California’s Martin Ray Winery -
Created by Chance, Inspired by History

Martin Ray made his mark as an innovative winemaker in California’s post-Prohibition years. A visionary, he bought Paul Masson’s Mountain Winery in 1936, just three years after Prohibition ended, running the operation until it was destroyed by fi re in 1943. He relocated to a Mt. Eden property, producing under his own label from 1946 to 1972. Over the years, he stood out as being one of the fi rst to produce 100% varietal wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains region and to champion quality controls. This often put him in confl ict with the California wine industry, which was turning to commercial bulk wines, as many producers lacked the depth of grape production to compete on varietal, rather than blended wines. His page in history would have been forgotten if not for Courtney Benham’s chance discovery of 1,500 cases of Martin Ray library wines at an old warehouse in San Jose in 1990. He bought the library and rights to the Martin Ray label, having had quite a background in wine himself at the time. Courtney had worked for 8 years in his father’s wine operations in the Sacramento Delta before co-founding well known Blackstone Winery with his brother Derek in 1991. They sold it 10 years later to Constellation Brands for $144MM. The winery relocated to the historic Martini & Prati Winery near Santa Rosa in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley appellation in 2003. It produces three labels – Martin Ray (40% of production, 100% varietal blends of grapes from different vineyards), Angeline (40%, a label launched in 2000 made in a lighter, fruit forward style), and the Courtney Benham label (20%).
Angeline Chardonnay and Pinot Noir essentially doubled the winery’s production over 2003-2004 to 250,000 cases/year. Angeline Winery Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley 2008 ($14; 13.9%) is a soft, gentle wine that was cold fermented in stainless steel, with honeydew melon and bright citrus fl avours. Angeline Chardonnay Sonoma County 2007 (13.9%) shows green apple, peach and vanilla fl avours, and touches of vanilla from 18 months in French oak. Angeline Pinot Noir 2007 ($16; 13.9%) is a blend of 75% Sonoma County and 25% Mendocino County fruit that was aged for 12 months in French oak. The most popular wine of the Angeline line, this has luscious raspberry, strawberry and cherry cola characters, with vanilla and spice notes and an appealing silky grip on the finish.
Martin Ray Chardonnay Russian Rivery Valley ($20; 14.4%) shows apples and peach fl avours, underpinned by vanilla, caramel and toasty notes from 18 months aging in French oak. Martin Ray Pinot Noir 2007 ($25; 13.9%), from Santa Barbara vineyards, shows raspberry, strawberry and candied fruit fl avours, with a creamy texture and soft tannins. Martin Ray Sonoma Mountain Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (14.6%) is an intensely fl avoured, elegant wine, with silky tannins and layers of chocolate, mocha, tobacco and coffee. For more information, contact Profi le Wine Group


Perspective on South African Terroir– by Cape Legends Wine Master

Peter Mielzynski Agencies (905 257-2116) invited Berenice Barker, Wine Master at Cape Legends, to discuss South Africa’s terroir at their gala event last spring. Staged at the Toronto Hunt Club, the evening also included a tasting of Cape Legends wines. The major wine growing regions of South Africa are situated in the southwestern end of the Western Cape. Because they are at the southern tip of the continent, it is an area heavily influenced by two oceans – the warm Indian to the east and frigid Atlantic to the west. This creates temperate weather, because of the convergence of a cool, Maritime with a warm, editerranean climate. Winters are wet and cool, summers are hot and dry, and the winds blow year round, often at gale force strength. High rainfall over the coastal vineyards tapers off over inland properties to the east of the coastal mountain range. The Cape has experienced a significant amount of tectonic plate shifting in the past, creating some of the oldest and deepest soil types in the world (up to 50 metres in depth) and a tremendous diversity of terroir. Stellenbosch, where most of Cape Legends’ properties are situated, is in the Coastal Region, just outside Cape Town. Sandy soil on the valley floor gives way to well drained red and yellow Hutton and Clovely soils with high clay content on the hillsides, and to granite soils in the more mountainous regions. Cape Legends is well versed in the different terroirs of South Africa, because they represent 11 different regional wineries, some of which they have an ownership stake in. Jacobsdal, located in the extreme southwest of Stellenbosch, is just 10 kilometres from False Bay and 140 metres above sea level. Its gravelly, sand loam on top of yellow clay provides good soil drainage and water retention. Pinotage is Jacobsdal’s signature wine, produced from bush vines on 18 of their 92 planted hectares. Jacobsdal Estate Pinotage 2004 was hand-made using wild yeasts. Deep inky purple, this delcious wine has morello cherry flavours and gamey, brambly notes. Nearby Alto owns steeply trellised vineyards on the granite slopes of the Helderberg Mountain that rise 100 to 500 metres above sea level in the Stellenbosch region. The northerly facing vineyards feel the full summer sun, but are cooled by sea breezes from nearby False Bay, lengthening the ripening period. Alto Shiraz 2005 is made from heavily pruned vines grown in deep red, decomposed granite and clay soils on a northwestern slope, with average yields of 5 to 6 tons per hectare. It has a ruby red colour, blackberry flavours and smoke and spice nuances.

Neethlingshof Estate is another winery in the Coastal region, located just outside the town of Stellenbosch. Flanked by the Bottelary Hills and Papegaaiberg Mountain, it has a variety of different soil types because of the eroding granite base across its 165 planted hectares. The vineyards, located 85 to 250 metres above sea level, experience the cooling effect of sea breezes from the Atlantic Ocean. Neethlingshof Gewurztraminer 2008 was grown on looser soil that needs more irrigation. Light in character, this pale lemon wine has muted lychee, rose petal and perfumed notes, with a sweet aspect in the long finish. Tukulu Wines is also located in the Coastal region near Darling, further northwest of Cape Town. Just 25 kilometres from the sea, it experiences cooler temperatures and higher rainfall than most coastal wine regions, while moderate hillocks provide protection from the southeastern blows. The deep red, richly textured Tukulu soils offer excellent water retention for the bush vines. Tukulu Sangiovese 2006 is an organically produced wine that was aged for 8 to 10 months in seasoned oak.

Berry driven, with notes of strawberries and lums and touches of vanilla, it has a typical backbone of acidity. Allesverloren Estate comes from the phrase ‘all is lost’. This is another Coastal region winery, located 100 kilometres northeast of Cape Town in the picturesque Riebeek Valley of Swartland. Its 227 hectares have elevations of 175 to 300 metres above sea level, with a 200 millimetre variance in rainfall. Winters are cold and wet, and summers are dry and warm with prevailing westerlies and the shadow from the mountains cooling
the vines in the afternoon. The stony structure of the vineyards, with a mixture of shale and weathered standstone, force the roots deep into the soil, resulting in the powerful, concentrated red wines and ports this winery is known for. Allesverloren Tinta Barocca 2007 was made in a style that straddles Old and New World winemaking techniques, with half the wine aged in French oak and half in stainless steel. This wine has port like characteristics, with intense berry flavours and touches of vanilla, mocha and spice. Lomond Vineyards is one of the few wineries at the very southern tip of the Cape in the Cape Agulhas District appellation, located 8 kilometres from the sea. It experiences mild temperatures and rainfall. Sea breezes keep it cool, but winds can be severe. The vineyards soil is sandstone as the region is part of the Table Mountains, with gravelly stones that reflect the heat at night. Lomond Sauvignon Blanc Pincushion Vineyards Cape Agulhas 2008 is a pale lemon coloured wine, with a gentle palate of passion fruit, lime and gooseberry.


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Barbara Ritchie is a wine writer and lecturer. Having travelled extensively throughout the main wine-growing regions of the world with her twin sister Ann, she regularly conducts wine seminars for major corporations and restaurant groups, while also participating in various wine judging panels worldwide, including Intervin. Her judging experience includes a session at Italy's prestigious "Banco d'Assaggio", held each year at Lungarotti's Le Tre Vaselle in Umbria, to assess wines from throughout Italy.




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