Today marks a new chapter for Matthews wines. After over 25 years crafting wines from a selection of vineyards across the greater Columbia Valley, we are excited to introduce our AVA-specific portfolio of wines, starting first with Red Mountain.
Traditionally, we have blended wines from vineyards in various terroir so that we could craft the highest quality Bordeaux-varietal wines possible. We still believe in this process for ensuring consistency and excellence, but we also are compelled to showcase the individuality that each single viticultural area can elicit.
For the first time, we are releasing a Cabernet Sauvignon, Claret (Cabernet-dominant blend), and Cuvée (Merlot-dominant blend) crafted exclusively from vineyard sites within the Red Mountain AVA.
Matthews first began working with vineyards on Red Mountain in the mid-1990’s, and quickly recognized its incredible potential and ideal terroir for growing Cabernet Sauvignon and other red Bordeaux varietals. Red Mountain has been an important component in Matthews blends every year since 1999, the longest continuum of any AVA in our vineyard selections. Given an official AVA designation in 2001, this small region within Washington State has continued to deliver on its reputation for layered and complex wines, capable of aging for decades.
Our family and winemaking team are thrilled to begin this new chapter, releasing wines with a focus on Washington State’s unique AVAs, alongside our more traditional blended Columbia Valley AVA wines. As always, these Columbia Valley wines will feature Red Mountain vineyards as a component of the blend, as well as our other incredible vineyard sites throughout the rest of the AVAs from which we source. It is our goal to truly showcase the quality that can be produced in Washington State, while highlighting the climatic, geological, elevational and geographical differences found within each of its smaller AVAs. We strive to craft wines with an authentic sense of ‘terroir.’
To source these wines, click here for first access through our website. These wines are also now available at our Woodinville Tasting Room + Farm. Each is limited to only 250 cases for this inaugural vintage.
To provide greater context on Washington State, the Columbia Valley, and specifically Red Mountain, we have provided a bit more information below for those who wish to dig further into the wonderful world of Washington State, and our dynamic AVAs.
Washington State offers a wide range of unique growing regions, home to notable vineyards from which some of the finest wines in the United States are now being made. These growing regions are referred to as AVAs (American Viticulture Areas). There are 19 individually identified AVAs and each one has its own unique characteristics.
Read on below for a more in-depth view of Red Mountain, with perspective from our winemaking team.
RED MOUNTAIN AVA, COLUMBIA VALLEY, WASHINGTON STATE
Vineyards: 2,382 acres (963 hectares)
Top Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc
Average Annual Precipitation: 5 inches
The Red Mountain AVA is an American Viticultural Area located within the broader Columbia Valley AVA, which spans across state lines, encompassing parts of both Oregon and Washington. Located inland from the wetter Puget Sound part of the state, Red Mountain is just over 200 miles southeast of Seattle and 70 miles northwest of Walla Walla.
Much of the Columbia Valley owes it rich and varied geological history to a series of cataclysmic glacial events that occurred between 13,000 and 15,000 years ago. Flooding in some places reached depths of over 1,200 feet and these events occurred more than 50 times over a 2,000-year period. This large volume of water and chunks of ice cut through mountainsides, created scablands and carved the Columbia Gorge. Each time the waters receded, they left in their path a mixture of silt, sand and erratic granite boulders, deposited over volcanic basalt. As a result, in some areas of the Red Mountain AVA, you can find over eight different soil types.
The climate in Red Mountain is arid, with high winds. Lower-than-average annual rainfall (for viticultural areas) and a lack of precipitation during the growing season allow Red Mountain less risk of mold and mildew pressure. The high velocity winds result in thick grape skin, making for good tannin, flavor and color concentration. In addition, long, sunny summer days create the perfect atmosphere for ripeness and richness in the wine.
Red Mountain was first planted in 1975 and its pioneers were John Williams and Jim Holmes who were influenced by Dr. Walter Clore, after whom a wine and culinary center has been named. The first winery was bonded in 1980 and the region received AVA status in 2001.
Red Mountain is known for Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are typically full-bodied with dark red fruit characteristics, firm tannins, well-structured and slightly hedonistic. Other varieties are grown within the AVA, including Merlot and Cabernet Franc, both which have received critical acclaim with other like-minded wineries.
For Matthews wines, we have partnered with a few select vineyards that share our standards for quality, typicity, and sustainability.
Proprietor, Bryan Otis says, “Red Mountain is, perhaps, the most well-known AVA for Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are serious, forceful, and complex. It is one of the most unique, singular expressions of Bordeaux varietals that you will find anywhere in the world. I’m always struck by how wines from Red Mountain are deep, dark, and powerful with elegance and freshness that deliver everything one could possibly want out of a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot-based wine; each can be an exemplary tour de force.
Being one of the hottest AVAs in the State, Red Mountain is predominantly planted to red varietals and produces wines with a very ripe expression. The accumulation of heat units allows for physiological development to occur much sooner than most other AVAs. Given the climate is inland desert, the day and night time temperature swing (often 40+ deg F) preserves natural acidity, yielding a balance of freshness to the ripe character. Combined with the temperature regulation and airflow of the nearby Yakima River, Red Mountain is nearly a frost-free site. Prevailing winds, alkaline soils, and low nutrients lean toward much smaller berries with thicker skins and firmer tannin.
With all these factors at play, the fruit tends to accumulate sugar very quickly with flavor development lagging behind. It is imperative to be patient and pick the fruit once the flavors have caught up with the sugar, the acid is still holding, and the tannin has had time to resolve. Once in the cellar, the fruit must be delicately processed and fermented so that the extraction does not get out of control and the tannin overwhelming.
If all goes well, the wine produced from Red Mountain will be characteristically dark-fruited, have fresh acidity, structured tannin, and distinct minerality. As stated earlier, these wines are unparalleled in their expression due to the extraordinary factors that make up the remarkable terroir.”
We are thrilled to be working with such a distinct AVA, and our excitement grows each vintage as the vineyards are being harvested. It is with great anticipation and tremendous gratitude that we release the inaugural vintage of our Red Mountain wines.