The sun finally appeared, so we decided to head to one of our favorite outdoor tasting areas. In fact, Mattebella is almost all outside area, so I suggest that you only go there in nice weather. They have a small tasting cottage and another small indoor area, plus some covered gazebo-like seating places, but most of their seating is on the rustic patio, where you are immediately greeted, shown to a table, and handed a menu.
As soft rock played in the background (think James Taylor), we perused our choices. There are three flights: Red, which is five tastes for $20; Light, which is seven whites, a rosé, and a sparkler for $20; and Total Vertical Red, which is the same as the red flight with the addition of their most expensive red, for $26. We decided to share the basic red and the light, starting with the light.
Our very well-informed server brought a tray to our table with nine glasses on it, six of which he turned right side up in order to pour our first six tastes. He also set down a little slate tray with two slices of baguette covered with double cream brie. As far as I know, Mattebella is the only winery around here to give you actual food to go with your tasting—not just a few crackers. What’s nice about this is that you can think about how well each wine goes with food. We concluded that Mattebella’s wines are very food friendly, even the ones we were not too sure of on their own. It’s a good idea to ration your nibbles, so you can experiment with how each wine goes with the cheese and baguette.
The first six tastes are all chardonnays, but from different years or treated differently in terms of steel or a combination of steel and oak. Our server also explained that for the chardonnay grape there’s not a lot of difference year to year, so the ways the wines vary totally depends on how they are treated.
(Two FYIs: they don’t take American Express cards, and the restroom, at least for the moment, is a port-a-pottie.)
- 2014 Steel Chardonnay $21
A sniff reveals scents of mineral and cucumber, and the taste is very tart and sour lemony. We immediately decided this wine needed food, and after a bite of brie we liked it much better. I could see having it with something like Coquilles St. Jacques, while my husband theorized that lobster thermidor would also work.
- 2012 Famiglia Chardonnay $21
This one and the next one are both fermented 20% in oak, and the rest in steel, so if you don’t like oaked chardonnays this one will be just fine. It has a slight aroma of honeysuckle and what my tasting buddy insisted was shoe polish. Mineral or metal, maybe. The taste is somewhat citrusy, not sweet, and rather subtle. Again, not a sipper, but would go well with food.
- 2013 Famiglia Chardonnay $23
We like this one better. It has more aroma and tastes of fresh mandarin orange (when you bite into the whole fruit, rind and all), mineral, and salt. Again, not too oaky. “A wine to think about,” opined my husband.
- 2012 Reserve Chardonnay $28
The next three wines are all fermented 40% in oak, so they are definitely oakier than the former two, though still not too oaky. It has a pleasant aroma of apricots and butterscotch candy with lots of tastes. I decide on bosc pear and gala apple!
- 2013 Reserve Chardonnay $29
This one has a slightly funky smell and the taste is just okay, with still plenty of minerality despite the oak. Again, this one benefits from being sipped with a bite of brie.
- 2014 Reserve Chardonnay $29
I would say pretty much the same comments about this wine as the previous one, just adding that it smells a little like sweat, though not in a bad way, and has more of a citrus flavor that that one.
- 2014 Riesling $22
Now our server comes out with another three bottles (carried in a milkman-like metal carrier) and fills our next three glasses. This is their first riesling, and he explains that the winemaker wanted to make a dry riesling, but found the brix content of the grapes to be too high. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brix ) As a result, he decided on an “off-dry” riesling. We don’t particularly care for this one, which is both too sweet for us but also has a metallic taste I don’t like—like touching your tongue to steel or iron. Maybe next year’s vintage will be better.
- 2015 Rosé $21
Pleasant, we agree, is the word for this rosé, made from merlot grapes. It spends 5-6 hours on the skins, we are informed. I think it has a bit of a smell like parmesan cheese! We taste citrus, strawberry, salt, and mineral. Crisp and nice.
- 2015 Off-Dry Sparkling Rose $28
If you follow me at all, you can probably tell just by the name that I’m not going to care for this sparkler, and you would be right. Too sweet! Made from syrah grapes, it has a distinct green vegetable aroma, maybe fresh peas, plus some chocolate. The taste reminds me of sweet cherries.
Now we order a red flight, and get a fresh tray with five little glasses on it. Again, the wines are very similar, all being blends in varying proportions of some combination of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and/or petit verdot. With this round we each get a little plate with two slices of baguette, one topped with balsamic fig jam and gorgonzola cheese, and the other with bacon jam and grana padana, plus specific instructions on which goes with which wine. Yum.
- Famiglia Red $24
As their non-vintage selection, Mattebella aims for consistency with this wine, trying to have it taste pretty much the same year to year. Not a bad goal, since we like this wine very much. It’s a perfect spaghetti/pizza wine, with characteristic merlot cherry tastes, dry yet fruity.
- 2011 Old World Blend $43
We smell cherry, like a merlot, though this is a blend. 2011 was a difficult year, because of Hurricane Irene, but since Mattebella harvests by hand, they were able to pick and choose and get enough grapes to make their wine, though fewer cases than usual. I would say this is fairly straightforward, with soft tannins, and very pleasant to drink.
- 2012 Old World Blend $40
This one has no cabernet sauvignon, and instead more petit verdot, making it spicier and more interesting as far as I’m concerned. Definitely we smell and taste cherry, but also red blackberry and some minerality. Another good one.
- 2008 Old World Blend $48
No petit verdot in this one! We are instructed to have it with the balsamic fig jam/gorgonzola-topped baguette slice, which is a great pairing. The wine is good, but better with the food. We smell and taste chocolate and tobacco in addition to some cherry and dark fruit.
- 2009 Old World Blend $46
Now we get to have the other baguette with jam and cheese, also a nice pairing. This wine definitely smells like a Bordeaux, with lots of interesting fruit. The taste has dark fruit and a touch of earthiness, and we like it very much. Excellent!
Reasons to visit: an attractive outdoor seating area; the chance to compare the same grape or grapes over different years or treatments; free snacks!; the 2013 Famiglia Chardonnay; all the reds.