Martin Ray Vineyards & Winery highlights two California regions

Martin Ray Winery’s history dates back to the 1940s in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Their second life started in 1990 when Courtney Benham bought the winery and moved it to the Russian River Valley. While they’re now deeply ensconced in Sonoma County, Martin Ray Winery continues to produce wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains too. Both of these areas are well suited for a variety of grapes to thrive. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are among those that do the best. I recently tasted a number of selections from them. Here are four that I really enjoyed and highly recommend.


Martin Ray 2014 Mill Station Chardonnay ($35)

This is entirely Chardonnay from a single vineyard located on Dutton Ranch in The Russian River Valley. Aging took place over 12 months in 40% new French oak. After aging, select barrels are chosen for the final blend. The spice-driven nose also features a bevy of other attractive aromas such as subtle toast, crème fraiche and yellow apple. Lemon curd, Anjou pear and more are on display throughout the layered and complex palate. Continued spices, hints of lemon merengue pie crust and more emerge on the long luscious finish.

Martin Ray 2014 Bald Mountain Vineyard Chardonnay ($35)

All of the fruit for this wine (entirely Chardonnay) was sourced at the namesake vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Barrel aging took place over a year in 40% New French oak. Pineapple and spice aromas dominate the lovely nose. Asian pear, citrus zest and hints of stone fruit are all apparent on the engaging palate. Wet limestone and gentle hints of brown sugar appear on the above average finish.

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Drink of the Week: The Jasmine Cocktail (Paul Harrington’s Original)

The Jasmine Cocktail (per Paul Harrington).When I get into online debates with my fellow left-leaners or culture geeks, I’ll often think to myself (or say in words) that their argument lacks a sense of proportion. Indeed, proportion is possibly the single most important part of any position or, very definitely, any mixed drink. That’s why high-end craft bars will often gladly tell you all the ingredients in a drink while steadfastly refusing to provide the proportions, because therein lies the keys to the cocktail kingdom.

So, that’s how it is I’m presenting two drinks in a row that have the same name and the same ingredients. I would, however, argue that last week’s version of the Jasmine Cocktail, substantially tweaked by Robert Hess, is a much different beverage from this week’s, which was first created in the 1990s by Washington bartender Paul Harrington. It’s definitely much stronger on the lemon flavor and much less so on the contributions of the two liqueurs included in both drinks, but see for yourself.

The Jasmine Cocktail (original version)

1 1/2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 ounce Cointreau or triple sec
1/4 ounce Campari
1 lemon twist (optional garnish)

Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake very vigoriously and strain into a chilled, smallish cocktail glass. Salute the fruit of the lemon tree, which is impossible to eat on its own, but so darn useful for making so many things taste better.

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Drink of the Week: The Jasmine Cocktail (Robert Hess’s Take)

The Jasmine Cocktail.I found the Jasmine Cocktail, or simply Jasmine, in Robert Hess’s oh so reliable “The Essential Bartender’s Guide.” Today’s recipe, however, is actually the second version of the recipe that Hess presents and I decided to do this version for a reason. You see, while the ingredients in both Hess’s version and the original, reportedly created by bartender and writer Paul Harrington in the 1990s, are the same, the proportions of everything but the base spirit are wildly different.

Harringtons’s gin-based cocktail is relatively heavy on lemon juice, light on flavoring elements and, as I’ve often mentioned, very tart drinks aren’t really my super favorites, though I’m usually fine with more bitter flavors. Since the Hess version takes down the lemon juice slightly while significantly increasing the proportion of two bittersweet cocktail standbys, Campari and Cointreau, I was naturally more attracted to his version.

Still, I’m liking the Jasmine Cocktail a la Hess so much that I’ve grown curious about the original. So, stay tuned for that next week. In the meantime, here’s my slightly altered take on the Hess iteration.

The Jasmine Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces gin
1 ounce Cointreau or triple sec
3/4 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 lemon twist (optional garnish)

Combine all the liquids in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and, if you like, add a lemon twist garnish. (I thought the twist helped slightly when I used Cointreau and hurt slightly when I used triple sec.)

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Drink of the Week: The Japanese Cocktail

The Japanese Cocktail.Just as there was nothing particularly Hawaiian about the Hawaiian Cocktail a few weeks back, there is nothing particularly Japanese, or even remotely Asian, about the Japanese Cocktail. There is, however, at least a connection with an actual Japanese person…maybe.

The drink, sometimes just called “Japanese,” can be found in Robert Hess’s “The Essential Bartender’s Guide,” but its roots go back a great deal further than Hess’s outstanding 2008 tome. According to cocktail super historian David Wondrich, the Japanese Cocktail was possibly associated with one Tateishi Onojirou “Tommy” Noriyuki, a dashing translator for the first ever Japanese embassy in the U.S., circa 1860. While the connection seems somewhat tenuous, Wondrich supposes that the Japanese Cocktail, which appears in Professor Jerry Thomas’s epochal 1862 manual,”How to Mix Drinks,” might have been a favorite of Mr. Noriyuki, who may very well have visited Professor Thomas’s New York bar. Or not.

In any case, it’s a pretty tasty drink, but you’d better like the very sweet, almond-derived flavor of orgeat.

The Japanese Cocktail

2 ounces brandy
1/2 ounce orgeat (almond syrup)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 lemon twist (highly recommended garnish).

Combined the brandy, orgeat (Torani or Monin would be standard) and bitters in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Stir or shake and strain into a mixing glass. Add the lemon twist and toast, I don’t know, the vastly improved state of Japanese-American relations since a certain well-known mid-20th century low point.

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Drink of the Week: Rye’d N Dirty

Rye'd N Dirty.In the U.S., whiskey cannot be sold as rye unless it is distilled from at least 51 percent rye grain. In Canada, there is no such rule. Therfore, as I understand it, a lot of what we call Canadian whiskey over here is known as rye north of the border, even though corn and other grains may be a great deal more dominant. For this reason, American rye has long had a more distinctively peppery flavor than it’s Canuck cousin. Lately, however, Canadian brands have been getting into the act with ryes that pass stateside muster.

And so it was that I was turned on to today’s fine cocktail by my friends at Canadian Club…and they really are my friends, as they sometimes send me free stuff and tasty cocktails, in this case their new Canadian Club 100% Rye. Often sold for less than $20.00 a bottle, this all-rye rye is a worthy alternative to such value priced standbys as Pikesville and Old Overholt. Comparing it to regular, blended Canadian Club, it’s less mellow, hotter and spicier, though not as peppery as some of the pricier ryes. It definitely makes for a bold Old Fashioned or Manhattan.

The CC 100% also definitely works pretty brilliantly in our Drink of the Week, which features a burst of additional heat and spice from a non-whiskey source.

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