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Bev Stenehjem the Vine Bev Stenehjem is a local wine enthusiast, author and free- lance writer focused on the wineries of Santa Clara Valley. Bev wrote “The Wineries of Santa Clara Valley,” a historical photo book published by Arcadia Publishing in 2015. Martin Ranch M artin Ranch Winery, owned by Dan and Thérèse Martin, is located at the Southeastern tip of the Santa Cruz Mountains Appellation. The lushest and most scenic of our region, Martin Ranch Winery is a South Bay paradise in our own back yard. Complete with its own lake, vegetable garden and acres of vineyards, the winery is tucked among the rolling green hills which surround them. Like their award-winning wines, winemakers Thérèse and Dan Martin have a well-balanced partnership of working together. They each produce wine under their own unique label: Therese’s label is Thérèse Vineyards and Dan’s wine is under the J.D. Hurley label. With their intoxicating bouquets, Therese’s wines have a refined elegance; fruit forward and dry. In contrast, Dan’s wines are easy- drinking, rich and bold. Recently, they created a third label called Soulmate; a joint effort that celebrates their devotion to each other. Martin Ranch Winery is open for wine tasting every first and third weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) of the month. The two of you are the sweethearts of our wine region. How did you meet? Dan: Back in 1983, I owned a couple of grocery stores, “Harvest Moon Markets” (one in Watsonville and one in Corralitos). Thérèse was hired while I was away. Thérèse: I was going to Cabrillo College, living with my parents nearby and wanted a part-time job. I started out as a checker and very quickly was promoted to a manager. Dan mentored me in business management and the wine and flower business. We moved from selling jug wine to specific varietals and invested heavily in a flower department. Dan was a confirmed bachelor who didn’t believe in dating the hired help. One day, after eight years of working side-by-side, it just hit me – I realized I had deep feelings for Dan. So I asked him, ‘Have you ever had feelings for someone but didn’t know how to express it to them?’ Dan replied, ‘yes.’ So I asked him who it was that he had these feelings for. I was shocked when he replied, ‘you!’ Our courtship began and one year later we were married. Although our families and friends thought it would never work, we’ve been happily married for 26 years. How did you get started in a winery? Dan: I saw the need to diversify after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake caused major damage to my grocery stores. So in 1992, I decided to plant grapes on my property and sell them to other Santa Cruz Mountains wineries. While I managed the vineyard, Thérèse continued to manage the markets. And for the next ten years, we did very well with the Santa Cruz Mountains ‘sweetheart’ contracts that were in place which not only required a three-year notice of cancellation and automatically renewed – but which also paid a premium for our region’s grapes. But one year, when one of our major customers backed out of their agreement to purchase a large order of our grapes – the same year there was an overabundance of grapes— we panicked, thinking, what are we going to do with all these grapes? It was our “aha” moment. We didn’t like the feeling of losing control of our busi- ness. So that’s when we decided to open our own winery. 80 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN You have one of the most beckoning wineries in the business. With lush views of the vineyards and surrounding hills, a vegetable garden and a picturesque lake. Was this planned from the beginning? Thérèse: No, it just sort of happened! We figured it out along the way. We were totally broke for years. Had we been more structured with a master plan, we would have had a lot less stress. Dan: In 2002, we got bonded and started making our wine in a rented space at Matt’s (Fernwood Cellars, the winery next door). In 2004 we met Pasquale Benedetto who built our winery. At first we only produced Cabernet. But soon, we realized that we needed a white wine. We went from harvesting five tons to fifty tons of grapes in the span of three years. Martin Ranch is located on the border of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz – which appellation do you identify with? What are the benefits of your location? Dan: We are a solid Santa Cruz Mountains winery and also belong to the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley. Being on the east side of the mountains allows our Cabernet to do very well. Thérèse is a super smeller and Dan; a super taster. Give us an example of what this means and how important these skills are in wine making. Therese’s ability as a super-smeller is invaluable when we do wine barrel work at the beginning of the winemaking process. At 58-62 degrees Fahrenheit, I can’t smell anything at that cold temperature. But, Thérèse can. She can take a bung out of a barrel and immediately smell if there is any issue or problem that needs to be addressed. The first thing you do when you drink a glass of wine is smell it – so it is critical that the wine’s aromas are pleasing. Thérèse: Dan uses his super-tasting skills to accentuate the flavors in his blended wines – he can taste the nuances between a ¼ and a ½ percent. december 2018-january 2019 WINERY Dan and Thérése, Owners