Get the Dirt About Comartin Cellars

7 Mar

comartinpeopleWhat was your first vintage year? 2006

How many cases do you make per vintage? 1,500

How did you get your start in the winemaking business? I traveled in Europe in college and became fascinated with wine and why different wines tasted different from place to place. I returned to California to get my degree in Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. I then lived in Australia briefly to work at their National Wine Center. After that I spent 10 years making wines with Testarossa Winery and it is during that time that we launched our own brand, Comartin Cellars.

What wine made you want to become a winemaker/start your own winery? When in the Piedmont region of Italy at the age of 19, I thought I ordered a $25 wine at a restaurant (for myself…I was thirsty) and it turned out to be just a glass of wine….after much debate with the waiter, I tried the wine… it was a very nice Barolo, and at that point I discovered what good wine was. I was hooked.

What varietals do you work with? Which varietal/wine is your favorite to make? Why? Grenache is my favorite to work with. We make single vineyard grenaches from special vineyard sites. We use it in several blends – we make (GSM) – and also use it exclusively for making our dry rosé. It is one of the most versatile grapes I have worked with. I was introduced to Grenache when working in Australia where it was as popular as Pinot Noir is here.

comartingrapesWhat vineyards do you source from? Why?

Santa Ynez Valley – We source from several vineyards for Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvédre. We have worked with Tierra Alta Vineyard since 2007. Beautiful wines from the elevation. We just love the clay/limestone soils of Ballard Canyon.

Santa Cruz Mountains – We source for our Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Our vineyard partner, R-Bar-R Ranch, is an amazing site with elevation, constant fog and 10 miles from the ocean, so very cold—perfect for chard and pinot. In addition, the soils on the mountain ridge always give a classic minerality to the wines, especially for Santa Cruz Mountain Chardonnay.

What type of oak treatment do you use? Why? We use 100% French oak and usually for at least 16-36 months of aging. We tend to use a very small % of new oak (10-20%) and in fact for our Grenache specific wines we tend to only age in used French oak, as we find too much oak overpowers the delicate flavors of Grenache.

What’s the story behind your name/label? Comartin is our family name. My grandfathers owned a butcher shop for 50 years, Comartin Meat Lockers. I saw them work hard with their own hands and produce things for people to enjoy as a family. When I got into wine, that history and story became inspiring to me—to share what I love to create with others—from that Comartin Cellars was born.


What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you about the wine business before you started your own winery? “Making wine is the easy part.” At least for us winemakers. But when you are running your own small business you must wear all the hats. You must be business savvy. Too many small wineries fail (or operate in the red) because they think good wine will sell itself….you must be in the market, sharing your story and your wine.

Most importantly, what’s so great about being small? What can you do as a small winemaker, that wouldn’t be possible for larger wineries? Picking my kids up from school… a small business owner/winemaker you have flexibility to do what you want.

If you had to choose another wine region to work in what would it be? Burgundy…so much history and tradition. Plus, I love white burgundies….and frommage too.

To learn more about Comartin Cellars, please visit their website or follow them on FACEBOOK.

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