Central Coast AVA
Greg Martellotto crafts unique and exciting wines from the world-renowned appellations in Santa Barbara County,
The odyssey that would become the basis for Martellotto (pronounced Mar-tel-la-toe) Winery first began when owner Greg Martellotto was still a student at Jesuit High School in Dallas. The young man was drawn to cooking and food and even produced dinner parties while still a student.
Martellotto had always planned to become a medical doctor and his further education took him to California. At Palo Alto’s renowned Stanford University, he received a biology degree and managed a restaurant. The combination of food and wine was simply too much for him and the graduate took a three year world excursion before finally returning to California. During his hiatus, he managed to taste many of the world’s great wines and sample a number of the planet’s leading cuisines.
He was now 27 years old, and the ten year prospect of medical school seemed improbable. He turned instead to the wine industry and concentrated his efforts in establishing a wine entity that covered his varying expertise. One of the resultant companies is Martellotto Winery, this month’s Gold Wine Club feature.
Martellotto Winery first saw the light of day in 2005 with a limited release of only 2,000 cases. It has since grown to around 5,000 cases with the prospect of becoming a good deal larger in the future.
Martellotto Winery and its incredibly unique label are a story unto itself. The label was designed by none other than Professor John Langdon of Drexel University in Pennsylvania. For you Dan Brown readers (The Davinci Code, Angels and Demons, The Lost Symbol, and others), the name Professor Robert Langdon should be familiar as the protagonist of these novels. It seems Brown was a student of Langdon’s at Drexel and used some of Langdon’s designs and theories in his works.
Martellotto also explained that his label is basically an ambigram (a symbolic representation when viewed from a different direction, perspective or orientation). “It is intended to mirror the art of science and wine,” added Martellotto. “It was thoughtfully designed and was intended to be easily distinguishable. In other words, we wanted something completely unique, a real jump off visual.”
Martellotto Winery recently opened its new winery in downtown Buellton, California, a town located along US HWY 101 as the coastal highway turns northward. The warehouse facility is a shared space with Barbieri Wine Co. and Lo-Fi Wines.
“This acquisition will help us tremendously,” Greg Martellotto stated. “We are able to produce our wines under our own roof and that in itself is a big benefit. We will also have a tasting facility for the first time that will give our customers more accessibility. It is a win-win scenario for everyone involved.”
The wines of Martellotto Winery have won followers wherever and whenever they have traveled. It is a real pleasure to be able to re-introduce our Gold wine of the month club members to this rising star winery. Enjoy!
Map of the area
Santa Barbara County
Located on the southern end of the Central Coast appellation, Santa Barbara County is nestled about 90 miles northwest of Los Angeles, California. What helps make this wine growing region so unique is the transverse mountain ranges that run east to west - unlike the rest of California where the mountains are parallel to the coastline, running north to south. This topographical feature creates wind tunnels, which enable cool air to flow from the Pacific Ocean into the valleys of Santa Barbara County, keeping the temperatures moderate during the day and cool at night. The proximity to the ocean also creates morning fog that cools and protects the grapes in the vineyards, which leads to extremely long growing seasons. However, as you travel further inland, there are much warmer pockets that are well-suited to Bordeaux-style grapes. There is a great variety of microclimates and soils throughout Santa Barbara County, and thus a wonderful diversity of wine grapes can thrive here. Today, about 200 wineries call Santa Barbara County home and nearly 30,000 acres of vines are planted.
This month’s Gold Wine Club featured wines both nicely represent the Santa Barbara County growing region, and specifically the Santa Ynez Valley, which is one of the most diverse grape-growing regions in the county. While Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are ideally suited to the western edges of the Valley, thirty miles inland at Happy Canyon, the climate is sunny and hot which is perfect for Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Established as an AVA (American Viticultural Area) in 1983, the Santa Ynez Valley is also a beautifully scenic area. With rolling hills, endless vines, and patches of ancient oak trees, it’s no wonder the region became a star in the 2004 hit movie, Sideways. It has become a popular wine country destination with quaint towns, imaginative restaurants steeped in the farm-to-table movement, and plenty of family friendly activities.
Greg Martellotto & Mike Roth - Winemakers
As many one-man winery operations, Greg Martellotto serves as his company’s winemaker. He also uses consulting winemaker Mike Roth whose resume is legendary along the Central Coast.
Roth worked for both Mike Grgich (Grgich Hills Estate) and Nils Venge (Saddleback Cellars/Venge Vineyards) in Napa Valley before heading south to Santa Barbara County more than fifteen years ago. His Central Coast experience includes the likes of Demetria Estate Winery (considered among the best wineries in the county), Koehler Winery, and a number of other quality wineries including Martian Ranch and Vineyard. Roth’s wines have always achieved superior scores and numerous accolades for his efforts. He has recently planted his first vineyards and launched his own label, Lo-Fi Wines, with a lifelong friend.
Greg Martellotto - A True Renaissance Man
Greg Martellotto fancies himself as something of a true renaissance man. He has managed to travel extensively during his formative years and he has put what he has observed to excellent use in his current business.
“My wine business has many different aspects,” he observed. “I deal in the highest quality wines from Europe and California and also with some basic wines that I produce for international customers. It’s all part of this wine business concept that I have developed throughout the years.”
The Dallas native is not at all surprised that his efforts have been successful. “Success in the wine business is relative. Where I used to live in San Francisco, you can find a number of 30-year-old-billionaires. For my part, the wine business has been one long struggle just to survive, and for that I am most thankful. It has taught me a number of life lessons and I won’t forget them.”
He also calls his decision to locate in Santa Barbara County one of the smartest decisions he has ever made. “I had all these wonderful connections in Santa Barbara so I hoped they would be put to good use in making better wines. That’s the secret, making your wines better as you go along.”
Martellotto has always been drawn to the wine and food culture and admits it has had a hand in sculpting his life. “I’ve always been concerned about exactly what goes into food and wine. I’ve been on the edge of biodynamic farming for some time and I intend to continue in that direction. I want to one day be able to plant a small vineyard of my own to allow me to produce some estate wines. I will then feel I have come the full circle with my dreams.”
Greg Martellotto is also the main winemaker for his operation and credits his degrees in biology and chemistry for helping him produce such excellent results in his wines. He travels between San Diego and Buellton and is present whenever his grapes are harvested and during any bottling process. “Those times are absolutely critical and I wouldn’t want to miss any of them for any reason. It is too important to our end product to miss being there in person.”
Greg has also maintained the ties with his old Jesuit education. He has become close with Fr. Jeff Dillon, S.J., his old principal at Jesuit High School in Dallas. Dillon is now active in the San Francisco area and has founded a charity project called Learn Belize (LearnBelize.com), that operates a school (Sacred Heart Elementary School) in Belize’s third largest city of Dangriga.
Profits from the sales of some of Martellotto’s wines go directly to the charity, which enables the school to buy supplies, books and technology. “It’s a great project,” informed Martellotto. “It has practically no overhead, so the money goes directly to the school and the children. It has been quite rewarding to have been involved to this point.”
The future seems extremely bright for Greg Martellotto and his portfolio of fine wines. He is enthusiastic about his new winery site in Buellton, and the ability to finally have a tasting facility to be able to showcase his wine portfolio. He has survived the perilous time that accompanied the recession years back, and he is planning on his own vineyards for the foreseeable future.
There should be more individuals like Greg Martellotto in the wine business. He brings a unique approach and great vitality to a traditional and time honored business. You will definitely hear more of him in the future.