of Matthiasson wines. Now this is pure conjecture on my part, but I’m guessing the Som was looking for a wine that had that Matthiasson touch but with a ‘by-the-glass’ price point (excuse the wine biz jargon). For the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, they ended up blending wine from 10 different wineries. They had over 100 lots to choose from before narrowing it down, so as they explain, the ’08 is really more an exercise in blending, than “winemaking”. It is here that I would like to point out that Steve’s primary occupation as Vineyard Manager for a few prestigous Napa Valley wineries places him in a unique position to have access to some of the best juice out there. Now I am not suggesting, because I don’t know, that Steve was able to source wine from any of the wineries he works with, but it has been my experience in life that you tend to work with what and whom you know. Regardless, what I do know is that the 2008 Pied à Terre Cab spent 18 months in barrel and has solid structure lurking underneath all that blueberry/red fruit goodness along with well-integrated oaky notes.

wheelsOne of my New Year’s resolutions, probably seven years going now, is to visit more wineries. This happens few and far between. I think most of you can relate how difficult it is to extricate yourself from the routine and take a trip, even if in your own backyard. Visiting wineries and vineyards is what I am supposed to do as a wine buyer and merchant and yet it happens less and less. A few weeks ago, I was invited to participate in a pruning workshop in the Napa Valley. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to don some grubby jeans and work boots and learn how to prune those canes. The pruning workshop was hosted by Jill and Steve Matthiasson at their Napa Valley home and vineyard which I can only describe as enchanting. With five rows of vines, an old Napa Farmhouse lovingly renovated by Jill and Steve, two dogs, one completely senile and blind who came with the house, the other, one of the most intimidating dogs you’ll ever run into whose idea of a chew toy was a rock the size of a large man’s fist, chickens, and a child’s play structure, it became instantly clear to me that this was a home, not some fantasy set out in a lifestyle magazine. I had a great day learning about vine pruning. Listening to Steve speak passionately about the myriad of choices one can make when pruning made my head dizzy. As he demonstrated various techniques, Steve held pruning shears in his hand and it appeared as if those pruning shears were an extension of his hand or perhaps another appendage (see photo above). So often we think of the finished product, the wine in our glass, as the result of the winemaker’s choices during fermentation. But in fact so much of what ends up in your glass has everything to do with what choices were made in the vineyard.Anya Balistreri

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, California, Napa Valley

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