Matanzas Creek was the last winery that we visited with my friends, Karen and Veronica from Reno, NV, on our recent three-day Sonoma wine tasting weekend. I’m starting with this one first for the blog simply because to me it was the most lovely and serene of the seven that we visited, and has a vague Halloween appeal, which I’ll explain below.
Located a bit off the beaten track in the Bennett Valley east of Santa Rosa, the drive to Matanzas Creek was magnificent: full of rolling hills, breathtaking views and sunshine. The estate is large and full of gorgeous manicured gardens esp. lavender, all snugly surrounded by mountains.
The winery was first established in 1977 and the celebrated lavender gardens in 1991. We were all transfixed by the sheer beauty.
The name “Matanzas” is a curious one. I had assumed that is was a sort of citrus fruit from Spain for some odd reason. Hegui, who knows a lot of Spanish, thought that it meant “massacre” or “slaughter.” I tried learning more on the internet.
Apparently there is a port city in Cuba called Matanzas, which was a home to pirates in the sixteenth century. There’s a Matanzas River near St. Augustine, Florida, thought to mean “river of blood.” It was named following a massacre of a French boat crew by the Spanish in the sixteenth century. Finally a definition for “matanza” was “a place where animals are slaughtered for hides and tallow.” Strange.
We asked about the name in the tasting room and were told in hushed tones that apparently the Native Americans who lived in Bennett Valley around the time of the Spanish colonization of California used to scalp their human victims in the creek, thus turning the water bloody red. The official Matanzas Creek Winery web site doesn’t give the origin of the name so far as I can tell, though this creepiness seems totally perfect for Halloween, don’t you think? I wonder if ghosts roam the stunning grounds and sip the luscious red Journey Cabernet at night to pass the time? Oooooo! Scary.
Of course, no blood was shed on our visit to the winery. And as I’ve already written, we were all taken by the loveliness everywhere.
The wine that we tasted was lovely, too. We tried the regular tasting without an appointment, which was no problem. Our Reno friends liked it so well, that they joined the Matanzas Creek wine club (their fourth this visit). Our charming wine barrista let us try some off the menu library wines and the premiere Journey Red, which aren’t usually offered. That was fun.
2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County: This was a very pale yellow that almost looked like clear water. The nose was full of pear and grapefruit, which carried over to the crisp mineral-rich quaffer. It was quite refreshing.
2008 Chardonnay, Sonoma County: Also a very pale yellow, this had a nose of pear and mineral. It was smooth, had a spicy finish with refreshing yellow fruit.
2009 Chardonnay, Bennett Valley: A translucent pale yellow with a subtle aroma with honeysuckle, yellow stone fruit with a creamy mouthfeel and long finish.
2008 Journey Chardonnay, Sonoma County: This golden transparent yellow gem had a surprisingly pleasing aroma of nail polish with a rich flavor with yellow stone fruit leading the way to mineral, hot white pepper and a long, delightful finish.
2008 Pinot Noir, Bennett Valley: Translucent red to purple with a nose of tomato, caramel and paraffin, this was rich with a lot of caramel notes, red fruit and full body.
2007 Merlot, Bennett Valley: Purple black in color, this had an herbal nose accented with oak and sassafras, with supple tannins and ample red stone fruit with a decent finish.
2007 Merlot, Jackson Park Vineyard: This 100% merlot (the last has 14% cabernet) was a deep red to purple color with a cola aroma leading to a more full-bodied texture rich with red and purple stone fruit and a good finish.
2001 Merlot, Sonoma County: This off-the-menu merlot was red to purple with some lovely brown colors at the edges. An intense nose of over-ripe tomatoes, V-8 juice led to an incredibly smooth, mineral and metallic taste with a bit of spice with some noticeable tannin at the end.
1997 Estate Merlot, Sonoma Valley: I liked this wine a lot—I even got two bottles that day. A rusted purple with a lovely V-8 juice nose, it was full bodied with rich red fruit, a long finish. Wow! I wrote “jackpot!” on my notes. It had some rich tannins making me think that this beauty had more life in it still.
2006 Syrah, Sonoma County: Purple in color with a nose of blackberry, plum and tar, which carried over to red fruit and a tarry finish.
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Helena Montana Vineyard, Knights Valley: This was red to purple in color with eucalyptus and dried cherries with smooth tannin, lots of red fruit and cherries.
2008 Journey Red, Sonoma County: Red to purple with mineral notes, red fruit, fuller in body than the Helena Montana, with a richer, more luscious taste. We noticed some pepper in the long finish. Good wine!
2009 Denouement, White Dessert Wine: This was a transparent pale gold color with a nose of over ripe yellow stone fruit and grapefruit. It tasted of peach, pineapple and grapefruit. Karen and Veronica were especially charmed by this lovely sweet drink.