If you want a name to remember when it comes to great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, remember Matt Taylor. He is working with Jackie and Tim Reuling at their 16-acre converted apple orchard that has become one of the prize vineyards of Sonoma County. He is bright, thoughtful, passionate, and has just produced 2012 Chardonnay and 2011 Pinot Noir, that showcase the great possibilities of the Reuling Vineyard. This is their initial release, and you better get them when you can. I believe they are going to become one of the stars of Sonoma County.
Matt speaks of his background, philosophy, and his practices to make wine.
What attracted you to work at Reuling?
I was drawn to the opportunity of making wine from this world-class vineyard. I have made wine from some of the most pedigreed vineyards of the world; at Domaine Dujac I worked with fruit from Bonnes Mares, Echezeaux, and Clos de la Roche. In California I've worked at Araujo with the Eisele Vineyard, and at Joseph Swan with Trenton Estate. Reuling is one of those places that produces incredible fruit no matter what the vintage. Being born and raised in Sonoma County, I had been itching to find a reason to move back for quite some time.
Who would you consider your mentors as a winemaker?
I've been influenced by so many people over the years that I feel I've drawn a little out of all of them... Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac expanded my palate and instilled in me a calmness that so many lose during the harvest and in life. Michel Rolland helped me to fine-tune my palate and understand the artistry of blending. Rod Berglund of Joseph Swan taught me about the purity of wine and especially Pinot Noir. And...Chris Bilbro of Marietta Cellars takes the cake as it was he who I emulated growing up and who is the reason I even got into the wine business. It was his passion for wine and food, fishing and abalone diving, wild boar and mushroom hunting, kayaking and surfing and his zeal for the moment.
Why did you choose biodynamic farming?
I first learned the term 'biodynamic' in 1998, when I spent a couple of months living with my Swiss relatives. Years later a family friend shared a bottle of 1990 Domaine Leflaive Montrachet. Needless to say I was moved and noticed the term 'biodynamic' once again. At the time I felt my education in viticulture and winemaking was remedy based ('When this happens spray this...when this occurs, add this'). I investigated and researched biodynamics and was inspired by the approach to farming.
Talk about your experience at Araujo.
Araujo was one of the greatest teachers I ever had. Bart and Daphne Araujo originally created a position for me to manage the vineyards and assist in the winemaking. Just after two years I was promoted to winemaker/vineyard manager, and held the position for four years until I decided to step away to consult (Reuling being the draw). While at Araujo I was allowed to make wine in Argentina (2006) and New Zealand (2007), and was exposed to world-class wines and winemaking constantly. I was even funded by Bart and Daphne to begin my own small label.
What is attractive to you about working at Reuling?
Reuling Vineyard is one of those unique opportunities as a consultant that rarely comes up. Tim and Jackie Reuling are exceptional people and our relationship has become one of intimate friends rather than 'employer-employee'. When we started this endeavor, we were steadfast in our desire to make wines of 'balance' at the property so that the vineyard's voice could be heard. Much easier said than done! I respect Tim and Jackie immensely for taking this road as we believe it will be our mark on the future of what this vineyard represents.
Speak of the terroir at Reuling. What is similar to the region, and what is unique to their property?
The area where Reuling Vineyard sits, shares similar sandy Goldridge soils to the region, however its microclimate is unique unto itself. The vineyard is perched atop a knoll distinctive to the area that sees the fog burn off much earlier than its neighbors and allows for early ripeness and slightly lower acids. Those who know Reuling Vineyard, know that the wines carry a weight without heaviness that is unique to the area. The last piece to the puzzle is there are two distinct Vosne-Romanee clones that have acclimated to Reuling Vineyard over the past decade. Reuling Clone 'R' and Reuling Clone 'L' we refer to them as. These components along with the Calera clone make an incredible trio for blending.
What wine regions inspire you and why?
I can honestly say that every region I try has some source of inspiration on me. For me, understanding the history and conditions of an area, wherever that may be, and how they produce a particular style lends to me more tools in my arsenal as a winemaker. From there, I can decide when and how to emulate certain techniques. Outside of California, the wines I possess most of in my cellar are Spanish, Alsatian, and Burgundy."
Talk about your wine label, and how it came about.
The Reuling label was a spur off of the artistry of Jackie Reuling. We worked with Robert Van Horne, who came to Tim and Jackie's home and immersed himself into Jackie's paintings and drawings, and then tried to encompass her flair and style into a wine label. It is something truly beautiful and unique; and makes it stand out as it should. This is no ordinary wine!"
Follow Brad Haskel on Twitter: www.twitter.com/braskel