Meet Matt Reid, the Winemaker of Benessere Vineyards (you can listen to the Italian pronunciation of ‘Benessere’ here) who was very kind to answer to our questions:
Winepedia: How did you become a winemaker?
Matt: I started making wine at home after finding a book called Homemade Wine, by Judith Irwin, on my lunch hour while temping in San Francisco. The book was intended for an English audience and had all kinds of bizarre recipes for wines made from fruits and vegetables. It was fun experimenting and I quickly saw the common thread running through the recipes. That fall, I came up to Napa to pick second-crop fruit (less mature grapes left behind when the primary clusters are picked) to make actual wine from actual grapes. Within a few years I got my M.S. in Viticulture & Enology from UC-Davis and came to Napa Valley to start my career.
Winepedia: What were your skills that contributed to the establishment of your winery business?
Matt: I had a solid background in general science and chemistry that really helped me with the rigorous Davis program. That program in turn provided me with the skills and knowledge to make great wines, as well as with the ability to ask the right questions when faced with puzzling situations.
Winepedia: Can you share a little about the most challenging part of the wine business? The most rewarding?
Matt: Making wine is truly a lot of fun and it is hard to think of the challenges beyond what we cannot control (which is a lot!). Nature dictates everything we do, and is unpredictable at best. Harvest is of course a busy time and the most critical for wine quality. That means we winemakers get little sleep but need to keep our minds sharp to make the best decisions for the young wines.
There is nothing comparable to smelling the wondrous aromas from a vigorously fermenting wine. Still, the most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing a customer take delight in the finished product.
Winepedia: How do you differentiates your brand from other wineries?
Matt: Benessere is unique in its varietal mix. We are among the few Napa Valley producers of Sangiovese, and we are the only Napa Valley producers of Sagrantino and Aglianico, two Italian varieties that are somewhat obscure even in Italy. Here they produce outstanding wines.
Winepedia: Which of your wines are you proudest of?
Matt: Since the varieties we work with are new to many of our visitors, I strive to make the wines as varietally true as I can. If you have tasted a Benessere Aglianico, you know what Aglianico tastes like. All of the wines are fun and interesting to produce. The one I am proudest of, perhaps, is the Phenomenon, a blend I produce without rules, trying to show the best of our vineyard, as opposed to each individual variety.
Winepedia: What are the „secrets” for making a good wine?
Matt: Paying attention! Which means tasting, tasting, tasting, and responding to what I taste.