A visit to Martin Ranch is nothing short of an adventure. The address alone encapsulates the location – Redwood Retreat Road. It’s actually a very easy drive going over Hecker Pass and making a left on Watsonville Road—but I followed my Mapquest and drove down a long dirt road from Summit Road before I got to my destination. But all is right with the world when you get there. Martin Ranch is beautiful and the view is breathtaking. And the occasion was Martin Ranch’s annual wine club members’ barbecue.
Set high on a ridge, the winery is surrounded by gorgeous vineyards— particularly stunning at the end of summer/early fall when the plump grapes are ripe and close to being harvested.
Scores of people were already there and nearly every table was filled. But the wine was flowing – and lots of it. I piled up my plate with barbecue – and one for my husband, as he was arriving later. He had also taken the circuitous route and driven down the dirt road.
Although I tasted quite a few wines that late afternoon, I really liked a fruity Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from the J.D. Hurley vineyard in the foothills of the Santa Lucia mountain range. Bright, crisp and sparkly with notes of citrus—it’s just lovely for the warm nights of early fall. If I had a plate of mussels, this would be the perfect wine to pair with them. It usually sells for around $20 a bottle, but it’s on sale now for $12—a steal for this delicious vino.
Winemaker Dan Martin is all smiles as he greets his guests. His wife, Therese, is busy serving barbecue as the line snakes around the tasting room. Later as the music strikes up and the sun’s going down, one could not wish for a better setting on an unusually warm evening.
Martin Ranch won a goodly number of medals in the recent Santa Cruz Mountains 2009 Commercial Wine Competition – getting a gold medal (91 points) for their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon; gold for their 2006 Merlot (90 points); silver for their 2006 Syrah (89 points); silver for their 2003 Nebbiolo (89 points); silver for their 2005 Sangiovese (89 points); silver for their 2006 Cabernet Franc (86 points); silver for their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (Santa Cruz Mountains, 86 points); silver for their 2007 Pinot Noir (86 points); silver for their 2006 Zinfandel (86 points); silver for their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (Santa Cruz Mountains Estate, 85 points); and a bronze for their 2006 Syrah (83 points). I am citing all the medals won so that you can also see the range of wines made at Martin Ranch.
The winery is not only very successful but also, judging from the number of people attending the barbecue, hugely popular.
Martin Ranch Winery, 6675 Redwood Retreat Road, Gilroy. Tel: (408) 842-9197. martinranchwinery.com. Open the third weekend of each month, for the Passport program, Vintners’ Festival and by appointment.