If you read that Newsweek story, you learned about some new kid on the block in California.
Photo taken at Bell Street Farm, a good Los Alamos address to know about.
I found Martian Vineyards because of an email exchange where Dan Fredman was trying to get me to trust him, "Nan is the real thing," he said.
I was on the West Coast and it wasn't that difficult to stop off to see what he was talking about. So I waited in the relentless sun, at a strip mall, the temporary winery quarters for Martian Vineyards, awaiting winemaker Mike Roth and owner, Nan Helgeland.
When Nan showed up she was all apologetic. She didn't need to be, after all, she was staying up with the lawnmowers she'd borrowed--some goats--and they were pregnant. A tall, long boned woman with straight blond and long hair, she didn't really look like she lost her beauty sleep. But a girl who is married to an oscar winning writer/producer, yet stays up with the goats can prune a vine, went biodynamic and says things like, "does this look like pinot country to you?' when she's in pinot-centric central coast--and plants albarino and grenache, for example, and then is committed to making reasonably priced wine when she could certainly go for the ego bottle instead? Well, let's just say, I'm interested.
If you've heard of Martian before the 2011 vintage, forget what you know. The people that loved those wines are going to mostly hate these, but that's okay because there's a whole new world that will happily embrace them. That was the era of grapes and a different point of view. Now, there's Mike Roth who is going whole cluster and no sulfur when he can, minimalist winemaking.
His leader, Nan, is a little late to the game but catching up. About a decade a go she'd go on girl wine tasting trips up the coast, fell into a passion for the wine, realized she had the resources to go into the business, especially with her boys on their way to college. But unlike most CEO's she decided she needed to know how to make wine herself. Her first classes were at Davis, and then went to Hancock, where they weren't afraid to talk about biodynamics or alternative winemaking.
Her first wines were made according to the numbers, then she found Mike, and the two seem to be partners in wine crime, especially as Nan's own sensibilities about what she's looking for in wine, has developed.
Inside it was already interesting; fermenters and elevage material = stainless,concrete, troncais -shaped fermenters and alsatian ovals. I knew I was not in Oz anymore. Tasting, the wines were lively, the whites were snappy, the reds were sappy, and while most were not finished, here's one to watch.
If you can snag that carbonic grenache, the rose and the albarino, you'll be surprised at their freshness. The rosé was whole cluster, 100% malo yet stays lean, with an ashy finish. The carbonic grenache was a little too new when I tasted in March but by May was strawberry-licious. There will be more structured rhone varieties and blends coming too. By now Mike might know how he wants to proceed with single varietal or blending, but so far, they've got my trust. With Los Pilares, La Clarine, Clos Saron, Tribute to Grace and Hardy Wallace's wines coming on board, the Rhone Rangers (and the albarino rangers) of California just might have a renewed lease on life.