Shortly after King Estate was established in 1991, a young man from rural Mexico came to work in the vineyard and never left. Meliton Martinez had no experience growing wine grapes and no intention to stay. Flash forward 28 years and Mel is still here, now Vineyard Manager responsible for growing the grapes that make King Estate’s premium wines. It is no exaggeration to say it’s impossible to imagine King Estate without Mel. (Read his story in a previous blog.) Reflecting on nearly 30 years with King Estate, Mel repeated something he has said before: “It feels like home.”
Recently we met up with Mel in the north part of King Estate’s 1,033-acre estate. He was standing in Block 21 where Chardonnay vines were being planted. While as many as 35 acres of Chardonnay used to grow on the estate, those vines had all been grafted over to Pinot Gris or Pinot Noir. Now, on a plot of land that had not been in production previously, a crew was planting about one acre of Chardonnay vines that were grafted at the estate. In five years Mel expects to harvest up to 2-1/2 tons of Chardonnay grapes from these vines.
More Chardonnay may be planted on the remaining half-acre in the future. Another acre of Pinot Meunier vines were planted the week before on a 1.2-acre block west, or on the back side, of the winery building. Both the Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes are destined for King Estate’s sparkling wine program.
These new blocks are one more sign that the vineyard is always changing, never static – always beautiful, never boring. And for that we have Mel Martinez and his crew to thank.