What We Say 2008 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
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Mission Codename: The Hills of SB
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Martin Ray Winery, and procure their newest Santa Barbara Pinot Noir, a wine reputed to be a perfect example of Pinot from the region. If the wine is as good as reported, procure an ample cache for our Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Martin Ray Winery
Wine Subject: 2008 Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County
Winemaker: Bill Batchelor
Santa Barbara County’s Pinot Noir may have become famous by the movie Sideways, but the tradition of wine growing and winemaking dates back to the Spanish missionaries but after prohibition many of the vines disappeared. In the early 1970s vines began to reappear and in just a few years, however unlikely, the region began to develop a reputation for producing exceptional Bugundian varietals rivaling Oregon and New Zealand in the production of exceptional Pinot Noir.
Santa Barbara County’s climate is influenced and tempered by the Pacific Ocean. The county’s soils of sand and clay loam suits Pinot Noir exceptionally well.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Perfectly ruby in color, the wine is perfectly clear through its slightly darker heart. When swirled, the wine settles quickly, leaving behind skinny legs that begin high up on the glass, and then steak downward.
Smell – A big rush of potent cherry leaps from the glass on first sniff. This is soon accompanied by blackberry, vanilla and soft brown spice. After some swirling, aromas of soft blueberry and a hint of black pepper emerge.
Feel – Soft on the initial attack, then soft tannins add an easy dryness and a softly dark mineral feel.
Taste – Delicious Bing cherry takes the lead here, too. Flavors of strawberry, young blackberry, fresh picked blueberry and soft earth follow closely. At the end, subtle flavors of spice, dried fall leaves and dark minerals ease their way in.
Finish – Long and flavor-filled, with cherry that persists right to the end. As the wine dries the palate, soft spice and dark minerals gradually replace the fruit.
Conclusion – This is a delicious, cherry-filled, fruit-forward Pinot Noir that really took us by surprise! We have always loved Martin Ray wines, but had become accustomed to their Napa and Sonoma County offerings. When we learned of this Santa Barbara Pinot Noir we were keenly interested, and when we tasted it, we were hooked. This is a lively wine that is drinking beautifully now, and we believe that it will continue to progress for some time to come. We experimented with decanting, and found that the wine really softened and became more elegant with an hour in our favorite wide-bottom decanter. We paired our review bottles with homemade pizzas with exotic fresh toppings. The wine was the perfect compliment to every slice!
Mission Report:WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Bill Batchelor
WINE EDUCATION: No formal winemaking education. Degree in Anthropology. Learned most of what he knows by having excellent opportunities in wineries that make all types of wines at different price points.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Bill began his career in the wine industry in 1996 working in the cellar at a small Dry Creek Valley winery specializing in Rhone and Italian varietals.
Bill soon moved on to the Russian River Valley to work for a large custom-winemaking facility. Initially hired to oversee a hard apple cider program, Bill quickly learned the fundamentals of commercial wine production – fermentation, aging, fining, blending and bottling – in a fast-paced, high-volume environment. Over the next five years Bill managed winemaking programs for a diverse portfolio of wineries.
In 2001, Bill concentrated his efforts on managing wine production for the rapidly growing Blackstone brand, eventually relocating to Sonoma Valley to oversee their new reserve micro-winery.
In July 2003, Bill joined Courtney Benham at his new Russian River Valley winery and has since worked to develop the Martin Ray and Angeline family of wines. Today, Bill and his team are dedicated to producing high quality, distinctive wines sourced only from premium
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Work with the vineyards to grow the best possible fruit. If you begin with a great foundation, the rest of the winemaking should be relatively simple.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”Strive to constantly improve and refine your work.”
AGENT RED: Greetings, Bill Batchelor. We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
BILL BATCHELOR: You’re welcome. I am happy to be able to share some insight into what we are all about at Martin Ray.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
BILL: The reality is I was at a time in my life when I needed a proper, steady job. I managed to get a seasonal cellar position at a small Dry Creek Valley winery. On my third or fourth day there I was tasked with filling all their empty barrels with water in preparation for harvest. Pretty mindless work. So I found a huge stack of wine trade magazines and enology books in the winemaker’s office. I spend two days up there in the fixed barrel racks reading everything I could, completely fascinated. When it was all done I realized this industry had a lot of potential.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
BILL: A local winemaking consultant named Kerry Damskey has taught me a lot about how to make wines in different styles.
RED: We are very familiar with Kerry Damskey’s fine work. Tell me, who do you make wine for?
BILL: I make wines for people that enjoy drinking wine. I strive to deliver something they will enjoy and remember. You can’t please everyone all the time, but that is the goal, and I like to over-deliver on flavor and value. The trick is to realize there are different types of consumers at different price points with varying palettes and expectations, and I enjoy crafting wines for every type of wine drinker.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
BILL: Our 2008 Martin Ray Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir is sourced primarily from a vineyard in the Los Alamos area. It’s a blend of Pommard, 667 and 777 clones, destemmed into small open-top stainless tanks. Juice is cold-soaked for 72 hours, inoculated then fermented for approximately 7 days with gentle punches. Our goal is to allow the wine to develop its own depth and distinctive characteristics with minimal intervention. After pressing it was aged sur-lies for 12 months in French oak barrels which contributes to a rounder, creamier texture to the wine. The 2008 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir has a delicate reddish purple hue and rich, fruit-driven aromas of blackberry pie, sweet earth and cloves. The palate is bursting with red fruit and pleasant, soft tannins. Well-integrated flavors of blackberry, strawberry and vanilla lead to a nicely textured, full finish.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
BILL: Maybe some grilled pork loin and some sort of berry reduction sauce!
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Los Alamos District, in Santa Barbara County, so special?
BILL: The Los Alamos district lies in a cool coastal area of Santa Barbara County. The east-west running valley opens up to the Pacific Ocean, allowing the inland flow of fog and ocean breezes, making this region one of the coolest viticultural areas in California, with a long, steady growing season. Pinot Noir grapes from this region have intense, concentrated berry flavors and rich colors due to the many microclimates of the valley.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
BILL: Harvest is right around the corner! We are expecting our first batch of grapes this Tuesday, 9/7. Since harvest is late this year, we expect a quick & compact season. So, at the moment we are winding down our bottling and gearing up for the harvest season.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
BILL: Most are meant to be enjoyed at any time and with friends, dinner or whatever. I advise people not to over-think wine – just drink and enjoy. We do make several Cabs (including the one you are featuring today) which could be laid down for a few years, but in general, our wines are ready to drink upon release. There are 1000s of wines available these days, so if you don’t like one, try another. Exploration is half the fun.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
BILL: Please enjoy our 2008 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir and come pay our tasting room a visit! Thanks.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The approximate location of the Martin Ray Winery in Santa Rosa can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Our goal is to allow the wine to develop its own depth and distinctive characteristics. Three days “cold soaked”, fermented at moderate temperatures and twelve months of aging in French oak barrels develops a rounder, creamier texture in the wine. The 2008 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir has a pretty reddish purple hue and rich, fruit-driven aromas of blackberry pie, sweet earth and cloves. The palate is bursting with red fruit and pleasant, soft tannins. Well-integrated flavors of blackberry, strawberry and vanilla lead to a nicely textured, full finish.
The Vineyards: The Martin Ray 2008 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir is a striking blend of grapes grown in the cool coastal area of the Santa Maria Valley and the Los Alamos appellations. The east-west running valley opens up to the Pacific Ocean, allowing the inland flow of fog and ocean breezes, making this region one of the coolest viticultural areas in California, with a long, steady growing season. Pinot Noir grapes from this region have intense berry flavors and rich colors due to the many microclimates of the valley.
Vintage Notes: The 2008 harvest started off a bit challenging, but produced beautiful fruit all the same. The year began with unexpected late frost, heat spikes and unseasonable rain. However, the end of spring and all through summer provided idyllic conditions that remained around 80 degrees with dry weather and few heat spikes. Lower yields allowed intense, superb fruit to develop.
Food & Wine Pairing: Try this Pinot Noir paired with poached salmon in cream sauce, pork with mushrooms or roasted Cornish game hen.
About Martin Family Vineyards:
Courtney Benham acquired the historic Martini & Prati winery in July 2003, which is now Martin Ray Winery and the home of our Tasting Room. The Tasting Room structure, dating back to the 1900’s, used to serve as a stable and bunkhouse where Italian immigrants stayed during harvest and crush. The winery also houses a 1 million gallon production facility.
Established in 1881 as the Twin Fir Winery, the historic site is distinguished as the oldest winery in continuous operation in Sonoma County and one of the oldest wineries in California. The winery was able to stay in operation during prohibition by selling sacramental wines by train to Rabbis through a winery in New York. Originally known as Martini & Prati, which was established in 1902, the winery was run by five generations of the Martini family.
Thirty 11,000 gallon old-growth redwood tanks dating back to 1904 are still used at the winery and can be viewed during our winery tour. Much of the winery storage areas have been converted to barrel rooms where we store the majority of our wine. We primarily use French oak barrels due to its superb quality and oak accents that give the wines vanilla, spice and often herbaceous aromas and flavor. We use most of our barrels for 5 to 6 years, depending upon the percentages of new, neutral and old wood we want to use on a particular wine.
Beginning a new era for Martin Ray Winery at this historic site in the Russian River Valley has given us the opportunity to create a home for the Martin Ray and Angeline wines in a very unique and inviting setting. With our large production facility, prime location and the traditional, antique charm of the winery we have all the elements we need to provide us with growth and success. Visit us soon to experience Martin Ray Winery first-hand!
Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir
Release Date: June 2010
Brix at Harvest: 24.7
Total Acidity: 0.51%