Matthews Winery

Alex Stewart

Head Winemaker – Alex Stewart

How did you first become involved in the wine industry and what has your trajectory looked like? 
The first introduction that I had to winemaking came in the summer of my freshman year at college. A friend of a friend got me a job working on the bottling line for a boutique producer in Snohomish. The entire process was fascinating, and I showed such enamored interest that I was invited to help with harvest. Given that I was going to school at UW, I could only help out in a part time capacity, but I was hooked. The following year, in 2005, I took a break from school to work a full harvest and continued helping in the months that followed. It was an easy decision to abandon my goals of medical school and pursue a career in wine. I transferred to Fresno State and finished my degree in viticulture and enology. While my studies took me all over the west coast and parts of Europe, I ultimately returned to my roots in Washington state where I spent the next series of chapters of my life working up from enologist to cellar master and eventually head winemaker.   

How long have you been making wine in Washington state? 
Harvest 2022 marks my 19th vintage making wine in WA. Winemaking in Washington has had its hold on me since 2004, when I had the unique opportunity to work bottling and subsequently as harvest help. I began working full-time at Quilceda Creek in 2009 where I started as enologist and eventually became promoted to winemaker after many vintages. I transitioned to Matthews Winery in 2021.   

What is your favorite part about the Washington state wine community? 
This is an easy one. It always comes back to the people in the industry. Everyone is kind, generous, and engaged with each other. Everyone is always willing to lend a hand or share advice and knowledge. We are so fortunate that the pioneers who established wine grapes in Washington subsequently served as mentors of community, support, and cooperation that has transcended every aspect of growth within the industry.  

What do you think the future holds for Washington state wine? Where are we headed or what trends are you seeing? 
As a (relative) newcomer to the global market, Washington will continue its rise to dominate the world of wine. Washington has earned its place among the greatest wine regions in the world and the incredible wines being made to date serve to reinforce that fact. We have such wonderful diversity among viticultural areas, optimal growing conditions, and innovative viticulture and enology research driven by WSU. The wealth of knowledge and experience at our disposal is shared freely among one another to optimize the limitless potential and to keep moving the wine industry forward in Washington. As far as trends, it appears more vineyards and wineries are specializing and honing in on their niche. Whether it is specific to a vineyard and the focus of varietals grown, how they are grown, or wineries making unique styles with lesser-known varietals. The common thread is that the quality is exceptional across the board.  

Your favorite wine and food pairing? 
Syrah with beef stroganoff is probably one of my top favorite pairings. But, I am also a huge fan of climbing the beautiful mountain ranges we have in Washington. And for that reason, there is no better pairing than hauling up a bottle of wine in a Nalgene and drinking it at camp with a dehydrated meal after a long, arduous climb. 


Matías Kúsulas

Viticulturist – Matìas Kúsulas, Lawrence Vineyards

What is your background, how did you come to work at the vineyard? 
I was formerly in the Marines and have a background in naval engineering and agricultural engineering with a major in viticulture and enology from Chile. I started with a specialty in soil science where I subsequently discovered the wine industry. I left my country in 2011 to become a traveling winemaker and had the chance to meet amazing winemakers and travel to beautiful wine regions in different continents. I eventually ended up settling down in France where I had the chance to study viticulture and winemaking in a deeper context. I was able to interact with experienced winemakers and a variety of wine growers across the world which taught me the importance of truly understanding viticulture to be able to make memorable wines. I’ve been fortunate that my career has allowed me to experience both the grower and winemaking sides of the industry and that I am able to continue gaining experience growing quality fruit.  

How long have you been working in this capacity? 
I’ve been officially working on the vineyard side since 2013. There is still a lot to learn, but one concept I caught onto is that every single season is completely different than the next, so you can’t treat them the same way year after year.  

What is your favorite part of being a part of the Washington state wine community? 
I like the fact that we are a young region and that we are still growing. There are so many unplanted places to discover. Luckily for all of us, Washington has a wide range of terroirs with enormous potential to produce high quality fruit. 

What do you think the future holds for Washington state wine? Where are we headed or what trends are you seeing? 
I’ve only been in Washington since 2016 but I think quality is improving exponentially. You see winemakers and growers constantly improving their practices year after year, undoubtedly with the dynamic involvement of professionals in research and innovation under the umbrella of WSU. My hope is that we only continue to see more Washington wines not just around the country, but across the globe as well.  

What fact can you share about your job that wine-drinkers might not know? 
Besides the fact that I get to play with toys like tractors and four-wheelers, I drive over 600 miles every week checking on vineyards which allows me to listen to around 20+ audiobooks a year.  

Your favorite wine and food pairing? 
Honestly, I don’t have one specific, the same way I don’t have a favorite movie or book. But I do like the classic seafood and Sauvignon Blanc pairing as well as game meat with Syrah.  


Vineyard Manager – Enrique Alvarez, Conner Lee Vineyard

What is your background, how did you come to work at the vineyard? 
I came from Michoacán Mexico to Washington state when I was 10 years old. My parents were both vineyard workers which opened up the opportunity for me to follow in their footsteps when I joined Conner Lee Vineyard in 2009.  

How long have you been working in this capacity? 
I started working in the vineyard in the summer of 2009.

What is your favorite part of being a part of the Washington state wine community? 
I like that I get to train vineyard workers and teach them everything from pruning vines to harvesting wine grapes.  

What do you think the future holds for Washington state wine? Where are we headed or what trends are you seeing? 
I think Washington is on a trajectory to continue growing. I believe that soon, Washington wines will be recognized as some of the best in the world. 

What fact can you share about your job that wine-drinkers might not know? 
It takes a lot of manual labor to complete the jobs in a vineyard. Also, every single growing season is different and unique than the one before.  

AUCTION OF WASHINGTON WINES

2200 6th Ave Suite 411
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(206) 741-0212

aww@aoww.org

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The Northwest Wine Benefit Foundation, DBA Auction of Washington Wines, is committed to supporting the growth and awareness of the Washington state wine industry through a series of celebrated events benefiting our community. We have raised over $63 million since our inception in 1988. 

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