Martellotto Winery in Santa Barbara Wine Country Announces Organic Wine Offer

Martellotto Winery in Santa Barbara Wine Country Announces Organic Wine Offer

Martellotto Winery, a premier winery located in Santa Barbara Wine Country, has released a new organic wine offer.

“We know that even as people are drinking more wine at home, the ongoing pandemic continues to pressure wine drinkers and their families in many ways,” said owner Greg Martellotto. “We have always promoted healthy wine-drinking habits. Now more than ever, we want people to drink moderately and cleanly, preferably with organic wine. If people are going to drink wine, we think they should drink better wine with fewer chemicals and sugar.”

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The organic wine category continues to grow, particularly among younger wine drinkers. The benefits of organic wine include:

  • No artificial, synthetic, or GMO ingredients or pesticides
  • Minimal added sulfites beyond those occurring naturally
  • Use of natural yeasts and sustainable farming methods
  • Must be certified every year

santa barbara wine country organic wine

The offer includes three wines, each made from organic grapes grown in the highly acclaimed, certified organic Spear Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. Planted in 2014, the vineyard sits high on north-facing slopes, in sedimentary clay and white sandy loam. This rare soil combination contributes to the wines’ vibrant acidity.

2018 “M” by Martellotto Chardonnay

A wine that drinks like a cross between luscious California fruit and Old World restraint. Made from 100% Chardonnay, it acquires added depth and a broad from 18 months in first and second use French oak barrels.

2018 Martellotto “Melodeon” Chardonnay

This 100% Chardonnay is barrel fermented for 11 months in 30% new French oak and 70% second or third use. This Chablis-inspired wine is dry and nuanced with flavors of baked apples and pears balanced by high acidity.

2017 Martellotto “Le Bon Temps Roule” Pinot Noir

“Let the Good Times Roll!” This wine blends value and drinking pleasure in an elegant and balanced package. It shows notes of spice, oak, lavender, and raspberry and was made from 100% Pinot Noir aged only 11 months to maintain freshness.

All wines are small production, low in sugar, with minimal added sulfur.
Greg traces his wine-making family back to the 17th century in Alberobello in Puglia, Italy. Today, he explores his legacy by making wines respectful of the past yet firmly planted to the present and future.

sanata barbara martellotto winery organic wine

About Martellotto Winery

Set deep in the heart of Santa Barbara wine country, Martellotto Winery makes handcrafted, beautiful, and exciting wines using selected grapes from across California’s Central Coast. His award-winning wines are sourced from Happy Canyon AVA, Sta. Rita Hills AVA, Santa Ynez Valley AVA, and Santa Maria Valley AVA.

Owner and winemaker, Greg Martellotto, specializes in Bordeaux varietals. Martellotto Winery is one of the few wineries producing single varietal wines of all five of the noble Bordeaux grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.

Sta. Rita Hills Organic Wines: What You Don’t Know About Organic Wines but Should

Sta. Rita Hills Organic Wines: What You Don’t Know About Organic Wines but Should

Wine experts around the world regularly debate the attributes of organic, biodynamic, and natural wines. Some praise, while others malign. This is a small but passionate subject in the wine world, and each side is vehemently expressed. 

The subject of organic agriculture is rapidly gaining popularity in the minds of wine drinkers. Martellotto Winery believes organic wines are an important factor in this ever-changing industry. This is why we offer organic wines from Sta. Rita Hills AVA, located in the southwest corner of Santa Barbara Wine Country.

But what are organic wines and why should they matter to you? Read on to learn more.

defining organic wines

Defining Organic Wines

Even though this segment has been in the market for decades, consumers remain confused on the various terms. This is largely caused by the lack of global standards or definitions. The following applies only in the U.S.

  • Not an official certification or designation, but a philosophy of winemaking.
  • Not defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which establishes wine-labeling laws.
  • Grapes are grown organically or biodynamically and harvested manually.
  • Processed without adding or removing anything (non-interventionist winemaking)
    • use only native yeasts, i.e., spontaneous fermentation
    • no fining or filtering
    • no additional ingredients, including sulfites, or processes
  • Neutral aging preferred (no oak influence)
  • The goal is fresh, lively, “untouched” wine, with no attempt to compensate for anything.
  • Can include skin-contact white or orange wines and red wines

Traditional processes use “interventionist” techniques to stabilize the wine and avoid bacteria.

The “clean wine” trend calls for low-calorie wine made by small family winegrowers. Residual sugar should be less than 1 gram per liter, and alcohol should be 12.5% ABV or lower.

This category appeals to the health-conscious wine drinker who would like to see food-like nutrition labels on wine. But there are no rules for this category, and the wine can be anything, even highly manufactured.

organic wine sta. rita hills

Organic Wine

  • Must be certified by the USDA under the National Organic Program (NOP)
  • Grapes must be 100% organically grown on land free of prohibited chemical inputs, fertilizers, pesticides, other additives, GMOs.
  • Yeasts (native only) and other agricultural ingredients must be 100% organic.
  • Includes management of soil fertility
  • Processed with at least 95% organic non-agricultural ingredients
  • No added sulfites
  • The label must include the name of the certifying agent.

The USDA organic seal is not required on the label. Certification is delegated to accredited certifying agents such as California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF).

Wine made with organic grapes: allows sulfites up to 100 ppm.
Wine with ingredients including organic grapes: allows sulfites up to 350 ppm, similar to other wines.)

sta. rita hills biodynamic wine

Biodynamic Wine

  • Must be USDA NOP certified organic
  • Must follow processes and formulas outlined by founder Rudolf Steiner
  • Steiner promoted a closed system from vineyard to bottle.
    • Vineyard managed as a self-sustaining farm ecosystem
    • Specifications for water and biodiversity
    • Use of natural materials, soils, composts
    • Follow the biodynamic calendar
    • Allows sulfites up to 100 ppm, no other additives

Demeter USA is the only certification body for biodynamic farming and products. The label must include the certification logo.

Wine made with biodynamic grapes: allows some limited (approved) additives. The label cannot state biodynamic.

Sustainable Wine (in California)

  • Combines the concepts of a whole ecosystem, adding human and economic aspects, such as social equity and profitability
  • Made in a certified winery with a minimum of 85% grapes from certified vineyards, 100% from California
  • Must be certified by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) to use the logo on the label

why organic wines matter sta. rita hills

Why Organic Wines Matter

According to the Organic Trade Association, in 2019, U.S. organic product sales reached another milestone at $55B, 5% growth over the prior year.

Most towns have local farmer’s markets selling different types of organic products. Evidence mounts that consumers will spend more time and effort on these products.

But this does not apply so much to wine. Fewer than 10% of consumers choose organic wines or even consider such ingredients. With no labeling requirements, no clear category definitions, and a lack of access and distribution, the promise goes unfulfilled.

People want to understand these categories but find them confusing. The lack of coordinated efforts at certification and formal designation doesn’t help.

But the pressure for change continues:

  • Younger people are focused on their health and what goes into their bodies.
  • They want lower alcohol, lower sugar, less “produced” wines they believe are better for them.
  • Consumers want high-quality products without chemicals, GMOs, pesticides, or preservatives.
  • Concern about the environment and climate change continues to explode.
  • The wine marketplace seems standardized.
  • Younger consumers want authenticity, rejecting anything they deem “inauthentic.”
  • They want packaging, labeling, and tasting note innovation.
  • These consumers use social media to amplify their message.

This consumer change will drive producers to adopt more sustainable and transparent practices. Yet, not everyone has not fully embraced the movement, because, given Mother Nature, agricultural endeavors value flexibility.

The category gets a lot of press but little progress in the trade. The marketplace teems with manipulation, misinformation, and savvy marketing.

What matters in quality wine is the health of the soil, the vines, the fruit, the people involved, and the processing. A quality wine comes from the vineyard’s location, climate and weather, soil, and what happens in the cellar.

What matters is the management of the entire process from dirt to store shelf.

organic wines sta. rita hills wine country

Organic Wines & Sta. Rita Hills

Located between Buellton and Lompoc, the Sta. Rita Hills AVA has many attributes making it perfect for growing its famous Pinot Noir. 
  • East-west geographic orientation flanked north and south by mountains
  • Cool Pacific air currents and fog sweep through the valley
  • Diatomaceous earth soils (a crumbly sedimentary rock of silica-based fossilized sea organisms)
  • Low rainfall, excellent drainage, and a long growing season 

The 1976 Sanford Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills brought wide-spread attention to the region. Richard Sanford was an early proponent of organic viticulture. The original vineyard, now under different ownership, has not maintained certification.

In fact, out of the more than 50 producers today, only a handful are certified organic. The annual certification process is long, challenging, and expensive, discouraging many small producers.

Some producers farm organically without certification while others choose to be certified as sustainable.

One example of a CCOF certified vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills AVA is the family-owned and operated Spear Vineyards & Winery run by Ofer Shepher.

His motivation for organic farming didn’t start with wine. It started with his dogs. He found they were suffering from Roundup poisoning from nearby ranch land. When he planted the vineyard in 2014, organic farming was the only way.

Operation Name: Spear Vineyards And Winery, LLC Dba Spear Vineyards
Operation Status: Certified
Status Effective Date: 04/24/2015
Certifier: [CCOF] CCOF Certification Services, LLC

sta. rita hills martellotto winery organic wines offer

Martellotto Winery produces three wines that showcase the versatility and beauty of the fruit from this amazing vineyard:

  1. 2018 “M” by Martellotto Chardonnay - A wine that drinks like a cross between luscious California fruit and Old World restraint. Made from 100% Chardonnay, it acquires added depth and a broad from 18 months in first and second use French oak barrels.
  2. 2018 Martellotto “Melodeon” Chardonnay - This 100% Chardonnay is barrel fermented for 11 months in 30% new French oak and 70% second or third use. This Chablis-inspired wine is dry and nuanced with flavors of baked apples and pears balanced by high acidity.
  3. 2017 Martellotto “Le Bon Temps Roule” Pinot Noir - “Let the Good Times Roll!” This wine blends value and drinking pleasure in an elegant and balanced package. It shows notes of spice, oak, lavender, and raspberry and was made from 100% Pinot Noir aged only 11 months to maintain freshness.

All wines are small production, low in sugar, with minimal added sulfur.

why martellotto winery produces organic wines

Why Martellotto Winery Produces Organic Wines

Consumers buy wine because of the taste and then the quality. Choosing organic tends to be further down the list of requirements. But because we believe in promoting good health for our customers, we encourage drinking in moderation and drinking less processed and more natural wines.

Evidence suggests that organically farmed wines tend to exhibit more indicators of high-quality wine, more nuance, depth, and freshness.

Martellotto Winery wants to educate our consumers in understanding and choosing organic wines. The way forward is to know the vineyard, the grower, and the winemaker. There are no shortcuts.

When it comes to these categories, buyer beware. If you’re concerned about how a wine is made, go as close to the source as possible. Question the producer, the importer, or the retailer to be sure you buy the “real” thing.

The History of Santa Barbara Wine Country, Part 1: The Early Years

The History of Santa Barbara Wine Country, Part 1: The Early Years

Santa Barbara Wine Country may be the most dynamic wine region in California today. From the Wine Ghetto in Lompoc to the newest AVA, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, innovation abounds throughout the County.

While this Central Coast wine region is only 50 years old, it has become invaluable to California’s economy and wine industry. Growing from nothing after Prohibition, the wine business contributes $1.75B and 10,000 jobs to the state’s economy. (Alison Laslett, CEO of Santa Barbara Vintners)

In this three-part series, we’ll follow the path of this astonishing growth.

Rethinking Spanish Colonization

Given the massive cultural changes happening in 2020, the Spanish colonization of the New World looks different. We’ll not touch on that meaningful conversation here, but for California wine, the Spanish conquest was pivotal. Without it, the California wine industry might have evolved differently.

Though wild grapevines grew in the U.S. and California, native people didn’t know wine. They made a fermented beverage from cherries.

Europeans had a different experience. The Spanish, much like the Romans, carried Vitis vinifera grapevines on their explorations. Their Catholic church services required wine, and it was also their daily beverage.

The first vinifera wines brought to the New World came into Mexico, maybe during the 1520 expedition of Hernán Cortés. Records aren't clear about the date.

An essential part of the growth of the colonies, Spain and France supplied the raw material for wine. It was impossible to supply the amount of wine needed without local production. Experiments with local wild grapevines resulted in inferior quality wine.

Grapevines came into the territory once called Alta California in 1782. The intrepid Franciscan friar of Spain, Father Junípero Serra, oversaw colonial expansion through building missions to convert natives to Catholicism. The first mission was built in San Diego in 1769 and the last of 21 in Sonoma in 1823.

Serra earned the honor “Father of California Wine” because he planted the Spanish grape, Listán Prieto, wherever he could. The grape became known as the “Mission” grape because all 21 missions had vineyards, though not all thrived.

Serra may have planted the first vineyard at the San Diego mission in 1779, though records no longer exist. He died in 1784 at the age of 71 and was buried at mission #2 in Carmel.

santa barbara county missions

The Missions of Santa Barbara County

Father Serra did not plant vineyards near any of the three missions in Santa Barbara County due to political troubles. He planted vineyards at only the first nine missions. But, he did plant a different vineyard near the city in 1782, two years before his death.

The Santa Barbara missions were: 

 Name - Order # Founded Vineyard Notes
Santa Barbara - #10 1786 San Jose
Vina Aroya
La Cieneguita
Second largest vineyard production of the 21 missions
La Purísima Concepcíon - #11 1787 Jalama
San Francisoto
Near Lompoc, the largest mission of the three
Santa Inés - #19 1804 Refugio
Arroya Hondo

Near Solvang, built to reduce overcrowding at the other missions


The sale of wine, and brandy, brought much-needed income into the missions. The popular wines made from the Mission grape were sweet and light with low acidity.

Secular producers of wine and vineyards included several Comandantes of the three military presidios established by the Spanish in Santa Barbara.

Spanish land grants allowed owners to establish ranches throughout the town and the county. Some vineyards and wine production took place at Refugio Canyon and along Zaca Creek.

The Mexican government mandated the missions be secularized in 1834. Over the next decade, missions and vineyards were abandoned, including those in Santa Barbara County.

santa barbara wine country gold rush

The Gold Rush

The Mission grape lived on in California, especially in San Gabriel. Large-scale wine production continued thereafter the missions ceased religious operation.

Southern California had a thriving wine trade through the mid-18th century. Many immigrants planted vineyards there, as did the first American born on U.S. soil.

Many of these wine producers sold wine to the ever-growing numbers of prospectors searching for gold in the north. Northern California’s transition from gold to wine began in the mid-1800s, and, by the turn of the century, the north had become the dominant wine producer.

In the latter half of the 1800s, European immigrants planted vineyards and made wine in Santa Barbara County. Vine plantings reached 90,000 by 1858.

The vineyards of the Santa Barbara Mission in Goleta became the property of an Irish immigrant, James McCaffrey. He managed the San Jose vineyard and winery until his death. One of his workers, an Italian named Michele Cavaletto, took it over in 1900. He ran it until 1918, and it remains in the family today.

In 1984, Santa Barbara County named the winery building, the oldest man-made structure in the area, a historic landmark. Not open to the public, the Cavaletto family preserves the old adobe winery while managing the ranch. Wine is not part of their business today,

Around 1900, 13 vineyard production areas existed throughout Santa Barbara County. Prohibition wiped them out. Some people tried to hold onto their vineyards but with little success.

Pioneers After Prohibition: The Early Days

Prohibition, the Depression, and the Great Wars essentially ended the wine business in Santa Barbara County, and elsewhere.

The wine business didn’t reappear in Santa Barbara County until the 1960s. Setting the stage for the emergence of the new industry, UC Davis graduates plus grape growers from the San Joaquin Valley ventured in.

The first commercial vineyard, the famous Nielsen vineyard, lay east of Santa Maria. It was planted in 1964 by UC Davis graduates, Uriel Nielsen and Bill DeMattei. Part of the historic Rancho Tepusquet, they sold their first harvest in 1968 to Christian Brothers of Napa Valley. Nielsen’s family grew commercial food grapes in the San Joaquin Valley.

Another son of a San Joaquin grape-growing family, Louis Lucas, planted a vineyard in 1969 on Tepusquet Mesa. They hired Dale Hampton to manage it. Hampton started a wine-growing consulting company in 1972 that remains in business today.

The Miller family, long respected for wine grape-growing in Paso Robles, planted a vineyard in Santa Maria in 1973. They named the vineyard, Bien Nacido, a famous vineyard indeed.

In these early days, the focus was on grape-growing and selling. 1975 saw 32 growers and only four wineries.

santa barbara wine country founding 13 wineries

The Founding 13 Wineries

By 1983, with notoriety building, wineries grew to 13. Together, these wineries founded the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association. The Santa Maria Valley AVA had already been established in 1981, and the Santa Ynez Valley AVA was established in 1983.

 Winery Founded
Santa Barbara Winery 1962
Rancho Sisquoc Winery 1968
Santa Ynez Winery 1970
Sanford & Benedict 1971
Zaca Mesa Winery 1973
Ballard Canyon Winery (Rusack Vineyards) 1974
Brander Vineyard 1975
Firestone Vineyard 1975
Mosby Winery 1976
Houtz Vineyards (Beckman Vineyards) 1984
Byron Vineyard & Winery 1984
Gainey Vineyard 1984
Foxen Vineyards & Winery 1985


 Here is a look at these original 13 wineries. 

1. Santa Barbara Winery - 1962

In 1962, a Canadian wine shop owner named Pierre Lafond founded the Santa Barbara Winery in present-day downtown. He purchased grapes from vineyards further south to make wine. A few of his customers had tried planting grapevines to no success. He finally planted a vineyard in 1972 in the Santa Rita Hills, west of Buellton.

2. Rancho Sisquoc Winery - 1968

With an impressive history, the land of Rancho Sisquoc Winery, near Santa Maria, hails from an 1852 Mexican land grant. San Franciscan James Flood founded a cattle ranch and farm on the property in 1952.

He started a vineyard in 1970 planted with Johannisberg Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon, selling grapes to Geyser Peak in Sonoma. Vineyard manager Harold Pfieffer started experimenting with winemaking in 1972. A tasting room, perhaps the first, rose in 1977.

The San Ramon Chapel, shown on the label, was built in 1875. It became the County’s first official landmark in 1966. Mass continues to be held every Sunday.

3. Santa Ynez Winery - 1970

Claire Bettencourt and G. C. Davidge were ranch owners in the Santa Maria Valley. Purchasing property on the site of California’s first college, they created College Ranch in 1969. They sold grapes to Paul Masson Winery in Soledad.

In 1975, they created a winery called the Santa Ynez Winery due to its location in Santa Ynez. Fred Brander was the first winemaker, and Australian Mike Brown spent four years here. Mike worked with Ken Brown at Zaca Mesa and Bill Mosby, both Santa Barbara wine pioneers.

Bettencourt also started a winemaking cooperative in Santa Maria as an outlet for grape production.

4. Sanford & Benedict - 1971

Botanist Michael Benedict and Richard Sanford planted the famous Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills in 1971. Initial plantings included Chardonnay and Riesling, with Pinot Noir coming in 1972.

Sanford and Benedict were focused on making and selling wine, not growing and selling grapes. Their first vintage in 1976 caused people to take notice, raising the vineyard’s profile. Its Pinot Noir vines are the oldest in the County.

The partners split in 1980. The vineyard stayed with Benedict, while Sanford and his wife founded The Sanford Winery in Buellton, in 1981.

5. Zaca Mesa Winery - 1973

Oil executive Marshall (Lou) Ream, commercial real estate developer John Cushman, and other investors founded Zaca Mesa Winery in 1973. Their goal was experimentation.

Ken Brown became the first winemaker in 1976, influencing the decision to plant Syrah. The well-known block called “Black Bear Block” was the first syrah vineyard. They built a winery in 1978.

Other major winemakers worked here over the years, including Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist.

6. Ballard Canyon Winery - 1974

In 1974, dentist Gene Hallock founded the Ballard Canyon Winery near Los Olivos, on land which Rusack Vineyards now owns. He specialized in Johannisberg Riesling.

7. Brander Vineyard - 1975

Owner and winemaker Fred Brander started one of the first estate vineyards, Brander Vineyard, in 1974 east of Los Olivos. He planted vines in 1975 and built the winery in 1979. Plantings included Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Semillon.

Bordeaux varietals are still unusual for Santa Barbara County. Some original Sauvignon Blanc vines remain to this day.

8. Firestone Vineyard - 1975

Leonard Firestone, U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, purchased a ranch north of Los Olivos in 1971. He planted a vineyard in 1972 to grow and sell wine grapes further north. He created the first estate winery with his son, hiring Anthony (Tony) Austin as the founding winemaker.

9. Mosby Winery - 1976

Lompoc dentist, Bill Mosby, made wine while in college at Oregon State. Purchasing land in 1963 near the Santa Ynez River, he created a vineyard in 1971. Another vineyard came along in 1977 south of Buellton, where he built a winery.

10. Houtz Vineyards - 1984

Dave and Margy Houtz built Houtz Vineyards in Los Olivos in 1984 and hired John Kerr as a winemaker. Beckman Vineyards purchased the property in 1994.

11. Byron Vineyard and Winery - 1984

In 1984, (Byron) Ken Brown founded Byron Vineyard and Winery in Santa Maria. Brown purchased the historic Nielsen vineyard in 1989. He also later purchased Bien Nacido Vineyard and Julia’s Vineyard, both part of the original Tepusquet Ranch.

12. Gainey Vineyard - 1984

Daniel and Robin Gainey started the Gainey Vineyard in Santa Ynez in 1984, planting Sauvignon Blanc and Johannisberg Riesling. They may have been the first to blend wine and tourism through hosting concerts, cooking demonstrations, and wine classes.

13. Foxen Vineyards & Winery - 1985

English sailor, Benjamin Foxen became a naturalized Mexican citizen known as “Don Julian” and “Guillermo Domingo.” He first visited Santa Barbara in 1818. In 1837, he took ownership of Rancho Tinaquaic, of which 2,000 acres remain in the family today.

Dick Doré, Foxen’s great-great-grandson, and winemaker Bill Wathen established Foxen Vineyards & Winery in 1985 on the historic ranch. The winery’s brand is an anchor in honor of Don Julian.

santa barbara wine country making its way

Santa Barbara Wine Country: Making its Way

The Santa Barbara Wine industry has come a long way in a short time due to the vision and persistence of dedicated pioneers.

We’ll move into the growth during the decades of the 1980s and 1990s in the next installment. As the industry matures, significant changes take place.