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Martha Stoumen, “Benchlands” RedMendocino County, California 2021 (750mL)

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Martha Stoumen, “Benchlands” Red Mendocino County, California 2021 (750mL)

Fruit
Earth
Body
Tannin
Acid
Alcohol

For a single-bottle summation of all that makes the California wine scene so thrilling right now, I nominate Martha Stoumen’s “Benchlands” red. Why? Let me count the ways: (1) it’s made from a colorful array of unexpected varieties; (2) every vineyard source is organically farmed, much of it by Martha herself; and (3) it’s a naturally crafted bolt of invigorating, delicious refreshment.


Up in Mendocino County, Martha is a standard bearer for the current “New California” renaissance, equal parts dusty-booted farmer and trend-setting iconoclast. Her 2021 is lifted, fruit-driven, and incredibly thirst-quenching, miles away from the dense, syrupy red you might expect upon seeing the curious varietal makeup at play here. I can’t quite emphasize enough how broad the appeal of a wine like this is. Just don’t hesitate—Martha’s wines are also some of the most furiously sought-after in the Golden State!



One look at Martha’s resume and it’s clear she’s perfectly positioned to push California forward. After she first got to know vineyard work on an organic farm in Tuscany, she enrolled in the Master’s program at UC-Davis, then embarked on a series of apprenticeships that’d make any natural winemaker envious. She’s worked with Chris Brockaway in California, Leon Barral in Faugères, and COS in Sicily. That last address is of particular note—COS owner Giusto Occhipinti a natural wine icon in his own right, and it was among his sunbaked Nero d’Avola vines where Martha learned how to make deliciously refreshing wines in a hot climate.


Doing that, of course, begins with the vineyard. Martha is meticulous on the farming front. Every vineyard she works with is farmed organically, and over 50% of them she leases and works herself. These are carefully curated sites, located almost entirely in Mendocino County, where the combination of soil, exposure, and variety allow for irrigation-free farming with minimal disease pressure. The search for such places has led her back to her beloved Nero d’Avola variety, along with a raft of other Mediterranean grapes that all find their way into today’s blend: Zinfandel, Carignan, Petite Sirah, Valdiguié, and Colombard. 


Once in the winery, the grapes are fermented spontaneously, with only the occasional addition of sulfur after six months in neutral barrels, and nothing else. It is bottled unfined and unfiltered. The inspiration here is clearly COS’ legendary Cerasuolo di Vittoria, a red blend so fresh and mineral it feels more like Burgundy than Sicily. And Martha lives up to her mentor’s magic touch!


From first whiff, Stoumen’s 2021 “Benchlands” is irresistible. This is no inky oak bomb, but rather a tangy and fresh, bright-fruited red that begs to be enjoyed with abandon. Give it a quick decant to blow off some trapped CO2 (helpful in allowing Martha to keep sulfur levels low) and chill to 55 degrees before diving in. Blackberries, sour cherries, plum skin, violets, cracked white pepper, sage, black tea, and fertile earth all commingle on the nose. The palate sings with juicy acidity and svelte tannins, the sort of structure that just says “drink me now” rather than “lay me down.” This is brambly and dangerously crushable, something to have on hand for any social occasion. One sip and you’ll agree: the future of California is bright indeed!




Martha Stoumen, “Benchlands” Red Mendocino County, California 2021 - SommSelect

  • CountryUnited States
  • RegionCalifornia
  • Sub-RegionMendocino County
  • SoilSandy Clays
  • FarmingOrganic
  • BlendZinfandel 38%, Petite Syrah 21%, Nero d'Avola 17%, Carignan 16%, Valdigué 4%, Colombard 4%
  • Alcohol12.5%
  • OakNeutral French Barrels

  • CountryUnited States
  • RegionCalifornia
  • Sub-RegionMendocino County
  • SoilSandy Clays
  • FarmingOrganic
  • BlendZinfandel 38%, Petite Syrah 21%, Nero d'Avola 17%, Carignan 16%, Valdigué 4%, Colombard 4%
  • Alcohol12.5%
  • OakNeutral French Barrels
  • Temp.Serve at 55° F
  • GlasswareAll-Purpose Stems
  • DrinkingNow-2024
  • Decanting15 Minutes
  • PairingTomato, Burrata, Basil & Prosciutto Salad