In 2015, after more than 30 years of working in law enforcement, John Matthews ('83, '87 M.B.A.) decided to put a few grapes in the ground in Ovilla. When 500 vines showed up on his doorstep a few months later ready to be planted, his wife wasn't surprised. Matthews never does anything small.
Within four years, he would open Cassaro Winery and Vineyard and turn some of his 2,000 grapevines into North Texas Tempranillo, the official wine of the UNT Alumni Association. At first, though, planting a vineyard with the help of family and friends was just a way to grow a little joy.
"I've seen the dark side of humanity, but when you come to the winery, people are smiling," says Matthews, an expert on serial killers and mass shootings. "It's a wonderful feeling to see people happy. And when they're enjoying something you made, it's even better."
Matthews is passionate about blending Texas wines with the tradition of his Italian heritage. He's equally enthusiastic about supporting the school that led him to a career full of variety -- and a life that energizes him.
"It may sound cliche, but I still use what I learned at the university every day," he says. "There are people throughout my life at North Texas that really made a difference."
During his time at UNT, Matthews was involved with leadership groups like the Student Government Association and NT40, and he worked side-by-side with top university leaders on campus advocacy efforts. He earned a bachelor's degree and an M.B.A. before becoming a Dallas police officer. After leaving the department, he continued to hone his public safety career, developing federal law enforcement initiatives, appearing as a regular CNN and Fox News analyst, and serving as a White House advisor. Now he owns and operates Cassaro.
"My time at North Texas helped me learn that if you can excel in one area, you can excel in multiple areas," he says. "I'm not in one plane or on one track, but I think things build on each other."
Matthews credits some of his academic and career success to the scholarships he received as a UNT student, and he is paying it forward with his North Texas Tempranillo. It was his idea to create an official wine for the UNT Alumni Association and donate a portion of all proceeds to student scholarships and other alumni initiatives.
Selecting Tempranillo for UNT was an easy choice -- the wine is made from 100% Texas High Plains grapes and pairs well with Texas favorites like barbecue and fajitas. For Matthews, the North Texas Tempranillo is a way to honor his alma mater and help others do the same.
"People want to keep a piece of UNT close to them," he says. "That's a neat thing to see."
He's happy to hear that alumni and friends are adding North Texas Tempranillo bottles to memorabilia collections and displaying them on mantles and shelves -- as long as they enjoy the wine first and save the empty bottle. Primarily, though, he's pleased to be supporting UNT Alumni Association outreach and scholarships.
"There are huge donors out there doing amazing things," Matthews says. "If we can just contribute in a small way, it helps."