Stemilt Creek wines rich in character
Blog: Winemaker's Journal
January 19, 2012
Kyle Mathison often uses the word "character" when talking about the wines he and his wife, Jan, make at their Stemilt Creek Winery.
Mathison, in his ponytail and trademark western shirt, is well known himself as a character, disarmingly honest, always enjoyable to visit with. He's very much a part of the Mathison lineage, a family known for unique character and integrity. It was Kyle's father, Tom, who started Stemilt Growers, now one of the nation's largest shippers of sweet cherries, apples and pears.
Tom started the company in the early 1960s when he couldn't make money shipping his cherries through other packing houses that weren't making sure the fruit got to customers in good condition. Quality and honesty have continued to be a Stemilt hallmark under direction of the Mathison family. Kyle and Jan's son, West, is now president.
Kyle said he and Jan started the winery because they wanted to create something they really enjoyed and that could bring joy and lasting memories to others.
The grapes are all grown on the steep slopes of Stemilt Hill in some of the state's highest elevation vineyards. Subject to shorter days, strong winds and severe cold, the grapes develop character that gives their wine something unique, Mathison said.
Planted a decade ago, the vines have adjusted to the extreme climate, if not in production quantity, then in quality, he said. And why not. Cherries grown on the hill are sought after worldwide for their quality and flavor.
Mathison said he's not out to transform the company — cherries will always be king and the winery only bottles about 1,600 cases of wine a year — but create a new product that speaks of his family's character.
Stemilt's red wines feature new labels and blends that define and celebrate family heritage. Kyle's great grandfather, Thomas Cyle Mathison gets a sturdy Bordeaux-style blend called A Days Work. his grandmother, Adeliade Mathison becomes Boss Lady with a vanilla-rich syrah. She's also represented the winery's only white wine, Sweet Adelaide. Tom "TK" Mathison is represented with a soft merlot called Caring Passion.
A fourth label — Transforming Traditions — is a cabernet franc that represents Kyle and Jan's drive to try something new and expand horizons.
He said the family enjoys getting together to create blends that seem to match their memories of family members.
"My goal is to create wines that will create memories," Kyle said.