A visit to Matanzas Creek Winery and their gardens in Bennett Valley
near Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California
With more than 425 wineries in Sonoma County it is difficult to choose which one(s) to visit. I selected Matanzas Creek Winery because of their garden areas and what they describe as Zen tranquility.
The winery was established in 1977. Matanzas Creek Estate and Vineyard is located up a hill in the picturesque Bennett Valley. In the early 1990’s, when the winery prepared to open their tasting room, owners Bill and Sandra MacIver hired Mendocino landscape architect Gary Ratway. Over time he has created the gardens we see today. They were designed to complement, not compete, with the landscape around them.
As we drove up the lane into the estate the first garden visible was the lavender garden. Planted in 1991, the field contains the largest planting of lavender in northern California. I visited in spring before lavender’s blooming season. I can imagine how stunning this field must be when it bursts with purple flowers in June. The lavender is harvested at its peak, dried, and used to make a number of handcrafted items in the Estate Grown Lavender product line. The profit from the lavender items is used to maintain the gardens.
The tasting room was designed to feel like a child’s tree house – high, shady, cool, with a view of the valley. But what about the wines? The winery has six other vineyards in Sonoma County to take advantage of diverse climates and geographies to create Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Merlot wines. Marcia Monahan-Torres has been the winemaker since 2012. A native of Chile, she is deeply involved in the farming of the vineyards and combines modern and traditional methods in her winemaking.
Matanzas Creek Winery is part of the Jackson Family Wines Collection. I had been at one of the other wineries in that family, La Crema, prior to visiting Matanzas Creek. La Crema wines are creamy and buttery. The people at the tasting room told me that in comparison Matanzas Creek wines were newer and oakier. I found that to be true.
There were a total of 14 wines on the tasting menu. I sampled six: 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Knights Valley Helena Bench Vineyard, 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Bennett, 2014 Chardonnay Bennett Valley, 2014 Pinot Noir Bennett Valley, 2012 Merlot Alexander Valley, and 2012 Malbec/Cabernet Franc. I preferred the Bennett Valley Sauvignon Blanc to the Knights Valley because it was softer and fruitier. I usually prefer reds and that was the case here as well, with the Malbec/Cabernet Franc being a favourite. (Side note: I am usually a red wine drinker, but my time in Sonoma County renewed an appreciation for white wines.) Everyone’s tastes are different – you may have other preferences.
The store area at Matanzas Creek Winery is so attractive and filled with interesting items (lavender and more), it is next to impossible to leave without buying something. I couldn’t resist a set of lavender cooking rubs and a lavender lip balm. For me though, the highlight of this winery remains its garden. They invite you to linger and slow down.
jacquiegumJune 9, 2016 at 5:15 am
Wow! I could almost smell the lavender! And the tasting room is so inviting! Looks like a really special place!
Donna JankeJune 9, 2016 at 8:03 am
Jacquie, the gardens must be quite something when the lavender is blooming – a treat for the eyes and the nose.
Doreen PendgracsJune 10, 2016 at 4:20 pm
I did not get to the winery, but I’m absolutely certain I tried the Matanzas Creek wine while in the Sonoma Valley a couple of years ago. Looks like a great place, Donna./ Thx for sharing.
Donna JankeJune 11, 2016 at 9:36 am
Doreen, with so many wineries in the Sonoma Valley it is a quite a coincidence that you tried a wine from one of the wineries I visited (I only made it to 5 of the more than 425 wineries in the Valley.)
Rosewarne Gardens, Bedfordshire Garden DesignersJune 13, 2016 at 4:03 am
WHat superb looking Lavender plants. Obviously very happy. As you say the scent must be marvelous when they’re flowering. Do you by chance know which variety they grow?
Donna JankeJune 14, 2016 at 3:15 am
I don’t know what variety of lavender they grow. I did not realize there were a lot of different varieties of lavender.
Rosewarne Gardens, Bedfordshire Garden DesignersJune 14, 2016 at 3:23 am
About 39 species and then several hundred cultivar/varieties 😀 though apparently only 2 are really suitable for commercial oil production (L. angustifolia and L x intermedia)
Catarina AlexonJune 13, 2016 at 4:11 am
Looks and sounds like a wonderful place, Donna. Love lavender and I really like the look of the lavender plants on your picture.
Donna JankeJune 14, 2016 at 3:16 am
Catarina, the terraced rows of lavender looked lovely even though they weren’t in bloom yet.
lenie5860June 13, 2016 at 9:29 am
Donna, the wine is great, the pictures are wonderful, but I absolutely love the lavender gardens. Wouldn’t they be something to see when in full bloom. I am so envious – wish I had the lavender garden right here on my property – what bliss!!
Donna JankeJune 14, 2016 at 3:18 am
Lenie, it would be pretty to have lavender in your own yard.
Sabrina QuairoliJune 13, 2016 at 10:20 am
Wow, I love lavender. It most smell beautiful and so relaxing. This winery looks beautiful. I am very partial to the Zen style so this would be a place I would visit. Thanks for sharing it with me.
Donna JankeJune 14, 2016 at 3:19 am
I’m glad you enjoyed the post Sabrina.
Ken DowellJune 13, 2016 at 2:45 pm
What a lush setting. If you had told me this was a botanical garden instead of a winery I wouldn’t have blinked. The shaded picnic area looks especially serene and beautiful.
Donna JankeJune 14, 2016 at 3:21 am
Ken, a lot of wineries in the area had beautiful gardens. (at least based on the few I visited.)
Jeri Walker (@JeriWB)June 13, 2016 at 7:11 pm
With over 400 wineries to try to decide to visit, I would probably end up drawing a name from a hat 😉 Matanzas Creek looks well worth the visit. Vineyards more often than not do achieve that Zen effect Ken mentioned above.
Donna JankeJune 14, 2016 at 3:23 am
Jeri, you’d probably do fine drawing names out of a hat. Each winery seemed to have something interesting in addition to the wine.
wcman1976June 13, 2016 at 9:51 pm
You mentioned Zen at the beginning of this post. From that point forward, all I could think about was how it looks like this place is something you would expect to see over in Japan. Very beautiful.
Donna JankeJune 14, 2016 at 3:26 am
While the gardens at Matanzas Creek did not exactly like Japanese gardens I’ve seen, they need have a similar ambiance.
heraldmartyJune 14, 2016 at 2:38 pm
This looks just beautiful and makes me want to take a trip up to our upcountry winery since it’s been way too long. I do love lavender so I can tell I’d be in heaven here. Thank you for introducing us to this beautiful winery!
Donna JankeJune 15, 2016 at 8:01 pm
Marquita, I’m glad you enjoyed this little visit to Matanzas Creek Winery.
PhoeniciaJune 15, 2016 at 1:03 am
Your photographs are impeccable.
The lavender garden looks pretty. This is an ideal place for a retreat. What a beautiful view from the private tasting room – almost romantic.
Donna JankeJune 15, 2016 at 8:01 pm
Phoenicia, it certainly was a beautiful and peaceful view.
EricaJune 15, 2016 at 9:47 am
The pictures of the winery are absolutely beautiful. I’m not must of a drinker, but I love going wine tasting. There is something so peaceful about going to a winery, relaxing on their grounds and sipping some good wine. I’ve never been to Mantazas Creek Winery, but it looks like a wonderful place to drop by.
Donna JankeJune 15, 2016 at 8:02 pm
Erica, there is something peaceful about a winery with beautiful grounds where you can linger as you sip samples of wine.
Rose Mary GriffithJune 15, 2016 at 1:13 pm
What lovely pictures–sounds like a tasty trip with lots of great wines to bring home, yes? My lavender is in bloom and lovely. I can imagine what row after row of blooming lavender looks like. Wow.
Donna JankeJune 15, 2016 at 8:03 pm
Rose Mary, how nice to have your own lavender blooms. I’m sure they’re lovely to look at and to smell.
William RushoJune 16, 2016 at 9:41 am
That looks like the definition of a zen garden. I feel very tranquil and peaceful just looking at those pictures. I think sometimes too many gardens are created with the thought vivid bright colors are needed, they forget that the subtle colors and uniformity is also beautiful
Donna JankeJune 17, 2016 at 4:14 pm
William, you’re right – subtle colours and uniformity can also be beautiful and help create that tranquil, peaceful feeling. I love vivid colours in gardens but I also love the subtle, almost subdued, effect of a natural-looking, peaceful place (which often takes as much, if not more, work to create).