6675 Redwood Retreat Rd., Gilroy, CA (link to map)
Like many Gilroy-area wineries, Martin Ranch Winery is only open one weekend each month. Area residents had understandable concerns about potential congestion on Redwood Retreat Road. The downside is that it requires planning to visit for a tasting; the upside, if Saturday’s visit is any indication, is that every tasting weekend is like a big fiesta.
Winemakers Dan and Thérèse Martin craft truly exceptional wines from both the Santa Clara Valley and Santa Cruz Mountains appellations. They’re also warm and friendly, each very happy to talk to anyone that’s interested about their craft. We learned more about wine and winemaking from Dan in a half-hour of conversation than we have from several wine books. It’s no wonder they have such avid fans flocking to their winery.
Dan and Thérèse, who are married, each make their own wines for Martin Ranch Winery; tasting room staffer Matt joked that the couple have found that the key to a successful marriage is to each make wines that represent their individual styles. As a result, even the pickiest oenophile can find something to like. We’re wine fans rather than wine snobs, so we found a lot to love.
Unique Winery Offerings
In addition to their repertoire of delicious wines that Martin Ranch Winery normally sells, the winery also offers a Bottle-Your-Own day several times per year. The video below tells the story:
This event is entirely hands-on; wine fans go to the winery, put the wine into bottles, cork it, seal it and label it. Guests can even apply their own custom labels. The cost is $100/case, which breaks down to a little over $8 per bottle. We’ve tasted the wine, and it’s a great daily drinker, something I’d pay twice the price for. Alas, we’ll be out of town on February 13 and 14, when the next event is, but we’ve gotten a tip that there may be another over Memorial Day weekend.
As part of the Santa Cruz Mountain Wineries Passport Day celebration, Martin Ranch had nine wines available for tasting, as well as cask tastings of the above-mentioned bottle-your-own. Mike and I consulted our livers and decided we’d split the tasting.
2008 Thérèse Vineyards Grenache (Santa Clara Valley): Huzzah! With this tasting, we chalked up our third appellation. And what a way to do it! Winery staffer Kristina described the taste as “strawberry cream vanilla.” It’s an apt description, if the strawberries you have in mind are tart, new strawberries rather than super-ripe, sweet ones. This wine is very drinkable on its own, and would also go well with food.
’07 J.D. Hurley 2007 Merlot (Santa Clara Valley): Drinking this was like eating a steak in a deep wine marinade. Since I’m a vegetarian, this is the closest I’m likely to get to tasting an actual steak for the foreseeable future; with a few bottles of this I certainly won’t feel deprived!
2006 JD Hurley Cabernet (Santa Cruz Mountains/Santa Clara Valley blend): This wine smelled of chocolate and caramel. On the palate, it had dark chocolate notes with a hint of blackberry and a delicate oak finish. If this description makes me sound like a wine snob, let me sum it up for you in a less snobby way: yum!
2007 Thérèse Vineyards Lester Family Syrah: This is a cold-weather syrah that was described by winery staffer Matt as having “more pepper, less fruit.” I could have smelled it all day; it had an aroma of spiced caramel. When I commented on the scent, Matt said, “Thérèse has a very fine sense of smell,” and added that she focuses on the aromatic elements of the wine as much of the flavor. She clearly doesn’t lack focus on flavor, however; the taste lived up to the scent.
2007 Thérèse Vineyards Zinfandel (Amador County): This wine smelled of chocolate and prune juice. It had a rich zinfandel flavor, but with a surprising citrus hit that I don’t normally associate with zinfandel.
2007 Thérèse Vineyards Estate Cabernet Franc (Santa Cruz Mountains): Tom described this one as having a “perfumey kind of taste.” It was delicate, but without seeming thin, graceful like a ballet dancer pirouetting across the tongue rather than a football linebacker of a Cabernet Franc barrelling across the palate. Mike commented on tasting that “good balance seems to be the theme of the day.”
2007 J.D. Hurley Cabernet Sauvignon: Have you ever had one of those chocolates that’s covered by those little white balls of sugary candy? This smelled like that, and there was a hint of it in the flavor as well. It was sweeter and lighter than I’d expect in a cab, but very drinkable.
Petite Syrah: Alas, I got neither the vintage nor the winemaker on this one. I can say, however, that if there were ever a wine that would remind one of a really good cup of hot chocolate, this is it. It might go well with dark chocolate, in fact.
Behind the Curtain: Sangiovese Barrel Tasting
The barrel room at Martin Ranch Winery.
Tom grabbed our elbow and tugged us into the barrel room. Dan was going to give us a barrel taste of his new Sangiovese! While it may need a little more time in the barrel, it was raisin-y and delicious. We also learned a great deal from Dan about winemaking, which will hopefully be in a future post.