Matt Parish has decades of wine business experience as a senior winemaker at Constellation, Treasury, and Naked Wines USA, but in my eyes, it is his kindness that makes him one of my favorite wine industry mentors.
On Friday, March 13, 2020, I was furloughed from the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, Napa Valley, due to the COVID-19 shutdown. I was the professional wine tutor for students in the master’s degree in wine management, bachelor’s degree concentration in wine, beverage, and hospitality and the associate culinary degree programs. It was a wonderful part-time role that financially supported my freelance writing and allowed me to assist students in broadening their wine education. It was perfect for me, a longtime college professor in my previous career.
During the furlough, I continued my freelance writing, including a biography for a winemaker who subsequently referred me to his friend, winemaker Matt Parish. Matt was seeking writing assistance, so I sent him my résumé. He replied, “You are overqualified for what I need, which is ghostwriting, editing tasting notes, creating social media posts, and co-hosting Zoom tastings.” I replied I was still interested. We scheduled a phone interview for May 18. That same day, the Culinary Institute of America called to permanently eliminate my position.
When Matt called, I told him what happened. He said, “I don’t want you to make a decision today to assist me. Take a few days and let me know.”
A couple of days later, I emailed him to confirm my interest. He interviewed me via Zoom, and we agreed to work together. Although I did not begin until a couple of weeks later, the first date of my initial paycheck was May 18. At that moment, I realized how compassionate he is.
Matt began making his namesake brand for Naked Wines USA in 2012 when he was the director of winemaking. In 2016, he decided to leave company employment and become independent, but continued to make his wines exclusively for Naked Wines because he liked the business model. He could focus on winemaking and let Naked Wines manage sales and marketing. He also founded his own winemaking consultancy, Vinture.
In 2017, Matt became the winemaker at Lula Cellars in Anderson Valley, whose primary focus is Pinot Noir. He joined Napa’s Azur Associates as their managing director of winemaking and production in early 2020.
Matt is often referred to as the “gold standard” at Naked Wines USA, where he makes a portfolio of reds, rosés, and two Chardonnays from regions like Anderson Valley, Carneros, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Napa Valley, and Petaluma Gap – as well as wines from France, Spain, and Portugal.
Matt describes his wines as “pure pleasure.” He enjoys making wines from hidden gem regions like Contra Costa, El Dorado, and Spain’s Montsant. Matt is hands-on during every step of the winemaking process, from making the rounds to his vineyard sources to bottling.
Most importantly, Matt is committed to his family – his wife Samantha (Sam), their two children, and their family pets – and intentionally builds quality time with them into his busy schedule. He is also an excellent cook, often sharing his evening meals via social media.
As a result of working with Matt between 2020 and 2022, Naked Wines USA took notice of my writing and hired me as the wine and winemaker copywriter in March 2022.
While my work with Matt has changed, my admiration and respect for him is unwavering. This is my written toast to him – the wine industry mentor who saved me when I needed it the most – and provided an unexpected path to my current career.
Dr. Elizabeth Smith is a former college professor and wine club manager turned award-winning wine writer and wine and writing competition judge. Her day job is wine and winemaker copywriter at Naked Wines USA. Elizabeth is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International Sacramento and Sonoma Chapters, the Circle of Wine Writers and the Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association. Connect with Elizabeth at easmith.net/contact.
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