Matt Taylor Wines : The Rugged Beauty of the West Sonoma Coast
Matt Taylor Wines is a project two decades in the making and another example that California has regained its reputation as the world's most dynamic wine region.
Because of a determined and focused effort of a new generation, the Golden State is producing wines that are amongst the most terroir-driven, displaying our uniquely diverse climatic and geological bounty.
Matt Taylor Wines are a piercing view of the rugged, far West Sonoma Coast they come from.
The namesake of its owner and winemaker, Matt Taylor, the project is the culmination of his 23 years of experience in the winemaking world.
His most recent outside gig was as the first winemaker of Reuling Vineyard. Having previously sold off all of their fruit to the likes of Aubert and Peter Michael, Ruling decided to start making their own wine and in 2011 hired Matt. With a resume like Matt’s theat decision must have been very easy.
A third Generation Sonoman, Matt grew on the rugged western edge of the county. Matt lived in Europe for almost 2 years where he was able to work for a sherry producer in Jerez, Spain.
He learned of biodynamic farming while living with family in Switzerland. Eventually, he made it back to the vines of his homeland and worked as Assistant Winemaker to Rod Berglund of Joseph Swan Vineyards.
From there he interned at Domaine Dujac in Burgundy. After, Matt became Winegrower and then Winemaker for Biodynamic producers Bart & Daphne Araujo. His broad experiences with Araujo Estate Wines include harvests in Mendoza and Cafayate, Argentina, and another in Hawke’s Bay New Zealand.
With so much talent and experience supporting him, Matt went searching for a piece of earth that was capable of helping him achieve his vision. He broke ground on two pristine parcels of land, located 4.5 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean on a ridge due west of the town of Occidental.
The site is just down the road from where Matt was born and raised. He considers this area on the fringe of where grape growing is feasible in California. It's these rugged, marginal spots that allow for wines that are transparent and unadulterated.
The first parcel was planted in 2011 to the king and Queen of the Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Massale selections were sourced locally but their true identity will forever remain a mystery (I’m gonna guess at least some came from Ross Cobb’s neighboring Coastland Vineyard),
This parcel is known as the Komorebi Vineyard because the 6.25-acre vineyard is in close proximity to sequoia trees. In Japanese, the word “Komorebi” means “sunlight filtered through the leaves of trees.”
The soils consist of Goldridge fine sandy loam, the region's gold standard and is dry farmed organically and biodynamically. The site’s extremely long growing season and cool climate combined with high-density plantings (3,600 vines per acre versus the more typical 1,800 vines per acre in California) allows the grapes to achieve “skin maturity” and a natural acidity that is atypical in California.
Winemaking is as natural as possible with native yeast whole cluster fermentation occurring in concrete or neutral oak. The wines are never fined or filtered and there is zero SO2 in the Chardonnay and only a minuscule amount in the Pinots. Matt preaches no dogma. The choices he makes are all in the service of producing a wine that honestly reflects the land and climate of this serene and gorgeous location while contributing to the regeneration and long term health of the land and in turn the people that work and live on it.
The striking beauty of the Sonoma coast is reflected in each bottle of Matt’s wines. Poised and elegant but with a rugged and wild quality. Exhilarating faceted like the coast itself, the wine evolves with time in the glass. I enjoyed my bottle over two days and it only continued to improve and impress. These will cellar beautifully and five years from now, some very patient humans will be richly rewarded.
This is just the beginning of the Matt Taylor Wine journey. I have no doubt that Matt will go down as one of the greats. Already a unicorn wine, I held on tight to my allocation with the hope of introducing the wine to the greater Flatiron community at the beginning of this year. For those who collect the world’s great Pinot and Chardonnay, these should not be missed. Like any great bottle of wine these will inspire pleasure and contemplation and undoubtedly, some debate. Strikingly beautiful and complex they are as hard to forget as they are to put down.