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.
This red wine is relatively light and can pair with a wide variety of foods. The grape prefers cooler climates and the wine is most often associated with Burgundy, Champagne and the U.S. west coast. Regional differences make it nearly as fickle as it is flexible.