A first-generation American, Martin is the first Master of Wine of Mexican descent and one of only 47 MWs in the country. With a 16-year career as a respected buyer, importer, and educator, he has held influential roles in many sectors of the industry. Martin’s wine story began with an over-indulgent Parisian dinner as a Stanford undergrad and, by 2003, he was stocking shelves at K&L. In 2011, Martin became the principal buyer for an importer operating prominent wine club programs including The New York Times and Williams-Sonoma. His importing team was profiled in The Tasting Panel Magazine, and he was named one of Wine Enthusiast’s Top Forty under Forty Tastemakers in 2015.
Today, Martin continues to work across the full supply chain, from winery management and production (Peter Paul Wines), to serving as a consulting for a range of businesses including luxury Napa Valley brands (Vice Versa Wines, Spottswoode Estate), importers (Copa Fine Imports) and software companies (Vivino.com). More recently, he launched Reyes Selections, a small East Coast-based portfolio of imported wines culled from his past travels, and has spoken for industry organizations such as ClubandResortBusiness.com and Stag's Leap District Winegrowers. Martin holds a diploma in Wine & Spirits and is certified as both a Wine Educator and Sommelier.
In his free time, he attempts to become fluent in a fifth language and raises his daughter trilingually, together with his wife in Vallejo, CA.
What is your favorite wine region to visit?
The one I have not gone to yet. Not quite answering the question, but the truth is, each one becomes my favorite after I leave it. So more favorites will come, by my odd logic. The prospect list is probably a lifetime’s worth. But on my bucket list is Madeira and Lebanon.
What is your favorite class to teach?
WSET L3 Sparkling Class – tasty and necessary, what’s not to like?
What's your most memorable wine experience?
Gary Figgins, hosting a scrawny retail stockboy who’d been in the wine biz for less than 2 years. There we were, in his caves, tasting through about 30 barrels over 3 hours, I’m following him around while holding a large white bucket (which got quite full towards the end). Of course, this kid had no idea who he was or how freakin ridonculous one should feel being in his presence. To me, this was just a friendly old guy who everyone kept tell me I should visit if I found myself in Washington wine country. To him, I must have truly been a nobody, just another wine clerk acting like a wine tourist. And yet, there he was, graciously spending his afternoon with me, sharing his philosophy, sharing his story, and sharing snapshots of his future wines. Hell, I was just a newcomer, driving up from Oregon Wine Camp in 2004, having my rental car broken into and luggage stolen, pulling up to his winery with a flapping-tarp covering one window, and 3-day worn clothes – (stockboy salaries weren’t all that high back then to buy a new wardrobe on the fly). This is a moment that I will never forget. If I could go back in time, and thank him for his hospitality, grace, and generosity, I would in a heartbeat. Leonetti has a soft spot in my heart even today.
Why did you decide to become an instructor?
Teaching is always the best way to learn. And I am quite forgetful. To me, this is a way to stay up to date with the changing world of wine. I also appreciate the challenge of finding ways to distill the complexities of some regions, industries, and traditions into manageable subject matter for all of us in a class to understand at the same time.
What's your most memorable food and wine pairing?
To this day, it’s the beauty of what happens when Banyuls is paired with super dark chocolate.
What's the biggest challenge in your job?
The jetlag. But I found a new pillow that works on planes finally. It is amazing. Ask me and I’ll tell you about it.
What other passions aside from wine do you have?
Music, both playing and listening, guitar, piano, singing. Rockclimbing. Cooking whenever I can. All of this is kinda common, but whatevs, I’m a one-trick pony. It seems wine takes up most of my brainspace.
Name some recent wine discoveries that you find exciting.
The idea (shown in practice by a savvy grapegrower friend of mine who recently taught this to me) that vines truly live each day as if they are slowly breathing: inhaling and exhaling as the day progresses into night. The readings you might take at 5am during harvest are not the same as a reading at 10amafter the vines have had their coffee, and yes, they get tired and grumpy around 4pm just like we do, and they might take a nap, and then relax and sleeeeeeep quietly as the dusk turns to night. Their slumber (like ours) is different when it’s a cool night vs a warm night, just like us; we may toss and torn and throw covers off, or snuggle under the brisk night air as our REM takes over; vines react their own way to each day as well. I find this absolutely, expletively fascinating.
If you could teach anyone in the world, who would you want to teach?
My daughter. To have her grown up in the ways of wine and learn that nuance (and balance) matters. Thus, “Yes but” and “It depends” are effectively always part of any answer or lesson in life, just like they are in wine.
What do you think is the most unappreciated wine or wine region in the world?
Portugal, for dry wines.