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Country of Origin: USA
Location: Northern California
People: Martha Stoumen, Owner & Winemaker
Viticulture: Practicing Organic
Punch: The New Who’s Who of Wine Cool
Bon Appetit: How Natural Winemaker Martha Stoumen Turns Work Into Highly Drinkable Play
I'll Drink to That! #330: Martha Stoumen
SevenFifty Daily: How Martha Stoumen Became a Master of Nero d'Avola
Purely Domestic Wine Report: The Wines from Martha Stoumen
Cru Podcast: How to Approach Learning About & Making Wine with Martha Stoumen
Martha Stoumen Wines was founded upon the desire to recapture a farming and winemaking culture that has all but faded away: a winemaking culture of patience.
"For my wines I lease and farm around half of the vineyards myself. The other half are farmed by multi-generation farmers who understand their land, and their family's land, far better than I ever will, and who farm with my same philosophies in mind. Patience in the vineyard means composting rather than adding synthetic fertilizers, allowing predatory insects the ability to outcompete pests rather than spraying insecticides, and doing proper handwork, such as pruning for vine longevity rather than high yields." - Martha Stoumen
Martha Stoumen Wines is a one-woman grape growing and natural winemaking project out of Northern California. Martha works with varieties historic to California, like Carignan and Zinfandel, as well as those she's helping pioneer under California’s sun, such as Nero d’Avola. Rare among California’s new guard, Martha leases and farms 75% of her vineyards. She focuses on biodiversity, and prunes with vine longevity in mind. Most importantly, to truly respect her Californian roots, she farms their vineyards in such a way that maintains healthy ecosystems. Although the farming and winemaking practices are traditional, the profiles of Martha’s wines break from the California standard in that they are light, electric, and digestible.
Minimalist winemaking techniques are used in the cellar. Patience in the cellar means letting the natural yeast and bacteria on the grape skins perform the fermentation. Patience means allowing longer macerations and aging to provide stability rather than adding tannin, acid, or stabilizing agents in the wines. Martha learned these traditional winemaking practices while apprenticing in Italy and France.
Martha went to work in the vineyard, olive orchard, and winery of a small farm and learning center in Tuscany after studying traditional agricultural systems and Italian during her undergraduate degree. The majority of her farm work took place in the vineyard rather than the winery, so she entered the world of wine production through the lens of a vigneronne rather than a typical modern California winemaker who spends very little to no time in the vineyard. During this time she also worked with farm animals, bees, and vegetables, and to this day views growing grapes and making wine ideally as part of a larger system.
Besides a love of food, and therefore agriculture, Martha was drawn to wine for two reasons: she relishes a tradition in which the master-apprentice relationship is still very much alive and well, and because wine is a product that sets the pace and rhythm of the winemaker’s life, rather than vice-versa. Grape growing and winemaking aligns a vigneronne’s actions with the seasons; she can neither rush the process nor slow it down. After her initial exposure to grape farming and winemaking in Tuscany, Martha began a series of apprenticeships, sandwiched around a master's at UC Davis. Martha has had the pleasure of apprenticing under Reinhard Löwenstein (Heymann-Löwenstein, Mosel), Jordan Fiorentini (Chalk Hill, California) Chris Brockway (Broc Cellars, California), Clive Dougall (Seresin, Marlborough), Didier Barral (Léon Barral, Faugères, France), and Giusto Occhipinti (COS, Sicily). Many of these teachers have remained a part of her life as she has moved toward her own vision of making responsibly farmed, terroir-driven wines in the land that she holds so dear in her heart, California.