He is a member of a storied group of winemakers that began changing the face of California wine in the 1970s. He graduated from California State University at Fresno with a master’s degree in oenology and food science, then went on to gain more experience as a winemaker. As his experience grew, some of his wines became favorites throughout America. The portfolio under his care continued to expand, and he began crafting special-reserve wines that were known only to a few.
Dennis appreciated the old-world focus of single-vineyard wines and true expressions of the terroir they represented. He also knew which vineyards were special, producing outstanding fruit, vintage after vintage. Given the chance to showcase what he had found over the previous three decades, the decision was easy, and Sanctuary wines came to life.
Working hand in hand with longtime colleague, friend and collaborator Christian LeSommer, who had tended the grapes at Chateau La Tour for more than a dozen years, for the initial offerings of Sanctuary, Martin identified grower partners who shared a special affinity for the land they farmed and the wines that were created from these unique vineyards.
On a mountaintop in Mendocino, Dennis found promise in a Zinfandel that was as distinctive as the Mariah Vineyard perched high above the clouds. From the famed Rutherford dust of Napa came a Cabernet Sauvignon from the historic Usibelli Vineyard, which has been for many years a source of great wines. And along the cool coastal range in Santa Barbara, a Pinot Noir that was born out of a 20-year partnership with the Miller family at Bien Nacido. View all Sanctuary Wines
About Santa Maria ValleyView a map of Santa Maria Valley wineries
Situated near the ocean in the larger Santa Barbara district, the Santa Maria Valley appellation runs east to west. Pacific Ocean air funnels in to cool the vineyards, allowing the grapes to evenly ripen and reach their full potential. This unique climate paired with the region's well-drained soils helps create some sought-after grapes.
Notable FactsPinot Noir and Chardonnay are the most planted varieties in the AVA, which covers over 7,000 acres of land. Syrah is gaining more ground as it consistantly produces outstanding wines. Many vineyards are owned by growers and sold to wineries, so seeing a vineyard name on multiple producer's bottles is common. One of the better known vineyards, Bien Nacido, is found on the labels of some of the most prestigious wines of the area.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.