Martin Ray Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon 1997
Courtney Benham acquired the historic Martini & Prati winery in July 2003, which is now Martin Ray Winery and the home of their new tasting room. The tasting room structure, dating back to the 1900's, used to serve as a stable and bunkhouse where Italian immigrants stayed during harvest and crush. The winery also houses a 1 million gallon production facility that is used not only for wine production, but also as a 'custom crush' facility where over 20 clients crush their grapes and produce their wine.
Established in 1881 as the Twin Fir Winery, the historic site is distinguished as the oldest winery in continuous operation in Sonoma County and one of the oldest wineries in California. The winery was able to stay in operation during prohibition by selling sacramental wines by train to Rabbis through a winery in New York. Originally known as Martini & Prati, which was established in 1902, the winery was run by five generations of the Martini family and associated with the local Italian-American community that still includes the Sebastiani's, the Foppiano's, the Pedroncelli's and the Seghesio's.
A rugged and topographically diverse cool-climate appellation with a rich history, the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA stretches from Half Moon Bay, just south of San Francisco, to the northern border of Monterey County. Elevations range from 800 feet to upwards of 3,000 and microclimates vary substantially depending on which side of the mountains the vineyards lie; cool ocean winds and fog play an important role here. This can be a challenging region in which to grow grapes, but it is well worth the effort. Santa Cruz Mountains wines are noted for balanced acidity levels, often showing great aging potential. Wine has been made here since the 1800s, most notably from the legendary Ridge Vineyards, whose Monte Bello vineyard garners international admiration.
Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are the stars of this region, while Merlot and Zinfandel also perform quite well. Organic and sustainable vineyard practices are becoming increasingly common.
A noble variety bestowed with both power and concentration, Cabernet Sauvignon enjoys success all over the globe. Inherently high in tannins and acidity, the best bottlings of Cabernet can age beautifully for decades. Cabernet Sauvignon flourishes in temperate climates like Bordeaux where it forms the base of the Medoc reds. These blends are typically mostly Cabernet with Merlot and smaller amounts of some combination of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. (Enjoying a great deal of success in various regions around the world, this blend is now globally referred to as a Bordeaux Blend.) Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley is responsible for some of the world’s most prestigious, age-worthy and sought-after “cult” wines.
Tasting Notes for Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is a dry red wine rich in color, tannin and extract. It expresses notes of blackberry, cassis, plum, currant, spice and tobacco. In the Old World you'll often find the more earthy side of Cabernet. In warmer regions like California, Washington, Argentina, Chile and Australia, you can typically expect more upfront fruit flavors.
Perfect Food Pairings for Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is right at home with rich, intense meat dishes—beef, lamb and venison, in particular—where its opulent fruit and decisive tannins make an equal match to the dense protein of the meat. With a mature Cabernet, opt for tender, slow-cooked meat dishes.
Sommelier Secrets for Cabernet Sauvignon
Despite the modern importance and ubiquity of Cabernet Sauvignon, it is actually a relatively young variety. In 1997, DNA profiling revealed the grape to be a spontaneous crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc which took place in 17th century southwestern France.