The year 1978 was one that would change the course of Sandra MacIver's life. It was in that year that she began her pursuit of what some may consider an impossible goal--producing California's finest wines. She had founded Matanzas Creek Winery in a milking-shed-turned-winery located in the viticulturally untested Bennett Valley in Sonoma County. She knew little about making wine and less about running a business. In addition, she suspected that impossible goals were just that, impossible.

In 1978, Sandra met Bill MacIver, who would become her partner in both business and marriage. Equally unschooled in the worlds of wine and business, but with agricultural roots and practice at achieving impossible goals, Bill provided the pragmatic approach to balance Sandra's intuitive nature.

Today, Matanzas Creek Winery is recognized as one of the country's top wineries, consistently producing wines which are among the best in the country. The original milking shed/winery is today a guest house in the shadow of one of California's most sophisticated wine making facilities. To those who know Sandra and Bill MacIver, and know how they have followed their vision, this transformation comes as no surprise.

Sandra purchased the first 100 acres of the Bennett Valley estate in 1971 at an estate liquidation sale. By 1974, 22 acres had been planted to Merlot and Chardonnay. The first wine was made in 1978. The following vintage, the 1979 Chardonnay, put the winery on the maps winning the coveted Sweepstakes Award at the prestigious Sonoma County Harvest Fair. Two years later, the winery's 1981 Chardonnay was awarded the Sweepstakes Award at the equally prestigious San Francisco Fair. In just a few years' time, Matanzas Creek Winery established a reputation for consistently producing high quality wines.

By 1984, the winery had narrowed its production to three varietals: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot. The demand for Matanzas Creek wines outpaced its capacity so ground was broken the following year on a new wine making facility.

Nestled into the base of Bennett Mountain, the new, environmentally conscious, state-of-the-art wine-making facility harbors one of the most sophisticated laboratories in California. Here, wine makers conduct and study extensive experiments that ultimately improve quality. Since 1985, over one thousand experiments have been conducted and monitored at Matanzas Creek Winery.

The years between 1985 and 1992 found Matanzas Creek firmly establishing itself as one of California's top wineries. Chardonnay was refined into an intensely flavored, complex wine showing impeccable balance and integration of flavors. Sauvignon Blanc established itself as emphasizing forward citrus and tropical fruit flavors, with complex textures from barrel fermentation and the use of Semillon in the blend. And, it was during this developmental stage that Matanzas Creek's Merlot became recognized as one of the finest in the world. Critics hailed it as a benchmark for the varietal and compared it to Chateau Petrus.

A benchmark for the winery was set in 1993 with the release of the 1990 JOURNEY Chardonnay. Crafted from the finest one percent of 700 Chardonnay barrels and utilizing the knowledge accumulated from years of experimentation and research, the two hundred cases of JOURNEY sold out upon release. While its $70 retail price led to questions about such a bold pricing strategy, JOURNEY'S quality was hailed by many as the finest Chardonnay ever produced in America.

Today, Matanzas Creek annually produces 37,000 cases of ultra-premium wines that are considered among the finest made in California. Research and experimentation continues. New vineyards are being planted on the estate, which has become a showcase for its magnificently landscaped grounds.

Despite the success and the fact that the demand for Matanzas Creek Wines far exceeds production, the MacIvers still strive to achieve their original goal. Why? Because in the end, the vision of making California's finest wines is not a goal, but rather a philosophy.

Matanzas Creek Winery / 6097 Bennett Valley Road / Santa Rosa CA 95404 / 707-528-6464
Winery hours are 10 am to 4:30 pm daily.

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