Explore Paul Mathew Vineyards
In Sonoma County, wineries are named after relationships. Paul Mathew is a combination of names, kind of like Kosta Browne.
The similarities don’t end there: Mat Gustafson was also a sommelier at the famed wine country restaurant, John Ash & Co., when he persuaded his co-worker, Paul, to start a Pinot Noir-focused winery together. So, they named it Paul Mathew.
This is where the similarities end: Paul Mathew Vineyards is still a small, family-owned winery run by Mat and Barb Gustafson (Paul remains in name only, having left the partnership a while back), and you don’t have to get on a waiting list to buy elegant, small-production Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, now.
Off the Well-Cycled Path
Paul Mathew is bicycle-friendly, as I learned on a recent trip down the West County Trail, a mostly paved rails-to-trail path that spans much of the Green Valley of Russian River Valley viticultural region.
And it’s spacious: pillows, cushioned sofas in a nook overlooking the rustic town of Graton invite the weary traveler to linger. They even have space for a long conference table in an adjacent room, where they hold such educational sessions as this recent example: How does Pinot Noir pair with six different preparations of duck?
At the Bar
Pinot Noir is the main event here, sourced from tiny western Sonoma County vineyards. Prior to making wine, Mat Gustafson did just about everything else in the wine and hospitality business, including developing hobby vineyards for owners of small estates, thus securing exclusive “handshake” deals for prime Pinot Noir fruit.
But it’s worth a stop just for the sideline varietals here. A new varietal for them, Paul Mathew’s 2014 Russian River Valley Gewürztraminer ($20) is sourced from Harvest Moon Estate, and, like that house’s style, is bone-dry and aromatic.
Bring on the baked, golden apple and butter-brushed pie crust, but hold the heavy palate: The 2013 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($35) surprises with a dry, lean white grapefruit finish.
Call it “Burgundian,” if you don’t mind that epithet. Even the 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($32) has a fine, citrus zest keeping a palate of mixed red berries lively. Watch for the winery’s first Brut Rosé, coming December, 2015.
Wine Geek Out
The 2013 Paul Mathew Valdigué ($20) comes from an old, two-acre block in Sonoma County’s Knights Valley, farmed by the tenants who live on the land. This grape used to be called Napa Gamay and became unfashionable. But it’s not just underdog appeal that makes this Valdigué so appealing. A leather note and a hint of tannic grip rein in a bright, soft and silky, fresh red wine for drinking young, like a fine Beaujolais.
Hit the Road
In Graton, you’re right where you want to be for brunch, lunch or dinner at Willowood Market or Underwood. Or, get back on your bike and head up to Forestville, just a few miles further up the West County Trail.
Details: 9060 Graton Road, Graton, CA 95444. Open Thursday through Sunday, 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Tasting fee, $10. 707-865-2505.
Find more things to do in Sonoma County here.