Fun Fact: Dave Matthews Makes Wine. And It's Wildly Sustainable

Matthews really does want you to eat, drink, and be merry.

<p>Dreaming Tree Wines</p>

Dreaming Tree Wines

Dave Matthews has been making music professionally for over 30 years. And for most of that time, he’s been crafting fine wine, too. He launched the Blenheim Vineyards label back in 2000 on a 9,300-acre farm he purchased and restored with his mother and sister outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. More than a decade later, he partnered with celebrated Sonoma vintners to form Dreaming Tree Wines. Today, that brand relaunches its portfolio with updated packaging and a renewed focus on sustainability.

It’s not as if Matthews, a noted environmentalist, wasn’t already committed to the cause. To date, sales of his wine have enabled the planting of some 365,000 trees while simultaneously raising more than $2 million for charity in an ongoing collaboration with The Nature Conservancy. But now he’s leveraging the ecological expertise of winemaker Grayson Stewart to create an even more intentional product, from grape to glass.

“The idea was always to produce something that was delicious, affordable, and environmentally sound, and I always wanted to evolve that," Matthews shares with Food & Wine. “In the partnership with Grayson, the way that he thinks about every part of the process makes me feel like I’m a part of something really good and so I’m excited about this most recent evolution. In my humble opinion, he’s made some insane wine with me standing beside him, not looking over his shoulder.”

Related: 19 of the Best Sustainably Farmed Wines to Drink Now

Dreaming Tree’s flagship expressions include Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. All those grape varieties are grown and vinified in California, utilizing maximum water efficiency and meticulous soil management while bolstering habitats for pollinators and beneficial insects. Beyond the glass, sustainable efforts are amplified through novel packaging and design. This includes “naked” corks (sans enclosures), post-consumer recycled labels, and lightweight glass — one-third lighter in weight than the average premium wine bottle.

<p>Dreaming Tree Wines</p>

Dreaming Tree Wines

“It’s very difficult to grow wine in Virginia without poisoning things,” Matthews adds. “But in California, with effort and focus, you can produce wine sustainably without having to compromise quality at all.”

The proof is in the pour. The latest vintage of Dreaming Tree’s Cab Sauv strikes a laudable balance between tannic oak and blackberry jam. It retails for just $17 a bottle. Accessible pricing was a big part of the equation for both Matthews and his winemaker.

“As a native Californian and winemaker, I’ve always been passionate about grape growing in the California region and the ability to create wines that can be enjoyed by everyone,” says Stewart.

For his part, Matthews enjoys veto power over every drop of juice that ultimately comes off the press. However, his deference to Stewart precludes him from ever exercising it. Or perhaps it’s just his natural timidity as an artist.

“I always think I go too far, at least in songwriting,” he says. “I’m always like, ‘Damnit, I know at some point things were right.’ Fortunately for me, it’s not as obvious in music as it is in making wine. I always feel like I’m unqualified; somehow, I just ended up in the room. That’s how I feel in my band, I don’t know what the hell is happening, but somebody said, ‘Okay, this is yours, go ahead.’”

<p>Dreaming Tree Wines</p>

Dreaming Tree Wines

Despite his disarming modesty, Matthews really does boast viticulture in his veins. He grew up partly in South Africa, where he developed a palate for dry Rieslings and Sauvignon Blancs. His brother was a professional vintner, and his mom — an English native — would invariably break out sherry upon even the first glance of hardships looming along the horizon. As an adult, he’s been compiling cellar treasures for decades.

“I have a couple of bottles of Brunello Di Montalcino from the year my daughters were born,” he says of his most prized liquid possessions, which he procured on a trip to Northern Italy more than 20 years ago. “Those are the ones I’m most excited to open because I want to share it with them.”

With the Dave Matthews Band, he’s been sharing grooves with fans since 1991. The group is renowned for keeping its setlists fresh each night, performing more than 2,200 songs in front of live audiences throughout the years. Matthews's process for reexamining special vintages of vino is not unlike his process for busting out rare tunes.

“It’s a good analogy,” he says. “But it’s more like I’m walking through somebody else’s cellar because my brain is so addled, and I see something down there — ‘Oh my God, look at that, we should totally do that one!’ It’s like it’s not even my own. I forget the songs that I’ve written. I’m 57 years old now, though, so I should just do whatever the hell I want. It does feel like if I had to play the same set every night — which a lot of bands do — it would be more like drinking a Pepsi than picking out a fine wine."

“I’m at my mom’s house right now, and we drank a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc at lunch which is maybe why I’m a little loose in the mouth,” he adds. “Lord, it may have been more than one bottle.”

He really does have so much to say. But this is clearly no song and dance: Matthews is serious about wine and serious about sustainability. Dreaming Tree is simply his way of hitting both notes at once.

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