If you care about fine gold-medal winning wine and stunning architecture with a view, you will want to put Vinos Martlot at the top of your "go to" list. It is an easy drive east on the Ruta del Vino (Mexico Highway 3). There are no signs for the turn, so a Google search is recommended. For those who know their way around the wine country, Martlot is located just beyond Tres Mujeres at the top of the hill. There is a guard kiosk. However, there is no way to miss the vineyard surrounding the mountain of granite boulders with the cluster of buildings and tasting room. Driving through the vineyard, the vines look little weary as it is very close to the time of harvest. They are covered in netting to protect them from the hungry birds, and have valiantly given up all of their energy to produce fat clusters of purple grapes. Soon they will drop their leaves to rest for the winter hoping for rain.
There are many curious and magical levels to explore, because Ezio and Claudia Martellotto, had a vision to allow all the boulders to remain undisturbed; it was their task to figure out how to place the buildings to include them. As you make your way up to the tasting room, you will see an immense boulder which rises up into the middle of the room two stories high. There is consideration for the physically challenged, and you will be helped when you arrive. The Mediterranean restaurant is at the top of the mountain on yet another level where the dazzling butterfly oversees the valley below.
Augusto Caire, Martlot’s winemaker, gives me a gracious welcome and leads me into the remarkable tasting room that opens out over the vineyard. Soft sounds of a fountain float up from below. As Augusto gets me settled in, we select the wines for tasting and decide on the winemaker’s favorites. As he begins to pour, he tells the story of how he found his way as the Oenologist for the Martlot family. The enology degree is quite extensive and includes being responsible for everything having to do with the science - both chemistry and biology - of winemaking. He stresses that for all the grandeur of the architecture, Martlot is a family production filled with the love for the grape. His journey started in Mexico City, then on to Argentina, finally here in Baja California where it is obvious he found home. The Chardonnay 2019 with one year in French oak offered a lovely bouquet and a very long crisp finish. Augusto added, “There is an elegance of acidity.” Moving on to the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc with 1 year in French oak was a nice surprise. A smooth buttery experience sliding into a slightly tart green apple finish was our favorite of the whites.
Moving on to the red selections we began with the Syrah 2019 with 18 months in new French oak. This varietal presented an intense complex aroma and taste. I suggested this was not a wine to breeze through, but to savor the hints of rosemary, thyme, raisin, dark plum, and as Augusto pointed out, even a hint of leather. He talked excitedly about process of the wine through the mouth. The barrel meets you first, but “the fruitiness is waiting for you in the back of the mouth,” so you have to be patient. The tasting has a clean finish.
Writing these reviews for Baja Bound has been like going to wine school with an extra course in appreciation of everything that goes into the bottle. Galileo said, “Wine is held together by sunlight and water.” The winemaker is the artist. One of the first choices a winemaker has to make is his selection from 2000 different varietals! The art of wine making continues every moment from that point on; sunlight, soil, water and a huge part of patience is the foundation of making wine; but the final ingredient is passion. It is true, you can taste the love of the vintner who sings to the vines and pats the sleeping barrels while they age. Augusto proudly presents Petra, a 100% Barbara along with the story of how the Martlot dream came to be. Claudia was born in Ensenada, and later moved to Italy where she met Ezio. When the children were grown Claudia wanted to move back to Baja California. The search for a new home and the idea of growing grapes led them to the Guadalupe Valley where they began this remarkable creation, and finishing with the placement of the glorious butterfly catching all the different rays of the morning and evening light. I breathed in the aroma of the Barbara, and it literally jumped out of the glass to greet me. Augusto called it a “lower tone” wine which was not fruity but with a smooth nutty layer and spices. Grandmother Petra is featured on the label.
As we continued, Augusto was fully engaged in talking about his passion. There is nothing like a conversation with another wine lover to warm things up. Augusto saved the “iconic” 2019 100% Nebbiolo with 24 months in French oak, Gran Bastiano, for last. “Wine talks to you! It calls, ‘Come Here!’ when it is ready. And it can be dangerous!” he laughs and swirls the glass. We took our time, first breathing in the aroma that invited me to dive in and swim around in the glass. I’d say, it was a bit dangerous, as the alcohol was high at the beginning, then velvety smooth to the back of the mouth filling with dark plum, licorice, red fruits and chocolate. We paired this with chocolate and strawberries for the fun of it.
Great mounds of thunderheads began to pile up in the east. The weather change was welcomed as it cooled the hot summer day. Delightful hours can pass this way with friends and good wine. You feel like part of the family by the time you leave. I thanked Augusto for the delightful time and sharing his fine wine. “Come back anytime,” he waved as I drove back down through the great rock gardens; I knew there was no doubt I’d be back and bring some friends.
Article by Martina
Photos courtesy of Vinos Martlot and Tanya Jiménez.