July 26, 2016
By Sara Schilling
It was 9 a.m. on a Saturday in late April — the biggest Saturday of the year for Martinez & Martinez Winery.
The biggest day of the year, full stop.
And Andrew Martinez seemed cool and collected.
He’d been through it before. Plus, he had a small army of relatives and friends on hand to help out.
It was Spring Barrel Tasting, and by 10 a.m. the Martinez family’s boutique winery at the Winemakers Loft would begin to fill.
By midday, it would be packed to the gills with people enjoying the family’s award-winning wines, along with the popular wine slushies, dubbed roséritas.
“It’s exciting, a little nerve-racking. A lot of maneuvering and getting stuff done,” said Martinez, 36, the winemaker.
“Everybody knows the game plan, for the most part, and we just get it done,” he said. “It goes by fast.”
Martinez started making wine in 2005, with those first cases going to market a couple of years later. The tasting room opened in 2009.
It’s truly a family operation. Martinez’s wife, Monica, handles the business side and marketing.
His mother, Kristy, helps out in the tasting room. And dad, Sergio’s in charge of the vineyard.
The growing, the tending — it’s practically in his blood.
The son of farm laborers, Sergio would travel with his family from California to Oregon to Washington, chasing the harvest.
The family picked peaches, berries, apricots, apples and more. Eventually, when Sergio was in his late teens, he decided to settle in the Lower Yakima Valley.
He’d met Kristy and they had fallen in love. Eventually, they bought some land about 35 miles southwest of Prosser in the Horse Heaven Hills.
Don and Linda Mercer had planted grapes nearby, in what’s now the famed Champoux Vineyard.
“Dad bought some clones from him and put them in the ground,” Andrew Martinez said. “It’s history from there.”
The Martinez family’s 3.5-acre vineyard was planted in 1981, the year after Andrew was born.
Andrew grew up among the vines — helping with everything from hoeing and pruning to irrigation.
Eventually, he pushed for the family to start its own winery.
He wanted to showcase his father’s hard work in the vineyard, he said. And he loves it.
“When people are tasting the wine and they like it, or they like the idea of the whole company — it’s rewarding,” Andrew said.
Martinez & Martinez is the second Hispanic-owned winery in Washington.
Sergio said it’s meaningful to him to run the business with his loved ones. Along with Andrew, he and his wife also have a daughter, Miriah, who helps with the operation.
Sergio feels proud of all they’ve accomplished.
“I’m just glad that I was able to see it, especially from the beginning. At the beginning, I said that they had to remember that it was a lot of hard work and sacrificing (that brought us to this point). They (understood that), so that’s why they’re so committed to making it happen,” he said. “I just hope it continues on from here on out. That it goes onto their kids. That it’ll continue.”
Around him, family and friends buzzed about, preparing for the big day.
Source: Tri-City Herald