Today, Matthews is continuing to expand our wine portfolio with 4 unique wines from one of Washington State’s newest AVAs: The Royal Slope.
While the Royal Slope is a relatively new AVA, it is actually one of Matthews’ oldest vineyard sites. Located 45 miles north of Red Mountain, this ascending region has only begun to show what it is capable of.
Matthews first started working with vineyards along the Royal Slope in 2003. These grapes made their way into our Reserve-level Claret that same vintage.
Since then, we have continuously made wine from vineyards along the Royal Slope hillside. These new wines come from vineyards which sit between 1,400-1,700ft, among some of the highest elevation fruit in Washington State. Sitting on a perfectly positioned, southwest facing slope, the classic Bordeaux-varietals thrive.
We are thrilled to finally release these wines to our Members and fans.
For a more in-depth overview of the Royal Slope, read on below.
ROYAL SLOPE AVA, COLUMBIA VALLEY, WASHINGTON STATE
Vineyards: 1,900 acres (768 hectares)
Top Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc
Average Annual Precipitation: 6-8 inches
The Royal Slope is south-facing and surrounds the town of Royal City in Eastern Washington. It is considerably cooler than nearby Wahluke Slope and considerably warmer than the Ancient Lakes AVA. This area has been referred to as the “Royal Slope” since at least the 1950s, and reportedly came from a pair of Scotsmen who climbed the Saddle Mountains and remarked on the slope’s majesty.
The elevation ranges from 610 feet above sea level in the southeast, to 1,756 feet at the top of the Frenchmen Hills Ridge, the highest point in the AVA. Planting at higher elevations extends the growing season, delays ripening, and helps retain natural acidity. This variability in elevation also allows a wide range of varieties and styles to excel.
Vinifera was first planted on the Royal Slope in 1983. Currently, there are 13 vineyards throughout the AVA and just one winery. The area is also home to substantial cherry and apple orchard acreage, as well as crops such as corn, peas and wheat. The growing region is wholly contained within the Columbia Valley and is located between the Quincy Basin and the Saddle Mountains.
Proprietor Bryan Otis says, “Royal Slope is one of the newest designated AVAs in Washington State. Having the opportunity to work with the fruit from this AVA is like listening to the Beatles before they rose to fame. Vines were first planted in Royal Slope in '83, but it seems the AVA is just now gaining notoriety; a hidden gem within Washington.
Several factors make this area a superb site for growing grapes. Royal Slope is widely varied in the elevation at which it is planted. This creates ideal conditions for most every varietal somewhere within the AVA. The lower elevation lends toward warmer climate varietals and a riper expression, where the higher elevation tends to be suited for a cooler expression. The varying elevation also allows for ripening to occur over a broad period of time. Of a given varietal, there may be a month or more from our first harvest date to the last. The wide harvest window grants us the luxury of extended hang time for the fruit to reach optimum physiological development.
An environmental factor that has proven beneficial is the existence of an inversion layer that manifests at ideal times. During freezing cold nights in late harvest, thermal winds push cold air that has settled in at the lower laying vineyards to much higher elevations and brings warm air down. A potential frost event equates to sleepless nights. Knowing this inversion forms is an enormous relief for varietals that require ripening into late October.
By definition, Royal Slope is not a hot area and it is not a cold area, but within the AVA you will find pockets across the spectrum that allow room for many styles of winemaking. A sort of Goldilocks zone. Though, Royal Slope wines have a one-of-a-kind signature. The fruit is intense with a distinct floral character and slight earthy nuance. The wines gravitate toward full-bodied and rich, almost as if they have barrel age concentration without ever seeing oak. White varietals are beautifully energetic, luxurious, and viscous. The reds are impactful and have the texture of liquid velvet in the blue-black fruit realm. The fruit is quite easy to work with as long as you do not intervene and allow the site to speak for itself. There is no doubt the voice of Royal Slope will soon be recognized as one of the greats.”