San Martino Winery: A Fine Place to See Red -- But Only Red

When you think of wine-making countries in Europe, most people naturally assume France and Italy have just about cornered the market. Indeed, Italian and French wines are known around the world as standard-bearers of the tipple craft for centuries. However, more and more people are being drawn to the affordable wines of Spain, the soft, supple whites and the rich, robust reds, often sold in America at prices equal to or in many cases far below those of their European counterparts.

San Martino is a village in the Galician region of Spain that was the early home of Emilio Ramos. In 2003, he and his wife Maria created San Martino Winery in the far-flung wilds of greater Rockwall to realize their dreams of making Spanish-style wines for thirsty North Texans. They built one of the most beautiful wineries in all of North Texas, a delightful, mission-style building, complete with modern tasting room and two spacious outdoor patios overlooking a serene wooden lot, an oasis of sanity in the confusion of the city. Their black cat Tinto rules over the entire domain and graciously welcomes visitors.

Tastings are $8 for samplings of five wines, or $12 for tastes from the reserve list, and prices are $8 and $12 respectively if you decide to purchase by-the-glass. I sampled several wines, and can heartily endorse the quality of San Martino's quaff, but only if you are a red-wine drinker.

You see, San Martino's specialty is red wines, so much so that white wines have but one offering per list, a rather unmemorable Chardonnay. I was intrigued by the Rose 09, an unusual blend of tempranillo and orange muscat, but the bold, spicy start was undermined by a long turpentine finish. Red blends fared much better, with the Sir Cab (a blend of syrah and cabernet sauvignon), the Bruiser's Red, and the well- named, ultrasmooth Silk II being particular standouts.

A couple of final notes. Some GPS systems apparently place San Martino Winery south of Interstate 30, when in fact it is north of the interstate, north of Rockwall and east of Lake Ray Hubbard. Also please call the winery or check its website (www.sanmartinowinery.com), because the hours of operation as listed on some other wine websites are incorrect. In any case, its worth the search to sit on the patio and discover your own little corner of Spain in Dallas.

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