Martin Alfaro Wines

2006 Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir •Sleepy Hollow Vineyard

California: Monterey County: Santa Lucia Highlands

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Mission Codename: The wine that is neither

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Rove the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County to uncover a big but elegant Pinot Noir that stuns with its fruit and pleases in its elegance – without being brash or bossy

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Martin Alfaro

Wine Subject: 2006 Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir

Winemaker: Joseph Martin


The Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County, California, produce some of the finest Chardonnay wines in the region. Now it is its Pinot Noir that is emerging as a serious competitor for vineyard space. Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir are among the best we have tried in California. Those that know of the favbled Sleepy Hollow Vineyard know that most wines that are born there turn out to be excellent and very sought-after gems. Today’s wine is among the best Sleepy Hollow wines we have tried! Agent Red was dispatched to visit with Joe Martin, the engineer-turned-winemaker, who has earned a reputation for exceptional wines of beauty and refinement. Read Agent Red’s mission report below.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Sparkling deep ruby red with beautiful clarity and sparkling edges with tightly-space and long, thin legs

Smell – Classic aromatic Santa Lucia Highlands gunpowder, cherry, pomegranate and black currant with earth and mildly horsey black cherry undertones

Feel – Round and light right up front, then grippy and slightly tight, with a nice coolness and moderate top of mouth and center of tongue tannins

Taste – Flinty and delicious with black cherry and tart cherry, blackberry, with tart berries, smoky-oaky red apple and a hint of pepper

Finish – Long, sweet-tart and mildly drying with all over mouth flavors that tail off slowly

Conclusion – What a lovely Pinot this is! With balanced flavors, deep aromatics and an interesting mouthfeel, this is a wine that earned my immediate respect. With a little tightness that belies its youth, this wine is sure to improve with a little age. Don’t get me wrong, though; this is certainly a wine that is ready to drink now. The wines structure lends itself to food pairing but I also enjoyed this wine on its own. Note: This wine is best enjoyed after a few hours of decanting, after which it really opens up to reveal flavors and a smoothness that was not present on opening.

Mission Report:

Today’s wine, while from the famous Sleepy Hollow Vineyard in the California Central Coast sub-appelation of the Santa Lucia Highlands, is neither Sleepy nor Hollow. Rather, this is a wine that presents exciting flavors, deep aromas and and exciting feel.

With so many great Santa Lucia Highland Pinot Noir being produced, I knew that finding the finest was going to be a distinct challenge.

Never one to shy away from a difficult mission, I rounded up several bottles from different producers and then called on my local assets – and fellow Agents – to convene for a private blind tasting.

Numbered bottles, wrapped in brown paper, and lined up neatly on our tasting table, I poured the wines and the tasting began.

I introduced the wines by saying only that they were Pinot Noir – nothing else was revealed. I wanted to see if any of those present possessed a palate that was attuned enough to tell me which region or even sub-region the wines came from.

We sipped and discussed the qualities of each wine, taking notes throughout. After we had tasted through all of them, we took a break for a nice meal. An hour or so later, we revisited the line-up. As expected, some of the wines really softened, and the fruit, previously tight or even buried, really emerged.

Once this second run-through was complete, I gave each participant a score card and asked them to secretly rank each wine. For extra credit, I invited them to guess at the appellation.

As I tabulated the scores, a clear winner emerged. Wine #7, by unanimous decision, had swept the tasting. Interestingly, most at the table were able to identify the appellation, and one even guessed at the very vineyard!

And what was wine #7? You guessed it correctly, dear Operative. The 2006 Sleepy Hollow Vineyard from Martin Alfaro was our champion of the night.

Winemaker Joe Martin and co-conspirator Richard Alfaro make great wines, and they could not be nicer people! Nor could they be more experienced at the art of winemaking – particularly with making wines from grapes grown in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

If you’ve never had a Santa Lucia Highlands PN, you really owe it to yourself to try today’s great offering from our newest friends at Martin Alfaro Wines!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the world famous Santa Lucia Highlands can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

About This Wine:

This wine possesses deep ruby color, with seductive aromas of ripe black fruits, cherries and vanilla spice. It has moderate tannins, a supple texture and a long finish.

About The Vineyard:

The grapes were from the Sleepy Hollow Vineyard in the northern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA. The Santa Lucia Highlands is a raised bench of land that overlooks the Salinas Valley, due west of the town of Gonzales. It is an interesting viticultural area because of the strong winds that consistently blow in off the Monterey bay every afternoon, cooling the vineyards and preserving the natural acidity present in the fruit.

The Vintage:

Fruit set was moderate due to the natural thinning effect of late spring rains. The cool growing season was interrupted by two distinct heat waves that sent the winemakers scrambling. Our Sleepy Hollow grapes were harvested on October 6th.


The grapes were 100% de-stemmed and lightly crushed into small open-topped fermenters. The must was chilled to 55 degrees Fahrenheit and cold soaked for four to six days. According to traditional methods, punch downs were performed daily by hand. After fermentation the wine was pressed off directly into French oak barrels where it underwent malo-lactic fermentation and was aged for 11 months on the lees.

About The Winery:

Founded in 2002 by Artisinal Baker-turned-Winegrower Richard Alfaro and Winemaker Joseph Martin, Martin Alfaro Wines specializes in the production of small-lot Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from dedicated wine growers in Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito Counties.

About The Winemaker:

Joseph Martin – After graduation from the U.C. Davis department of Viticulture and Enology with a BS degree in Fermentation Science in 1985, Joseph Martin embarked on a journey to discover his place in the world of wine. Being a 23 year old recent university graduate who was perhaps overly schooled in the theoretical and not that well versed in the practical; he took a position with Nielsen Brothers Wine Shop in Carmel, CA to learn about the consumer end of the wine business. After tasting all the wines that were available to him, Joseph was introduced to French red Burgundies and something clicked.

Joseph left the wine shop and traveled to France where he was able to land a temporary harvest position with Dennis Bachelet in Gevery Chambertin. Upon returning to California in 1986 he went to work in the cellar at Edna Valley Vineyard, in San Luis Obispo, California. At Edna Valley he had the pleasure of working directly under Chalone founder Richard Graff, who was acting as winemaker during Joseph’s tenure. Graff’s minimalist and non-interventionist approach to wine making mirrored that of the Burgundians After a couple of years in the cellar at Edna Valley, Joseph got itchy feet again and with Winemaker Steven Dooley’s blessings and recommendation he took a winemaking position at the Chittering Estate, a start-up winery near Perth, Western Australia. Upon completion of the Australian wine harvest, Joseph returned to California and took a position with Durney Vineyard, located in Carmel Valley, near his childhood home on the Monterey Peninsula. At Durney he got to work with Richard Graff’s brother, Peter Watson-Graf, who was responsible for many of Chalone Winery’s early successes. After leaving Durney Joseph was hired on at Newton Vineyard, in Saint Helena, CA where he was part of John Kongsgaard’s all-star winemaking team that included Rudy Von Strasser and Dean Sylvester. In 1991, Joseph left Newton to pursue a graduate degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering at San Jose State University.

After graduation from with an MS from SJSU, Joseph worked in the Semiconductor Equipment and Software and Services industries for a few years, but the allure of the wine business was too strong. After several successful batches of garage Pinot Noir with friend and now partner Richard Alfaro, they decided to start a small winery dedicated to the production of small-lot single vineyard Pinot Noir. Martin Alfaro Wines was founded in 2002.

Technical Analysis:

Production: 240 Cases

Release Date: March 1, 2007

Alcohol: 14.5 % by vol.

Ageing: 11 months in French oak (35 % new)

Bottle Size: 750 ml

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