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Martin Estate - Rutherford District, Napa Valley


Martin Estate among the top of California Cabernet producers

To say that Martin Estate is steeped in tradition and possesses a marvelous heritage would be a serious understatement of fact. It would be more correct to suggest that the small (12-acre) Rutherford winery is a perfect facsimile of the dedication to historical accuracy of its owners, Greg and Petra Martin.
For the record, Martin Estate traces back to part of the original Mexican land grant accorded Captain George Yount in 1836. More than three decades later, in 1870, Napa Valley pioneer and former sheriff Henry Harris paid 600 gold coins to Yount’s Estate for some 100 acres of the rich farmland. Another part of Yount’s original acreage was willed to the thriving town that today bears his name.
Henry Harris built a new winery on the property in 1887 and began producing wine. Around 1909, Harris leased his facility to the soon to be renowned George de Latour (of Beaulieu Vineyard fame) who was looking for a site to produce the first of his world class, award winning wines.
In 1941, the imposing stone edifice was renamed Puerta Dorada, and transformed into an elegant country chateau. The next fifty years took its toll on the marvelous place and it fell into a sad state of disrepair.
In 1996, Greg and Petra Martin happened upon the site and started the venerable estate’s modern renaissance.
Greg Martin, now a youngish 65, is a California native from the Santa Clara Valley and admits to making wine at the age of twelve, “ before I was even legally able to either buy or drink wine.”
Greg built his business of collecting arms and armor into a national auction house, with offices in both New York and San Francisco. He is recognized as a world authority on arms and armor collection, and the Martin Estate wine label bears testament to his continued involvement in that historic and colorful pastime.
He is also quite proud of the fact that the Martin Estate property lends itself to its present 18th Century décor, where he and Petra have matched the furnishings to the era, with incredible results.
“It is almost as if Martin Estate is an illuminated manuscript,” he related. “We have tried to blend the modern and old and span the ages. When we first started out, all Petra wanted was a small place in the country for our daughter Greta, who is now 12. It’s actually been a great adventure for us and we are delighted with the way everything turned out.”
With the property’s natural wine pedigree, Greg Martin started out planting some vines with the intention of selling them to his neighbors (Caymus, among others), but soon changed his mind. After all, he had continued his boyhood tradition of making wine and the results of his first bottlings were too good to believe.
Martin began serious wine making and released the first 850 cases of Martin Estate wine in 2001. It was no real surprise to anyone in or around Rutherford that his first releases met with resounding critical acclaim. As a wine entity, Martin Estate has prospered but its production has continued around the 800-900 case level and intends to remain so in the future.
“We are a true small production winery and will always remain so,” Martin added. “Every single aspect of the wine is created here at the estate, from growing through ageing and bottling. It tends to be my baby and I can control every aspect and watch over it. Our production level is as much now as it will ever be.”
Incredibly refreshing words from a winery owner in a world of ever widening production levels from most wineries, even those in the smallish categories. Greg is also proud of the fact that Petra (who has a law degree from Germany) takes care of many of the daily office duties and is responsible for the company’s imposing website.
For the pair, their Martin Estate is an obvious labor of love that is also a very serious winery in an industry crowded with competitors of every size, shape and color.
The wine industry needs more Martin Estates, where smaller is better and whose words are backed up by its actions.



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