For the love of wine: Q & A with Firehouse Winemaker Adam Martinez

Firehouse Wine Cellars Winemaker Adam Martinez

For the love of wine: Q & A with Firehouse Winemaker Adam Martinez

We recently sat down with winemaker Adam Martinez and talked about his life, his journey to making award-winning wines for the Firehouse, where he gets his inspiration, and what he sees as the future for the wine industry in the Midwest.

Firehouse winemaker Adam Martinez and his wife Emily at the Benovia Vineyards in California.
  1. Where were you born and raised?

I hear people ask this question a lot and I do not quite understand why. It is kind of weird. It is as if your geographical position at birth gives you some magical life meaning.  If I was born on top of a pyramid, would I be a different person than if I was born in Wyoming?  Anyway, I was born in Wyoming.  I lived all over the western united states.  I’ve been in Rapid almost 13 years, by far the longest I have ever lived in one spot.

  1. How did you get into wine?

Competely by accident.  When the winery started, I volunteered to do the lab work.  Initially I, was just brushing up on my chemistry and getting some extra hours for the slow winter months.  I didn’t even know winemaker was a thing you went to school for.  The more work and research I did the more wine transformed from a tasty dinner compliment to intriguing and complex reactions of all manner of reagents.  The depth of knowledge wine required was surprising and fascinating for me.  I have always enjoyed learning, school not so much, but learning, that is my jam.  Once I saw wine in that way I was hooked.  I talked to everybody that would talk to me about making wine.  I read books and watched YouTube videos.  Finally, I got my oenology certificate from WSU and became the head winemaker here.

  1. What is your winemaking philosophy?

I guess you could say I am a minimalist.  I really try to involve myself in a very minimal way.  Mother nature has been doing things for millions of years.  I have like 10 years making wine so I figure, let Mother Nature do her thing.

  1. What is the most unique wine you have ever made?

That is a difficult question.  Humans have been making wine and making it well for a few hundred years, for me to say anything I have made is unique rings a little hollow.   I do make some rarer single varietal wines that I really enjoy drinking and making.   The Roussanne only has about 4500 acres grown in the world.  The Sezão (Spanish: Sousón), formerly known as Souzão, is common in Portugal and Spain, but not so much here.

  1. Are there some innovations in the wine industry you would like to explore at the Firehouse?

I think you could ask 99% of winemakers on the planet that question and get a rather extensive list.  I was hoping we could go backwards in time a little bit.  I would love if we had  a winery where I could use 100% gravity to move the grapes wine.  A pumpless winery like in mid-evil days is my dream.


  1. What is the most memorable wine you have ever had?

Okay I will tell you the truth but don’t laugh.  Ravenswood Zinfandel.  I have drank a million wines that are better.  I’ve had amazing bubbly while watching the sunset over Mt Hood from the vineyard the bubbly was made in. Staglin is off the charts delicious, but Ravenswood was the first wine that made me understand why people like wine.  It was the first red I bought for my wife a long time ago. So, I will never forget it.

  1. Do you have a favorite varietal?

I do and do not.  I love Malbec, but I will choose Sangiovese 9/10 times in the hottest evenings in the summer.

  1. How has the wine industry in South Dakota and Midwest changed in the past decade and any changes you hope to see in the future?

Honestly, I do not think it has.   I would love to see it grow.  The more wineries the better in my opinion.

  1. How do you spend your days off?

I spend a good deal of my time outside.  My wife and I love to hike around the hills with our dog or just sit in the yard and read amongst our chickens.

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