Monday, July 16, 2007

Tasting Panel: July 10-11 Martin Ranch Story

Martin Ranch.jpg

A new challenge for the discerning tastes of our tasting panel. Here are four different wines from a well-established Santa Cruz Mountains wine producer called Martin Ranch. This producer makes both estate wines under the "Therese Vineyards" label and negociant wines under the "J.D. Hurley" label. The winemaking approach is interesting as it involves a long elevage and aging in a combination of French, American, and Hungarian oak before bottling and release.

1. Santa Clara Valley Merlot "J.D. Hurley", Martin Ranch 2004 ($22.00 suggested)
From Santa Clara Valley vineyards on the eastern side of Santa Cruz Mountains. 100% Merlot. Aged 21 months in 50% new and 50% neutral French, Hungarian, and American oak barrels. 600 cases produced 15.6% Alcohol.

2. Santa Clara Valley Cabernet Sauvignon "J.D. Hurley", Martin Ranch 2003 ($26.00 suggested)
97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. From a combination of 60% Santa Clara Valley vineyards and 40% estate-grown Santa Cruz Mountain grapes. The first release of this wine. Aged 32 months in a combination of new, 2-year-old, and neutral French, Hungarian, and American oak barrels. 800 cases produced 13.9% Alcohol.

3. Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon "Thérèse Vineyard Reserve", Martin Ranch 2003 ($40.00 suggested)

Made from estate-grown grapes in the southern tip of the Santa Cruz Mountains. 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc aged for 28 months in a combination of new, one-year-old, and neutral French oak barrel. 200 cases produced 14% Alcohol.

4. Santa Clara Valley Syrah "Thérèse Vineyard", Martin Ranch 2004 ($30.00 suggested)

100% Syrah from two vineyard sources. Aged 21 months in 50% new and 50% neutral French and Hungarian oak. 400 cases produced 14.7% Alcohol.

Judgment/Comments:


Santa Clara Valley Merlot "J.D. Hurley", Martin Ranch 2004
Thumbs Up: 60%
Thumbs Down: 30%
Pros: "Fruity yet firm... plenty of extract... good power... nice for the price... good oak... alcohol is not obvious... good nose"
Cons: "Hot, alcoholic... disappointing taste... didn't taste like Merlot"

Santa Clara Valley Cabernet Sauvignon "J.D. Hurley", Martin Ranch 2003
Thumbs Up: 60%
Thumbs Down: 40%
Pros: "Good nose... good balance... not too strong, decent"
Cons: "Light... not enough fruit... not bold... bitter finish"

Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon "Thérèse Vineyard Reserve", Martin Ranch 2003
Thumbs Up: 80%
Thumbs Down: 10%
Pros: "Fruity... good tannins... reserved but good fruit and tannins... soft and nice fruit... good finish... complex, aging potential... good structure"
Cons: "Too reserved.. pricey"

Santa Clara Valley Syrah "Thérèse Vineyard", Martin Ranch 2004
Thumbs Up: 100%
Thumbs Down: 0%
Pros: "Fruity spicy, good personality... great Syrah flavors... good aromatics and flavors... good length... drinkable... aging potential... well balanced"
Cons: none

Conclusions:
1. Very enthusiastic turnout for this tasting, mostly likely because of the attraction of a new Santa Cruz-based wine producer.

2. The aggressive, robust style of the J.D. Hurley Merlot surprised drinkers, especially those who don't usually drink Merlot, and the style appealed to most of them.

3. The smoother, softer, somewhat light style of the J.D. Hurley Cabernet Sauvignon was unexpected, especially coming after the Merlot. This style also pleased many drinkers.

4. The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon though popular was seen as being a bit pricey.

5. The overall favorite was the Syrah. This wine's flavors and price point appealed to most drinkers.


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