Interview with Martellotto Winery

Owner Greg Martellotto shares his wine philosophy

Dan M Photography

Last month’s Art, Rhythm, and Wine event featured wineries from all over Southern California, including Martellotto Winery. Owned by Greg Martellotto, this winery produces unique wines using a variety of different grapes. One of Martellotto’s most successful wines is “La Bomba,” a 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon that includes 4 different types of grapes, including Cabernet, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. The wine has black cherry fruit and pepper flavors from the Cabernet grapes, and vanilla flavors from the Petit Verdot. 

Patrons of the Art Rhythm and Wine event were able to enjoy this Martellotto wine, as well as a myriad of other both red and white wines provided for the occasion. Martellotto’s wines were a crowd favorite at the Art Rhythm and Wine event. We spoke with owner Greg Martellotto to learn more about the history and delicious wines of the Martellotto winery.

When and why did you start making wine?
I decided not to pursue medical school after completing my master's degree, and I was called to the world of wine and food. After a short stint working in the retail wine business at Winesellar & Brasserie in SD, I started my own wine import/distribution company. I began making wine in Central Coast in 2005.

Where are your wines available?
I sell most of my wines direct to consumers at through an allocation list and to restaurants where I like to eat. I also produce wine for a variety of clients, including Whole Foods, under various labels.

Where do you source your grapes?
All of my current release wines are from Santa Barbara County and I make the wines at my winery in Buellton. I've made wine in the past from grapes sourced from Paso Robles, Lodi, Mexico, and Napa Valley.

You brought a wide variety of wines to the Art, Rhythm, and Wine event, including your 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “La Bomba.” What are some of your other stand-out wines?
The [2012 “Le Bon Temps Roule”] Pinot Noir was awarded 91pts and [was] a finalist at the Ultimate Wine Competition in NYC, which is important as it is judged entirely by individuals who are Masters of Wine and/or Master Sommeliers. The “Piro Piro Piccolo” Pinot Grigio has been awarded a Gold medal as the top Pinot Grigio produced in the central coast. It's not just my opinion. Many restaurants consider it to be one of the best in all of California. 

You produce wines under a label called “Agent for Change.” Tell me about those wines.
I created the Agent for Change brand to give back. The idea is to utilize wine to raise awareness and funds to support charitable activities, just as cookies support the Girl Scouts. The current release wine supports Project Learn Belize. 50% of every dollar earned through sales of the Agent for Change wines supports an elementary school and needy children in Belize.

Personally, what are your favorite types of wines?
If the wine is great, distinctive, well-made, and free of obvious flaws, I'll drink it. Although there is a rising tide of quality wines in the market, there remain a lot of insipid wines.

Is there anything else you want our readers to know?  
Several of my wines fall into the "natural" wine category. This means that the wines do not have commercial yeasts or chemicals added. Most people want to know what's in their food, how it's grown, and where it's from. People are starting to demand the same level of transparency in what they drink. Since 2011, I've included technical data on the rear labels so that people will know my wines just have grapes. Don't even get me started with what's in the mass-produced swill wines!

My wines are distinctive because I and my consulting winemaker have over 30 years of combined experience making wine. It takes the time to make good wine. It takes years to know the real outcome of a single red wine. And it takes years to really understand wine and know what makes a wine taste great. It certainly takes quite a bit of trial and error to make wine that is free of flaws. Grapes for wine are harvested once per year, so you really only get one shot. On the other hand, beer or liquor can be produced year round with many more trials. I think consumers are starting to get more savvy and selective.