While the east coast has been shivering under a blanket of snow, over here in California it's been an early spring time. We had several gloriously sunny days last week - then the weekend came and with it the rain. Hardly ideal conditions to visit a vineyard, but some of the wineries of Santa Clara Valley are only open one weekend a month.
Martin Ranch is located near the end of Redwood Retreat Road. The ranch and its estate vineyard sit astride the 600' contour which normally marks the border between the Santa Cruz Mountains and Santa Clara Valley AVAs, but when the application was drawn up it specifically included the Redwood Retreat area, along with the noted Bates Ranch just a few hundred yards away.
The estate vineyards were first planted by Dan and Thérèse Martin in 1993. Most of the early crops were sold to Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard under the name "Harvest Moon", but the Martins kept back a small amount. Then in 2002 they began producing wine commercially and swiftly grew to around 3500 cases, with additional fruit being purchased from some local Santa Clara Valley vineyards.
Though the Martins work together they maintain two distinct labels aiming to reflect their individual personalities; JD Hurley (named after Dan's favorite uncle) and Thérèse Vineyards.
Weather permitting, the winery is an ideal family destination; there's a play area at the back and ample picnic space. They offer a generous 35% discount on any wines purchased for immediate consumption.
The tasting fee is $10 for 6 wines. There was also a flight of 2oz pours of three other wines for $8. On this occasion Dan was also offering barrel tasting of three forthcoming wine club releases.
2008 JD Hurley Chardonnay, Santa Clara Valley
The last time I tried this wine I got a distinctly cider-y (as in "hard cider") quality to it, that I wasn't keen on. This time I didn't get that at all. Instead the nose shows crisp lemon and vanilla. It's tart and lightweight, with flavours of lemon curd and green apple, and not too oaky. 88
2006 JD Hurley Merlot, Santa Clara Valley
Sweet fruity nose; blueberry and smoke. Lots of rich black fruit and plums. 89
2005 JD Hurley Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Toasty oak and blackberry nose. Initially dry and tannic; a little thin with some black fruit and an astringent finish. 85
2006 Thérèse Vineyards Sangiovese, Santa Clara Valley
Bright redcurrants on the nose. Lovely rich fruit, good structure, tannins showing on the finish. Very nice. 91
2007 Thérèse Vineyards Syrah, Lester Family Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
Very floral nose, with raspberry and redcurrant notes. Tight and tart with flavours of blueberry and chocolate. Good acidity and a medium length finish. Seems very young; should come together with time. 88+
2005 Thérèse Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Dos Rios Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley
The Dos Rios Vineyard is located at the entrance to Redwood Retreat Road, just off Watsonville Road. It's less than 4 miles from the winery, but on the other side of the AVA boundary.
Light berry nose. Lovely rich fruit; blackcurrant and blackberry. Smooth, with fine tannins and a long finish. 92
2006 Thérèse Vineyards Petite Sirah, Madeline Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley
The Madeline Vineyard is located off Day Road.
Nice nose - floral with some black fruit. Dry blackberry flavours, quite a lot of tannin and acidity. However there was a slightly medicinal note that I found offputting. 86
Then three barrel samples:
2009 "Cabbiolo" Rose
This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo. The Cabernet is estate fruit - two rows that always ripen later than the rest and this year didn't quite achieved full maturity. The Nebbiolo came from another vineyard and had large berries with a low skin-to-juice ratio. Some juice was taken after the first day (a method known in France as saignée) and blended to make this wine.
Light pink colour. Floral, with strawberry and earth notes. Still slightly effervescent from the malolactic fermentation; light, sweet fruit (though bone dry) with mineral notes. Fairly simple but pleasant nontheless - a nice summer wine. 85-87
2008 Grenache, Santa Clara Valley
From a new, as yet un-named vineyard at the junction of Sunnyside and Watsonville Roads. This is the first vintage from these vines. The nose was fairly faint, which was not helped by being cold, but the flavours were amazingly rich; lots of redcurrant fruit and a long finish. Very impressive for a first vintage; one to watch. 92-94
I confess that between the Grenache and my kids distracting me this one didn't get much attention. I failed to note the AVA and simply wrote that it had a deep colour, a rich, plummy nose and was fairly light and dry. 88-90