Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Day at Martian Ranch and Vineyard

Revised July 6, 2016

Planted four years ago, Martian's 20 acres of vineyards were certified Biodynamic earlier this year. This lovely Santa Barbara County winery, located in the funky chic town of Los Alamos, is a great place to visit - make sure to call ahead if you want a tour of the vines. I recommend it, as you'll see a lot more of what makes these wines so special.

The winery makes 12+ wines (in the appealingly priced $20-35 range) - all from estate vines. The vineyards are located in a beautiful little hidden valley around the corner from the winery, with spectacular views of the mountains to the east.

I visited recently and had the pleasure of not only tasting all of the wines but also of getting a vineyard tour with Nan Helgeland, the proprietor.

Martian's wines are wonderfully fresh and alive (all are vinified solely on native yeasts and many are made without added sulfites) and have gotten rave reviews from the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle.

As a final inducement to trying them, I will mention that the shipping costs are very reasonable - just $10 a case to ship within the state California - and you can get a mixed case (so you can try an assortment of wines).  If you are the kind of person who's not really sure there's such a thing as terroir, these wines will turn your head around. If you're already a terroirist, you'll be wowed.

Although it's a cliché to say a wine is food friendly, that term truly applies to these wines.

Here's what Martian makes:

Rhone Wines

Grenache Blanc

Grenache (done two ways)
Syrah (done two ways, including a light version and a bigger, richer version)

It also makes a rosé.

Spanish Varietals

A white - Albarino
A red - Tempranillo

(Philippe Armenier, the original vineyard consultant and former Martian Ranch winemaker, planted these Spanish varietals with great success at Verdad's Biodynamically farmed Edna Valley Sawyer Lindquist vineyard, too - where they have been producing acclaimed wines as well.)

About 20 percent of what grows on the 20 acres of vineyards is sold to other wineries including Ampelos, Labyrinth, Lumen, and Ojai.

Helgeland has an organic vegetable garden on the property for employees to raise food for their own consumption. And she has plans to add a few cows to the mix, as well - growing to a herd of 10 over time.

Enjoy these photos from my visit in mid July.

The winery's located on Alisos Canyon Road, about a 10 minute drive from
101 in Los Alamos
You can't miss "the sign."
The footbridge to the winery
The tasting room and winery
Nan Helgeland giving visitors a tour

Weddings and other gatherings are now possible, thanks to
the addition of commercial kitchen facilities inside
Call ahead to make arrangements for a vineyard tour - it's a
spectacular site a 5 min. cart drive from the winery in a hidden valley.
Helgeland plans to add cows next year and work her way up to a
small herd of 10.
Vineyard views
You won't be wineless on the vineyard tour - a
cupholder in the cart carries your glass
Think this is a beautiful place to spend a day? Join the wine
club and you can reserve it for a day (sorry, no swimming, but the
shade's great for a picnic...and those views...and let's not forget the wines)

Post script: since my original visit, the new vineyard consultant is Philippe Coderey, formerly of Chapoutier in France. Eric Bolton, formerly assistant winemaker, has been appointed as the new winemaker.

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