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2016 BEST Merlot: Matanzas Creek Winery

Author: Tim Carl
May, 2016 Issue

"We believe in making wines that reflect the uniqueness and beauty of the place they came from," —Marcia Torres Forno


Nestled in the heart of Sonoma County’s Bennett Valley AVA, Matanzas Creek makes wines of distinction.

“We believe in making wines that reflect the uniqueness and beauty of the place they came from,” says Marcia Torres Forno, Matanzas Creek’s winemaker. “Bennett Valley is a special place with three surrounding mountains, gravelly loam soils and the Petaluma Gap that funnels a stream of cool air to help moderate temperatures. These factors, coupled with innovative farming and hand-crafted winemaking techniques helps create wines that can be perfumed and velvety.”

Founded in 1977 by Sandra McIver, Matanzas Creek wines have helped define Bennett Valley as a premiere grape growing region. Presently there are only three bonded wineries in the valley, with Matanzas Creek the only one open daily for tastings. In 2000, Barbara Banke and Jess Jackson purchased the winery and vineyards.

“What makes Matanzas Creek special is our commitment to quality and our perseverance to bring the best fruit possible every year to produce the best wines,” explains Torres Forno. “We’re constantly trying to improve our winemaking techniques and, over the years, have customized the Merlot program. Merlot is a totally different animal than Cabernet Sauvignon, but many times gets treated the same.”

Matanzas Creek makes four different Merlots from different Sonoma County AVAs: Sonoma County Merlot, Alexander Valley Merlot, Knights Valley Merlot and Jackson Park Vineyard Merlot.

“In addition to our Merlots, people should try our Bennett Valley Sauvignon Blanc, our Helena Bench Sauvignon Blanc, our Bennett Valley Chardonnay and our Journey Chardonnay,” she says. “We also make a Pinot Noir, Malbec and Cab Franc.”

The wines can be purchased from the winery’s website, at the tasting room or at fine retailers. Beyond wine, guests at Matanzas Creek can enjoy the expansive gardens and special events.

“Every June, our estate lavender gardens bloom and explode in color,” says Torres Forno. “It’s one of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever see, and to celebrate, we throw a big party for all our fans and welcome new ones with live music, lavender barn tours, bocce games, seminars from industry experts, gourmet food and wine pairings and, of course, lots and lots of Matanzas Creek wines, including hard-to-find bottles and the first pouring of the new Sauvignon Blancs. Year round, we also offer cheese pairings and events like yoga and wine tastings on Saturdays!”

To those NorthBay biz readers who voted Matanzas Creek’s Merlot as the Best this year, Torres Forno is grateful.

“Thank you!” she says. “It’s great to see that hard work really does pay off. And certainly, our vineyard and cellar crews should get their fair share of kudos, since we’ve been working hard on improving our vineyards, modifying canopy management and irrigation to improve quality.”

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