Martin Ray Offers a Unique Portfolio of Wines of Place Amazing grapes, spectacular land, and a talented team with vision make Martin Ray wines special. BY TOURING & TASTING
Photos courtesy of Martin Ray Vineyard & Winery
An outdoor view of the Martin Ray tasting room.
“ The historic winery was built in 1881 and is one of the oldest continually working wineries in California.”
The name Martin Ray resonates deeply with those well-versed in the history of California wine. Winemaker Martin Ray was a pioneer in creating 100 percent varietals in the region and made wines under his namesake label from 1943 through 1972. Nearly 20 years later Courtney Benham made a life-altering discovery when he stumbled on 1,500 cases of Martin Ray wine in a San Jose warehouse. Recognizing his good fortune, Courtney purchased the brand and since 1990, he has been dedicated to the production of exceptional artisanal wines worthy of the Martin Ray name.
Since 2003 Martin Ray Vineyards & Winery makes its home in the heart of the Russian River Valley. The winery and its 12 acres of Estate Pinot Noir vineyard are located just beyond the eastern border of the Russian River’s coolest, foggiest sub-AVA, Green Valley. Now in its third vintage, these vineyards have yielded elegant wines that show the character of a variety of Dijon clones and two acres of most notably Clone 37, which was brought to the region by Martin Ray in the 1940s. The current vintages from this vineyard are the 2014 Estate Pinot Noir and 2016 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir released in February 2017.
Courtney and Winemaker Bill Batchelor are dedicated to Ray’s ideology of making "wines of place" by procuring grapes and making wine from several of California’s most renowned appellations (AVAs). In addition to the Russian River Valley, Martin Ray’s unique portfolio wines offer visitors an amazing tasting experience that can take them to exceptional appellations, such as the Santa Cruz Mountains, Napa Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Sonoma Coast AVAs, without leaving the winery.
"As a winemaker at Martin Ray, the best part of my job is to be able to work with fruit from outside the Russian River Valley and to cherry-pick the best offerings from Santa Cruz and Napa Valley," Bill says.
The historic winery was built in 1881 and is one of the oldest continually working wineries in California. The grounds are adorned with classic English gardens, vineyard views, and a secluded pavilion space. The tasting room, which once served as a stable and bunkhouse for vineyard workers, is now a perfect spot for drop-in tastings of Martin Ray’s Tower Flight. Guests can expand their experience with the Appellation Tasting, the Cabernet Flight, or a Library Tasting of the superbly aged Cabernet Sauvignons in the elegant Twin Fir Room. For a truly unforgettable experience, guests and club members can enjoy a private tasting and lounge at the pavilion while they take in the vineyard and garden views. Those who have the time can order a cheese plate or lunch and make it an afternoon. Regardless of the tasting experience, a visit to Martin Ray Vineyards & Winery guarantees excellent wines, a serene setting, and relaxed Sonoma wine country hospitality.
What to Buy '15 Estate Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley - $50
Raspberry jam, fresh pomegranate, nutmeg