Amanda Wittstrom Higgins & Matt Kettmann at the inaugural Wine Speak event. 

Amanda Wittstrom Higgins & Matt Kettmann at the inaugural Wine Speak event. 


Matt Kettmann is a California native with deep roots in the Golden State, and a longtime journalist who has been with the Santa Barbara Independent since 1999. He is also a family man and adventurer. In 2014, he was tapped by Wine Enthusiast magazine to become a contributing editor and reviewer with a focus on California’s Central Coast. His work for Wine Enthusiast is informed by his rich personal knowledge of the region


We recently caught up with Matt to learn more about his journey—and to get his take on Wine Speak Paso Robles:

How did you transition into the Wine Enthusiast reviewer position?

After years of covering wine for the Santa Barbara Independent as well as Wine Spectator, New York Times and other publications, the magazine reached out to me in 2014. Over dinner, I told them I was a journalist and didn't have any interest in being a critic, but two weeks later, they asked me to review the Central Coast. Recognizing the unique opportunity that this would give me to further explore the region where my family has lived for five-plus generations, I took the gig!

What do you love most about living and working on the Central Coast?

Being situated between the beach and mountains with the best climate on the planet is about as good as it gets. Throw in an increasingly diverse and strong food and cultural scene, and there's no place I'd rather be.

How do you balance your busy schedule and your time with family?

I try as much as possible to not work from 5:30 p.m. onward, though sometimes I do start working at 5 a.m. I also plan my schedule way in advance so my wife, who also works full-time, and I can prepare childcare options many weeks, if not months, in advance.

What has been your biggest inspiration?

I find continual inspiration from the history and landscapes of California, where both sides of my family have resided since the 1850s, possibly earlier. I feel there is a deep human connection to the land, and that the land imbues a sense of terroir in people as well. 

What piece of advice are you glad that you DIDN’T listen to?

Don't go into the wartorn zone of Nagorno-Karabakh. If I hadn't made that trip in 2004, I doubt I'd be writing primarily about wine. (Though to be honest, I am not sure anyone ever told me not to go. They may have asked why, but I have been blessed to have parents, a wife, and mentors who support me wholeheartedly.) 

What do you think that the wine business needs more of?

Women and diversity. I'm a white male, but we get boring when we fill the room. 

You attended Wine Speak Paso last year, what was a highlight for you?

Hearing experts from around the world discuss their wines in an honest, open format was great, but so was the BYOB party.