As winemaker for Acumen, Steve Matthiasson has a very clear focus: make wine that is an honest and joyous expression of the vineyard. Part of this preoccupation lies with his own winemaking philosophy, but it is equally a nod to the distinctive nature of Acumen's organically-farmed vineyards on Atlas Peak. The high-elevation climate, volcanic soils and long growing season provide Acumen with fruit that has fully mature flavors at lower sugar levels, a quality that is prized by Matthiasson.
"The crowning achievement of Atlas Peak is a long growing season without the heat of the valley floor, which gives us wonderfully expressive wines that are not high in alcohol or over ripe," notes Matthiasson. "The wines have backbone, but are not over the top. The key is to grow the wine in the vineyard and then careful extraction of tannins from the grapes. For Acumen, we're looking to make wines that capture the finest qualities of the Old World and New World."
Steve Matthiasson has farmed Acumen's vineyards from the beginning and was part of the founding team that searched for the right site and ultimately selected the Atlas Peak property. He was captivated by the vineyard from the start and worked very closely with original winemaker Denis Malbec, who made Acumen's first vintages. They shared a love for vineyards and a goal of making classic wines that express terroir, which contributed greatly to their selection of the Atlas Peak site and their successful collaboration with Acumen. Matthiasson took over as winemaker in 2016.
The farming life has held a fascination for Matthiasson since his childhood days on the family farm in North Dakota. He later studied horticulture at U.C. Davis, where he received a master's degree, before immersing himself in sustainable farming in the San Joaquin Valley as a consultant. He co-authored a widely-regarded sustainable farming manual in 1999, and in 2002 he moved to the Napa Valley to work as a consultant on vineyard practices. Along with his wife, Jill Klein Matthiasson, he launched their own eponymous wine label in 2003, which has garnered significant critical acclaim. In addition, Matthiasson has developed an enviable list of past and current winery clients over the years, including Araujo Estate, Dalla Valle, Spottswoode, Chappellet, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, David Arthur, Duckhorn and Hall.
Steve Matthiasson enjoys the rustic, agrarian atmosphere at the Acumen estate on Atlas Peak, and has developed a strong bond with both the vineyard and Acumen team. He lives with his wife and children on their small farm and vineyard in Napa.
Country born: USA
Education: MS from UC Davis
Co-authored CA sustainable farming handbook
Years in the wine industry: 20-30 years
Honors / Awards:
2012 Food & Wine Magazine "Winemakers of the Year"
2014 SF Chronicle Winemaker of the Year
2014-2016 Nominated for a James Beard Award
To make classic wines that reflect the terroir of the Estate.