Meet the Vintners: Martin Ranch Winery

By | March 20, 2018
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In anticipation of this year’s Silicon Valley Wine Auction, ESV sought out some of the participating vintners to learn about them, their wines and involvement this year’s auction. Here, we caught up with Martin Ranch Winery owner and winemaker Thérèse Martin. –Stacy Briscoe

ESV: You and Dan both have Santa Cruz “roots” and family backgrounds in agriculture. What was it that turned you both on to the wine industry in particular? Was your goal always to make wine or to simply grow and sell grapes?

TM: My husband, Dan, and I were in the grocery business in the 1980s and ’90s. At that time, the wine industry was transitioning from jug wine consumption to specialized varietals packaged in 750-milliliter bottles. We decided to become educated on the local wine industry, as we wanted to offer a strong representation of local, specialized wines in our grocery stores. Then in 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake struck and displaced one of our three markets, which helped us quickly realize the need to diversify. With Dan’s agricultural education and our shared agricultural heritage, he started taking courses at UC Davis. In 1993, we planted vineyards on our home property in the Santa Cruz Mountains, with the intent of just making wine as a hobby. Our goal was to self-educate on what we could do in the vineyard so our buyers could make the best wine from our fruit.

ESV: What would you say is special about your piece of the Santa Cruz Mountains where you grow your estate wine grapes? How does this particular climate/terroir express itself in your wines? 

TM: Our location in the Santa Cruz Mountains is so unique. Nestled in the southeastern tip of the appellation, we have enough heat to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon while maintaining the acidity of the fruit with our marine influence. Because of that, our wines show richness and depth without heaviness, while the bright acidity allows for aging and a variety of food pairing options.

ESV: It seems you and Dan are very environmentally conscious. Tell us a little bit about how you implement that into your winery and winemaking process.

TM: Thanks to our carefully designed wine production building, we are able to naturally maintain the climate in the barrel room and keep temperatures between 58° and 62° Fahrenheit year-round. We compost our organic by-products and put back all we can into the vineyard and landscaping. Wastewater is collected to irrigate our landscaping, and the pomace (the pulpy residue remaining after fruit has been crushed to extract its juice) is composted for our organic gardens. Dan and I are also working to increase sustainability in the vineyard, and we are currently transitioning to be 100% organically farmed.

ESV: You say that traditional winemaking techniques are what’s allowed your wines to see such notable success in competitions and with critics. Please tell us about those winemaking techniques and what might distinguish them from other modern Santa Cruz vintners?

TM: We utilize whole berry, whole cluster fermentation and the type of press we use allows for softer extraction. Reducing our SO2 usage along with disciplined cellar procedures and extended barrel aging distinguish our practices, as well. In general, wines age 30–36 months, depending on the varietal, however, our wines go as long as 48 months. 

ESV: Which wines will you be presenting at the Silicon Valley Wine Auction?

TM: I will be pouring wines from our Wine Club Exclusive Soulmate label, as well as my own label, Thérèse Vineyards. Dan and I collaborated on our Soulmate label, marrying our distinctive winemaking styles. The Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah are all grown at the Lester Family Vineyard in Corralitos, and the Cabernet Sauvignon is from our estate vineyards, both of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA.

Soulmate 2015 Chardonnay
Santa Cruz Mountains, Lester Family Vineyard
This wine pairs well with all shellfish. The richness of the wine along with the balance of the acidity make a perfect complement.

Soulmate 2013 Pinot Noir
Santa Cruz Mountains, Lester Family Vineyard
A really good mushroom risotto gives this beautiful wine a chance to shine, as the mushrooms will bring out the earthiness of the Pinot Noir.

Soulmate 2013 Syrah
Santa Cruz Mountains, Lester Family Vineyard
The perfect pairing for this wine is lamb shank osso bucco. Use fresh, canned tomatoes and make a bouquet garni of rosemary and sage to set on top of the stew as it braises.

Thérèse Vineyards 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Signature Selection 
This wine shines with a beautiful Porterhouse steak. It also will pair beautifully with an Ayocote Negro bean stew with a hearty mushroom and tomato stock. Ayocote Negro beans can be found at 

Join in for the Grand Tasting at the Silicon Valley Wine Auction! For tickets and information, visit





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