It is with a heavy heart that I share news that longtime Fetzer Vineyards winemaker, Dennis Martin, passed away on August 13 following a battle with cancer. Prior to retiring in 2015, Dennis was a pivotal part of the winemaking team at Fetzer Vineyards for over 30 years, ultimately holding the role of Vice President of Winemaking with responsibility for overseeing our entire collection of wines.
Dennis Martin. Photo by George Rose.
An Industry Icon
Many of us who knew Dennis at Fetzer Vineyards knew him as a conscientious winemaker and admired leader. Outside of our organization, Dennis believed in giving back to our industry, over the years serving the American Society for Enology and Viticulture as member, director and president. While at Fetzer Vineyards, Dennis’s notable achievements included establishing and building relationships with quality grape growers and, together with others, crafting the celebrated CORO Mendocino wines. When Fetzer Vineyards was acquired by Viña Concha y Toro in 2011, Dennis was excited about the future opportunities for investment, growth and improved quality for all of the brands. “It’s great to be owned by a wine company again,” he said.
Following Dennis’s retirement from Fetzer Vineyards, he continued to give back to the industry, frequently participating as a judge in wine competitions throughout California including the Mendocino County Fair’s annual wine competition earlier this summer. As wine writer Laura Ness noted in a recent recap of the competition, Dennis was celebrated at the competition’s judges’ dinner at Handley Cellars. Fellow judge Dan Berger opened a magnum of 1987 Fetzer Cabernet Sauvignon Dennis had made, signed by Fetzer family members. Ness remarked that “Denny beamed with pride as he sampled the phenomenally well-aged wine that was still plenty lively, filled with vibrant fruit and irascible acidity.”
A Team Member to Remember
Dennis Martin was a terrific winemaker and inspiring colleague who left an indelible mark on those he knew. We send our condolences to Dennis's family, including his wife Carla and children Astin and Remy, and express our deep gratitude for his dedication, enthusiasm, craftsmanship and humanity.
Please join me in raising a toast to this tremendous life.