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Good wines from Martin Ray



Martin Ray winery sent me a few bottles of wine to review, so here they are.

93 Martin Ray 2013 Synthesis Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $?, 14.8%. What I like about this wine is how it manages to be big, dark, deep and profound, on the one hand, while retaining such delicacy and elegance in the mouth. It’s deft blend of Cabernet with 2% Petit Verdot from Stags Leap, Rutherford and Diamond Mountain. Made solidly in the modern style, it’s ripe, opulent and delicious, brimming with black raspberry, cassis liqueur, chocolate, fig, caramelized new French oak and an interesting coffee bean-earthiness. The tannins are thick, soft and sweet. A beautiful wine for drinking now and over the next few years.

92 Martin Ray 2013 Dark Star Hill Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $?, 13.9%. Well-made and obviously from good terroir, but young, with a juicy, saline-briny quality. The wine comes from a vineyard above Freestone. It’s intense and concentrated, with deep, broad raspberry, cranberry and pomegranate fruit flavors, and an ever-so-slight funkiness. Six months in 50% new French oak gives a nice appliqué of smoke and sweet vanilla. The finish is super-spicy, all about cloves, cinnamon, white pepper, star anise. A delicious, complex wine that you should hold for 2-3 years.

90 Martin Ray 2013 Dutton Ranch Mill Station Vineyard Chardonnay (Green Valley); $35. This is a controlled wine of vibrancy and elegance. Grown in the coolest part of the Russian River Valley, it displays notes of pineapples, tart green apples, Meyer lemons, honeysuckle and crème brulée, but also a great tang of minerality that is accented by crisp acidity. The finish is thoroughly dry despite a honeyed richness. A lovely, delightful and easy-drinking Chardonnay from a great vintage that’s ready to drink now.

88 Martin Ray 2013 Pinot Noir (Green Valley of the Russian River Valley); $40, 14.1%. Lots of appealing sour cherry candy, pomegranate and persimmon fruit on this Pinot, which reflects its cool origins well. The wine is bone dry, yet with a fruity-oaky sweetness heightened by good acidity. Wonderfully silky texture—it glides over the tongue. My only complaint is a certain underripeness that suggests beetroot and tomato. Somms will have to think carefully about pairing.

88 Martin Ray 2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley): $28, 13.6%. Just the kind of rosé I like. Bone dry, with mouthwatering acidity highlighting orange zest, strawberry and white pepper flavors. Really likeable, and showing complexity. Great with sushi, tuna tartare, charcuterie, a great baked ham, or Sunday brunch with just about anything.

88 Martin Ray 2013 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast); $35, 14.1%. There’s the official Sonoma Coast appellation, all 480,000 acres of it (five times larger than then Russian River Valley), and there’s the “true” Sonoma Coast, which is the best part. Martin Ray doesn’t tell us precisely where the grapes for this wine are from (I wish they did), except to say “the northwestern edge of the county.” To me, the wine is on the rustic side, with prickly acidity and big tannins. It displays a complex range of sour cherry, pomegranate, heirloom tomato, briary pinecone, espresso and exotic spice flavors, and feels robust and a little raw. I don’t think it’s an ager, so decant it and drink over the next few years.

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