Martin Ray, a stockbroker with a passion for wine and winemaking, owned Paul Masson winery from 1936 to 1943, then started his own Martin Ray vineyard and winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where his Cabernet Sauvignons, Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs became legendary. Ray was one of the first California vintners to plant those grapes and to adopt French winemaking practices. When Ray’s partnership with his investors soured in the 1960s, the property was divided and the investors took over the upper portion of the estate, renaming it Mount Eden Vineyards. Ray took the lower half of the property. He died in 1976 but his family retained the rights to his label and a number of notable Napa Valley winemakers crafted Martin Ray wines in the following years. In 1990 Napa Valley wine entrepreneur Courtney Benham purchased the Martin Ray name. Benham now makes wines under the Martin Ray label at a Sebastopol facility.
Sonoma County is not an AVA, but it is a commonly used informal designation for wines made outside of more specific AVAs within Sonoma, which is a large wine producing region just west of Napa Valley. Though Sonoma is often overshadowed by its glamorous neighbor Napa Valley, it has a long history of wine production. The area specialized in jug wine until the mid-20th century, when Sonoma producers took a cue from Napa and started improving quality. Unlike Napa, where Cabernet Sauvignon is king, Sonoma specialized in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, though excellent Cabs are produced too. There are at present 16 AVAs within Sonoma County, and, like much of the West Coast of the United States, new AVAs are created in Sonoma County with regularity. Some Sonoma appellations, such as the Russian River Valley, are renowned for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
One of the most widely grown grape varieties, it can be found in nearly every wine growing region. A cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a hardy vine that produces a full-bodied wine with high tannins and great aging potential.