Today’s Inside WBOTD Wine Story: Winemaker Matt Dees
Inside WBOTD new feature reveals today’s most accomplished winemakers and their ‘gigs’. The series begins with Winemaker Matt Dees. Matt is the poster boy for today’s accomplished winemakers with several concurrent ‘gigs’ all producing outstanding wines. The commonality for these great wines being attributed to skills and soul of the winemaker. Often with a symbiotic relationship with multiple vineyard managers.
These acclaimed winemakers express their creativity via multiple grapes, styles, and locations. This Inside WBOTD series will highlight and connect the winemaker with their multiple wineries. As a result, you gain a better understanding of why we choose many of our daily wine selections.
Matt Dees | Jonata, The Hilt & The Paring
Inside WBOTD | Winemaker Matt Dees is the force behind three (3) wineries – Jonata, The Hilt & The Paring.
Jonata is the Sister Winery of Screaming Eagle. Dedicated to expressing a range of red—and a handful of white—wines from its estate. Located in the Central Coast of California’s Ballard Canyon appellation within Santa Ynez Valley. With a commitment in particular to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah, and informed by cutting-edge viticulture and winemaking.
The Paring is the sister winery of Jonata and The Hilt. While made from the vineyard blocks that are either too young or don’t fit into the vintage style of the highly acclaimed Jonata and The Hilt wine. The Paring is essentially a “chip off the old block”.
Rancho Salsipuedes, where The Hilt wines make their home, provides vineyards planted on land nearly 13 unobstructed miles from the ocean on the west. This unique property offers a range of altitudes, aspects, soil types, and microclimates. As a result, giving winemaker Matt Dees a patchwork of vineyard parcels from which to select grapes and create wines with distinctive styles.
The Paring | Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose & More
There are some people who are educated toward certain positions in life. And then there are others who are born to assume them. Therefore, Matt Dees is what you’d call a natural winemaker.
Armed with a degree in Soil Science from the University of Vermont. Then adding vintages at Staglin in Napa, California and Craggy Range in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. As a result, Matt has an intrinsic feel for wine, from dirt to glass. While curious and experimental by nature, Matt’s approach to winemaking is grounded in the vineyard first. Most of all, attuned to the vines, the weather, the soil. Hence, Matt seems almost to be a part of the vineyard itself.
Matt comes to wine with an untethered philosophy, a mindset embodied in The Paring. At the core of these wines, one finds a wide-ranging exploration of style, vineyards, and blending. When he’s not working with The Paring, Matt makes the wines for its big sister wineries- Jonata and The Hilt.
Jonata | Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah
Matt Dees began as head winemaker at the award-winning Jonata vineyard in 2004. Since then—despite being what most would consider “unconventional” when it comes to winemaking—he’s overseen the transformation of the estate’s dry, sandy landscape into one of the most respected wineries in Central California. At Conversations, Matt shared some of his favorite stories (and bottles) with us.
Matt’s passion for grapes was first ignited by a glass of wine that he says “awakened his soul. First of all, armed with a degree in soil science from the University of Vermont. Afterward, packing his bags and heading to Napa Valley. Furthermore, working for the winery that had produced it, Staglin Family Vineyard. As a result, his talents were soon recognized. And at an incredibly young age, being invited to take on a controversial new project at the Jonata estate in Santa Barbara County.
So, against all odds, Matt’s intuition and artistry have helped Jonata flourish into the critically acclaimed vineyard it is today. Interestingly sharing some of the successes and failures he’s seen in his 13 years as head winemaker. Rather planting an audacious “Noah’s Ark” of varietals side-by-side. In addition, omitting grape-sorting altogether in order to capture the “imperfections” of the grapevine. Yet, his approach has by no means been conventional—but silencing critics along the way. Finally, the results speak for themselves.
The Hilt Wines | Chardonnay & Pinot Noir
There are three things critical to the understanding of transparent varieties such as chardonnay and pinot noir. First, an understanding of terroir (dirt/climate foremost among them). Next an attuned sense of stylistic intention and deft touch in the cellar. Initially receiving a degree in Soil Science from the University of Vermont. So The Hilt’s winemaker, Matt Dees’ approach is grounded in the vineyard. While his attention to the subtle differences found between chardonnay and pinot noir due to clonal selections and site informs the sides of The Hilt’s philosophy. And last but not least, Matt’s fine hand with the wines in the cellar allows the precise expression of both Old Guard characteristics and Vanguard elements to emerge.