New Russian River Wineries, Part 2: Matrix

Leaving Twomey, we headed south on Westside Road to Matrix, in the old Rabbit Ridge winery. This is a beautiful property punctuated by a circular tasting room with wide windows that offer an expansive view of the land. Beyond the tasting room, a service road winds westward behind the hills to the winery complex. In 1995, we shot a fashion segment for my old hemp magazine there.

This was the location where Erich “Rabbit” Russell first made exciting Rhone wines at a time when people barely knew a syrah from a petite sirah. Unfortunately, he was caught making more wine than his permit allowed. The Rabbit then scampered to Pasa Robles to open a new winery and was later charged with mislabeling wines. I remember once thinking the Rabbit Ridge Sonoma County Syrah tasted disappointedly like a California Syrah.

The property languished from 2002 – when Russell left – until last year when Ken and Diane Wilson of Wilson Winery /Mazzocco bought the place to give their Matrix label a home. Until now, Matrix wines had been made at Mazzocco, the Dry Creek Valley winery purchased by the Wilsons in 2005. Winemaker Antoine Favero says that head pruned zin and petite sirah vines will be planted at the front, near the tasting room, and fifteen acres of pinot noir is planned for the property’s high country.


The range of wines currently being sold at Matrix is fairly extensive. Two vintages of chardonnay, a pinot noir, two zinfandels, two vintages of syrah, a cabernet and three vintages of their Bordeaux blend. Most of that will change.

Favero says Matrix is set to go pinot, seven different vineyard designations worth. That, as well as a few zins, a chardonnay, and of course, the Bordeaux Blend. “We’ll turn the blend into Matrix’s showcase, but it won’t be our focus.”

The day we visited, Matrix was kicking the quaffable 2001 Bordeaux Blend out the door for $100 a case. I couldn’t believe it. For a seven-year old wine, it still had very attractive red and black fruit, and decent acidity. It’s sad when a good wine is cast aside so cruelly, but hey, good for us!

It will be interesting to see how Matrix Winery develops. Neither a blue or red pill will be required to find out.

Next time, a visit to C. Donatiello at the old Belvedere winery.

Mari Kane

Mari is a writer, blogger and WordPress consultant, living in Vancouver, BC, the most wine-soaked town north of the 49th Parallel. She also blogs about WordPress web design at Blogsite Studio.com. Follow her on Twitter or Google Plus.