It’s a fun occurrence when you open up a bottle of wine and the immediate sight, sniff, and sip just make you smile. And I mean really smile — from the inside out. Because a good wine will touch a part of you that even other people can’t always reach. And no, not every wine that makes one person smile will make all people smile, but when a wine brings me as much joy as Martin Ranch’s J.D. Hurley Pinot Noir…well, I just have to share that joy.

I must admit that I’d had this wine once or twice before and I remembered that I enjoyed it. But I didn’t remember enjoying it to this magnitude: a pleasant un-surprise.

About the Wine: Dan and Therese Martin are co-owners, operators and winemakers of Martin Ranch Winery. They pride themselves on maintaining and environmentally green wine production facility as well as a certified wildlife habitat, officially registered with the National Wildlife Federation. And even though their small-time winery has turned in to a mass-market producer, they still continue that homegrown feel for those who visit the winery, often conducting tours and tastings themselves.

Martin Ranch is a local (to me) winery in the garlic-town of Gilroy. Luckily their wine picks up none of the aromas you may encounter when driving through this little piece of country just outside of Silicon Valley. They harvest their grapes from various vineyards from the Santa Cruz mountains, Monterey County, and the Central Coast — where their J.D. Hurley 2013 Pinot Noir hales from.

The Martin Ranch J.D. Hurley Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes from the R.E.D Vineyards in the Central Coast of California. It has been oak barrel aged. ABV 15.5%

Flavor Profile: A fun shade of wine-purple in the glass, initial aromas are of bright, bursting berries (think red cherries, strawberries, maybe even just over-ripe raspberries) with a strong undertone of an herbaceous fennel or anise. And then the sip — which will lead to a smile. For me there was something so reminiscent about this flavor — it took me back to being a child. But why? I had to sip, and ponder, what was it about this wine that reminded me of my childhood. And then it hit me, that bright cherry flavor, with a bit of bitter current — cherry cola! A special treat for a mostly healthy kid. Ok, so it doesn’t full on taste like cherry cola — but the brightness of that red cherry, that underlying flavor of currents, and that undertone of herbaceousness. It certainly tastes like a special treat, indeed.

Oh but this is a grown-up drink. Yes, though there’s enough acidity to keep things cool and fresh, the tannins come into play just at the very finish. Just a touch, a delicate touch on the tongue: enough to give the wine some body, some boundaries, but leaves room for interpretation with the wine’s lovely lingering finish.

Food Pairing: A bushel of berries, a bushel of fun! But I would recommend pairing this with a dish that will pull out the darker elements of the wine. Yes, a grilled fillet mignon, a cedar smoked salmon — either one atop a field of greens, dried cherries, and the slightest slivers of fennel nicely dressed with a light vinaigrette. The smokiness of the meat will pull out that anise-y herbaceousness, that bit of current in the undertone; the fresh greens will pull out even more of that vegetation in the wine’s subtle background flavors; of course the dried cherries will enhance the brightness of the wine’s fruits while the vinaigrette will play with the acidity, keeping things light and lively for the palate.

Think hearty, but think fresh with this wine. And think fun! Enjoy Martine Ranch J.D. Hurly Pinot Noir with someone who will enjoy it with you. So you can smile together.

More Info: I do love Martin Ranch wines and know I’ll be posting about other varietals from them in the future. In the mean time, do check out the Martin Ranch website for information about their J.D. Hurley wines as well as their other collections. I was able to find the Martin Ranch J.D. Hurley Pinot Noir at Safeway (Sale Price: $15).

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