The pursuit of higher quality eventually led me to seek better vineyard sources in the Napa Valley.
Marty, in a quest to make a red Bordeaux-style blend, has created a Napa Valley wine that uses only Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
How many years have you been in the Napa Valley wine industry?
Seven years in Napa; 42 years in total.
How did you get started in the wine business?
I got my start in the Santa Cruz Mountains at my family’s small Cabernet vineyard. I quickly started buying grapes from all over California for my red Bordeaux-style blend. The pursuit of higher quality eventually led me to seek better vineyard sources in the Napa Valley.
Which wine was your "a-ha!" wine – the one that made you love wine or inspired you to get into the industry?
The 1979 Chateaux Cheval Blanc showed me that one can make a red Bordeaux-style wine without using any Cabernet Sauvignon. This was the inspiration for my LATERAL wine project - that is to say, a Napa Valley blend that uses only Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Name a Napa Valley vintner who has influenced you and briefly explain why.
Tony Soter. In the 1980s, he showed everyone what ”polish and sophistication” was like in the texture of a Napa Valley red wine.
Our motto at the NVV is "cultivating excellence." What does this phrase mean to you and how do you cultivate excellence at your winery?
(Winemaker) Chris Condos and I carry that banner forward through our insistence on Certified Organic grape sources and wine cellar procedures.
What do you think makes Napa Valley unique compared to other wine regions?
For me, the overriding feature of the Napa Valley is the degree to which quality wine production has become the essence of the culture here. It reminds me of the way food is perceived in France … they do not tolerate inferior food very well. There is an expectation of greatness, they will run you out of town if you cook poorly. In the modern era, this has become the level of expectation for the wines in the Napa Valley.
If you weren't a Napa Valley vintner, what would you be doing?
Surfing in Santa Cruz and fly fishing in Oregon.
What advice would you offer someone trying to get into the Napa Valley wine industry?
Save your pennies and ask yourself if you’d really be in it for the long haul.
What's one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I eat lunch in 15 minutes... junk food in my truck. I never have time to sit down for “slow food lunches” at fine restaurants. There’s too much work to be done whether in the vineyard, the cellar or especially in the marketplace.