Exclusive Wine Cruise


Hosted by Matt Wengel, Winemaker for Lemelson Vineyards, Carlton OR

Graduating with honors from the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology program was just the start for Matt. After completing several harvests in Sonoma County, he journeyed to South Africa, where he swam with Great White sharks off the coast while making wine in Stellenbosch at Warwick Estate. Later he learned Spanish in the Bio-Bio Valley in Chile, while getting to know Chilean winemakers and the wonderful local culture. Matt next came home to the U.S. to work in upstate New York and Hunt County, aspiring to almost freeze to death making ice wine and delicious, crisp dry Rieslings. He then returned to California to a position at Stags Leap Winery in Napa Valley. Before moving to Oregon, he most recently worked at Clos Pegase for a few more years as associate winemaker, and made various other Sonoma County brands on the side. Matt has always wanted to come to Oregon, and is loving making beautiful wines at Lemelson Vineyards. Lemelson’s commitment to terrior driven, minimalist intervention winemaking from organically farmed estate vineyards is his dream-come- true job. When not at the winery, you’ll find Matt hiking or running in the deep green woods and verdant fields of Western Oregon, trying to catch a glimpse of the majestic Mt. Hood in the distance.

Q&A With Matt Wengel

Why do you believe you are the right wine host for this cruise? Share your credentials and passion for wine.

Over the past 13 years, my career making wine has taken me to several beautiful wine regions throughout the world. I have made wine in South Africa, Chile, New York, California and now Oregon. My passion for wine quickly evolved into a passion for travel as well. Travelling to Germany and exploring its wonderful and famed wine regions is extremely exciting. The opportunity to host seminars and tastings on the cruise sounds equally fun. A large part of my role as a winemaker is to educate wine drinkers and get them eager to enjoy the wines, so hosting wine tastings where we would get to compare German wines with some of my own wines from Oregon should be a blast!

Tell us something special about yourself that would make someone unfamiliar with you want to travel with you on this river cruise?

I am very easy going and enjoy meeting new people and doing new things. And I am certainly not a “wine snob!” I truly like to discuss wine with both experienced and inexperienced wine drinkers alike. Although wine is my true passion in life, it is hardly the only thing I like to talk about. I also really enjoy hearing about other people’s experiences and travels. Maybe I’ll even share my stories about diving with Great White sharks off the coast of Africa?

What was your “Aha Moment” when you fell in love with wine?

It wasn’t a super fancy bottle of expensive wine like many like to think. It was an introduction to winemaking course I took at the University of California, Davis. The professor of the course spoke with such adoration of wine it was intoxicating. He opened my eyes to the wine world and what it could offer if I pursued that path. I bought bottles of wine of the different varieties to see the differences and was blown away. Shortly after the course ended, I took time off from school to work as a cellar intern in Sonoma County making sparkling wine, Pinot noir and Chardonnay. During that time I quickly assimilated into the California wine culture and knew that this was my calling.

What is one thing you are most looking forward to on your river cruise?

Learning the history of the places we visit. I also look forward to experiencing the people, the culture and getting a better sense of the place. There is a lot of history in the destinations we will be visiting and, as a history nut, I am fascinated with learning more. And of course, the German wines! I am familiar with some of the local wines, but not with the stories behind them. All great wines have great stories, which can totally enhance the experience of drinking them.

What is something fun/unique you wish to share—perhaps something nobody knows until now?

No smoke and mirrors here; I am a nerd at heart and I do not use the term in a derogatory sense but rather as a badge of honor. I love computers, science fiction, history and all things technological. People are usually caught off guard when our wine discussion turns to Star Wars in the blink of an eye! What is one of the most interesting places you have traveled to and why?

What is one of the most interesting places you have traveled to and why?

I lived in Chile for 6 months working at a winery about 5 hours south of Santiago. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I was 22 years old or so at the time coming from a life of cable TV, high speed Internet and access to all the common comforts we enjoy in the United States. I ended up in an area where most all people didn’t own cars (they rode horses to work in some cases), there was no TV, very limited Internet access and next to no spoken English. I found that living without those “common comforts” was entirely refreshing. Real people and not TV became the focus. I made great friends and we shared amazing memories during that time. I learned that there is far more to this world then spending hours on Facebook. I also learned great proficiency in Spanish, a skill I use and treasure to this day. Being able to hold conversations with great people from an entirely different culture is one of my most prized memories.

If you were stranded on a desert island, and could only have one bottle of wine, what would it be and why?

If I knew that help was on its way, I would be inclined to say a bottle of 1999 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti - La Tâche Grand Cru. It’s a bottle I could never afford and would love to enjoy such a classic wine near its peak. If it was more of a bleak, Tom Hanks in “Cast Away” scenario I think I would want a bottle that took me back to better times. A bottle of Iron Horse 2007 Brut Rose would do the trick. Iron Horse is where I found my passion for Pinot noir while working there and I could think of no better bottle in my hour of need!


Immerse yourself in the many flavors of Europe on one of AmaWaterways unique Wine Cruises, which let you add a unique, epicurean dimension to one of our European itineraries. Like our standard river cruises, guests have the opportunity to join tours that highlight the famous sights in each port of call. These special itineraries, however, offer guests a perfect blend of wine-related experiences and excursions in grand capitals and charming towns. You’ll taste local cuisine, discover how wine is made and, of course, partake in tastings — all at no additional cost. Whether you have a seasoned appreciation for fine wine, or simply indulge in a sip here and there, this is a wonderful way to uncork the traditions of the local culture and learn about the region you’re visiting.

About the Wine Region – The Rhine

The Rhine along with its main tributaries—the Moselle and Main—have created a wine connoisseur’s paradise, which can be discovered on our Europe’s Rivers & Castles, Enchanting Rhine, Captivating Rhine and Rhine & Moselle Splendors itineraries.

The Upper Middle Rhine’s slate soil combined with a semi-continental climate have proven to be a recipe for wine-growing success for the Rheingau vineyards, yielding high-quality white wine varieties, and some fine reds.


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