Vine & Sun: Home of Barons V and Winemaker Matthew Loso
March 22, 2011 by Erin Thomas
Two Riedel decanters rest full of ruby juice on a pristine marble counter in the illuminated penthouse of Barons V partner Gary McLean. A Chihuly sculpture gleams through one of the wall-length windowpanes on a bright January afternoon and into the eyes of winemaker Matthew Loso.
He squints and introduces himself as if there hasn’t been decades of reviews written on his wines by nobler journalists than this one. He smiles and trades a handshake with an equally sun-shined wineglass.
Matthew Loso hails from self-made vintner pedigree. By setting the foundation for Matthews Cellars when he was months out of high school, he has the experience of a winemaker twice his age, the opportunity to get his pick of fruit in blocks next to the caliber of Betz Family Winery and Quilceda Creek and through trial, does not believe in vineyard terroir.
The cultivated Loso joined forces with and Gary McLean as well as three other shareholders to build Barons V parent company Vine & Sun, LLC. in 2001.
Although the wine company is lead by five “type AA personalities,” McLean said they leave the wine up to Loso. “We trust his forward palate, we give him our opinions and he runs with it in the way he sees best.”
The Barons Five themselves are giants in their own industries, with Loso leading the pack amongst wine consultants in Washington state by having his hands in nearly 50 different pots.
Although both McLean and Loso said Barons is not a “side project,” it is also not their sole income.
“No one’s livelihood is relying on the production,” Loso said. “We are able to wait for releases and make it the wine we want. We can go out and buy whatever grapes we want, from whatever vineyards we want and it’s been quite the luxury.”
The opulence to do so can be credited to Loso’s relationships that go back nearly three decades with growers and other producers in Washington state.
There was a slight stutter in Loso’s step when he parted ways with the winery of his namesake in 2008, which he illustrated as losing a piece of his identity. However, he has regained his stride and relationships in the Washington winemaking business with the bright acclaim of Barons V.
Loso seeks for grape growers who know the art of wine as he labors to know the vine better by spending roughly 90% of his job in the vineyard and only 10% of it in tasting panels and the cellar.
“Looking forward, I’d love to see vineyards working more as a partner with winemakers, but we’re so separated now,” Loso said. “There’s grape growers and there’s winemakers. They complain about each other either way.”
All bickering aside, Barons V is all about the end result of producing a wine their way once the fruit is in their possession.
Under the Vine & Sun label, Loso has been producing a”declassicifed lot,” comparable to his famous “Claret” at Matthews, since the 2004 vintage.
“It’s kind of a loose canon for the blend,” Loso said. “However, since the majority of the grapes we bring into the winery are Cabernet, it ends up being that by default.”
Pulling fruit from vineyards with an average age of 21 years, the Vine & Sun 2007 Columbia Valley Red Wine is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc and 14% Merlot. It spends 21 months in American Oak, 50% of it new, the other half neutral.
With lush red currant fruit aromas, the non-fruit tones in the blend are prominent – full of cedar and cinnamon, baking soda and cardamom. The rich fruit transfers to the palate, backed by the baking spices to a medium-bodied, round and balanced blend. The acidity is easy, the tannins are still firm and lengthy in the cherry-kissed finish.
For a minuscule $20, the wine, overall, is an incredible value buy, considering it is essentially leftovers from its high-end Cab.
Big brother Baron V 2007 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is not quite a single varietal, as it’s supported by 7% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. It definitely defines itself in size and stature as the King Cab followers of Loso have come to expect and love in his blends.
Similar vineyard sources as its smaller version and undergoing the same three year aging program, the major difference in the wines is the oak program. The Barons Cab spends 22 months in American oak and is 100% new, pulling out more aggressive structural tannins and a larger mouthfeel.
Dark red fruit and spices rise out of the wine initially on the nose with cigar box cedar and tobacco, alongside hints of eucalyptus.
The palate is beautifully balanced and well-integrated, the dark fruit is luscious and the tannins offer depth and complexity to a full, fleshy mouthfeel. Pronounced, largess and layered, this Cab has every bang for 55 bucks.
By the cunning hand of Loso, Vine & Sun Wines are able to appease both the average consumer and the trained wine appetite. Critics pinned him as one of the best winemakers in the state almost a decade and a half ago, and it now looks like Loso’s back in his grape crushing groove.