Martin Alfaro Wines

2006 Gary's Vineyard Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir •Gary's Vineyard

California: Monterey County: Santa Lucia Highlands

Offer Expired:Oct 31, 2008 at 11:59 pm
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Mission Codename: The Two Garys

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Secure a Pinot Noir from Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands and specifically Martin Alfaro Wines.

Mission Status: Accomplished

Current Winery: Martin Alfaro Wines

Wine Subject: 2006 Gary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir

Winemaker: Joseph Martin


Today’s Pinot comes from the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey, California. This region is located just west of the town of Gonzales in the the foothills and bench-lands of the Salinas Valley was established as an AVA in 1992. The Santa Lucia Highlands produce some of the finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines in the region. Santa Lucia Highlands’ Pinot Noir are among the best we have tried in California with its distinct Burgundian characteristics and qualities.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deep ruby red with excellent luminescent clarity and light ruby to pinkish edges. Widely spaced thin legs ring the glass when swirled.

Smell – Classic aromas of Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot with both ripe and tart black cherry, black-fruit, a distinct dusty earth component, and a touch of gun-powder smoke. As you explore deeper hints of floral violets and horseradish also emerge.

Feel – An initially tangy, spicy and youthful attack that smoothes considerably once this wine opens up. This medium bodied and structured wine has medium-firm tannins and good acidity.

Taste – Well integrated flavors of ripe and tart cherry and pomegranate with earthly notes that are backed with a combination of spicy cinnamon and pepper, toasted oak and a tiny hint of cola.

Finish – This wine finishes medium-long and clean with balanced flavors of its fruit, earth and spice.

Conclusion – This Pinot is an exceptional example of the best of Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands with a distinct tie back to the Burgundian fruit from Gary’s Vineyard. While currently this wine is youthful, it is well integrated with a range of subtle flavors. Its acidity and structure lend itself well to both a wide range of food pairings as well as adding to its cellar potential.

Mission Report:

The following mission report was submitted by Agent Red when he first investigated Martin Alfaro’s Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir.

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 Pinot Noir 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 approximate location of the Gary’s Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

About This Wine:

This wine has Medium ruby color; Aromas of black cherry, blackberry, ripe plum, spice, toast and smoke. Velvety texture and a rich mouthfeel is backed up by moderate tannins and good acid balance. It will continue to improve with three to five years in the cellar. Only 300 cases were made.

The Vineyard:

Garys’ Vineyard is located in 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, which cool the vineyards and prolong the grapes hang-time. A collaboration between Gary Pisoni and Gary Franscioni, this 42 acre vineyard is planted to the Pisoni clone of Pinot Noir, a selection from the Côte de Nuits district of Burgundy.

The Vintage:

The long cool growing season allowed the wine to develop full ripe fruit flavors while retaining excellent natural acidity. Cool conditions throughout the harvest season allowed us to pick the fruit at the moment of optimal maturity.


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 are 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: 300 Cases

Release Date: May 1, 2007

Alcohol: 14.5 % by vol.

Ageing: 11 months in French oak (40% new)

Bottle Size: 750 ml

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