Martian Ranch is the creation of Massachusetts native Nan Helgeland, who found her inspiration in the vineyards and wines of Santa Barbara County. After years searching for the perfect property, she purchased this 102-acre parcel on Alisos Canyon Road in 2006, and named it Martian Ranch – the combined childhood nickname of her two sons: Martin and Ian.
While attending Hancock College, Nan decided to farm the ranch Biodynamically upon the combined counseling of Peter Sischel, her East Coast neighbor and Alfredo Koch, department head of viticulture and enology at Hancock where Nan attended. Both gentlemen farm their family vineyards Biodynamically in France and Argentina respectively.
After three years of diligence and care, Martian Ranch & Vineyard became a Demeter Certified, Estate winery in 2015 with 20 acres of vines planted to 10 different grape varietals, each perfectly suited to the Mediterranean climate of the ranch. The vineyard was planted in 2008, with the first Estate vintage in 2011. Estate varietals are a combination of Rhone, Iberian, Beaujolais and a touch of Bordeaux. Albariño, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Clairette, Gamay Noir, Mourvèdre, Grenache Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Tempranillo - approximately 2 acres planted of each. Martian Ranch is known for carefully farmed, vibrant and lower-alcohol wines, with Eric Bolton at the helm as winemaker. Eric graduated Fresno State University as an Enology major with a minor in chemistry. He honed his skills throughout California and abroad, bringing a truly unique and diversified profile to the wines here at Martian Ranch.
Biodynamic principles, which take organic farming to the next level, strive to create a diversified and balanced ecosystem while focusing on the health and fertility of the soil Being a closed system, the ranch grows its own livestock feed and is home to four Irish Dexter cows, Pearl, Petunia, Louise and Lola, who’s manure is used to create healthy compost for the vineyard. Lunar, solar, and cosmic rhythms are followed for all farming practices, which create an optimum environment for the vines. Each part of the growing process revolves around four elements: root, leaf, flower and fruit. Together, these elements dictate what will be done in both the vineyard and the cellar and create the highest expression of harvest. While these farming methods may be more labor intensive, the quality shows in each bottle, carefully crafted between the earth and the cosmos.
The tasting room has been open since October 2014 and offers a wide selection of estate wines. Each wine is named after a celestial notion, from the Stellar Viognier to Area 52 Grenache Noir and Mothership Grenache Blanc. Currently there are 14 wines of various vintages being poured in the tasting room including “Down to Earth” Rosé of Mourvèdre, “Local Group” GSM and “Trente-Duex” Late Harvest Viognier.
The most recent addition to the estate is a nature trail walk led by Nan Helgeland herself through the old oaks of the property as she shares her knowledge with guests, ending at the picturesque pond in the vineyard. Separately, a guided meditation at the pond will be taking place, while you soak up the serenity of the vines and have the opportunity to enjoy wine after!
Featured in the New York Times, SF Chronicle and Jon Bonné’s book, “The New California Wine.” Experimental and eclectic, Martian Ranch & Vineyard is dedicated to the journey, “from sky to ground to grape to barrel to bottle and straight into your glass.”