Q&A: Martin Reyes MW

Notable MW, wearer of many hats

A first-generation American, Martin Reyes is the first Master of Wine of Mexican descent. With a prolific career as a buyer, importer, educator, speaker, international judge, writer and winemaker, he has held influential roles in many sectors of the industry, including the principal buyer and importer for wine club programs for partners such as The New York Times, Food & Wine Magazine and Williams-Sonoma. In 2015, he was named one of Wine Enthusiast’s Top Forty under Forty Tastemakers. Today, Reyes directs production for Sonoma-based Peter Paul Wines, works closely with Spottswoode Estate on climate action and sustainability initiatives, and consults across the full wine supply chain. He launched Reyes Selections in 2018, a small portfolio of his favorite producers. In his spare time, he’s an instructor for and He resides in Benicia, California with his wife and two children.

When and how did you realize you wanted wine to be your career?

MR: After a year of working alongside a trained sommelier at a local wine shop, where I was paid to run events but found myself more interested in the wine than event planning, it clicked. But even before that, around 2001, it was more about survival mode than career choices, so I was also a bartender trying to make ends meet. The real break came when K&L Wine Merchants called in 2003. I decided that wine was going to be my career, even if it would never be a high-paying one.

What is something surprising most people don’t know about Masters of Wine?

MR: The most valuable assets aren’t what you think. You’d think it helps in terms of a wine career, but not through super-duper knowledge gained — although it allows you to pass the exams. Instead, it’s about how to learn to become a master of asking great/the right questions about wine as opposed to “knowing everything there is there is to know about it.” For example, I understood the winemaking process enough to know what I didn’t know when I became a winemaker for Peter Paul Wines. I still needed practical assistance but knew what questions to ask and when to ask them. Being an MW teaches you how to problem-solve with a critical mind, rather than depend on mere information recall. Secondly, the MWs are a close-knit community filled with kindred spirits that are part of your network allowing for more opportunities. That helps traction in your career more than you think.

You are a winemaker, wine brand ambassador, importer and wine educator. Which “hat” is the most challenging?

MR: The consulting hat for Reyes Wine Group has a growing specialization in the climate action and sustainability field. That’s a challenge upfront. It’s decidedly not a sexy topic and sometimes perceived as a distraction in wine. It’s not the most exciting [topic] compared to romance of wine, spirit of wine, top quality, luxury, etc., but we MUST acknowledge how all the things we LOVE about wine will be impacted by the pending climate chaos. Converting concern for the environment into real action, and eroding misconceptions, politics, conflicts of interest and competing priorities among various silos in the wine trade is proving to be the most challenging but also most rewarding part of my work.

Which “hat” do you currently enjoy most?

MR: Day-to-day? It’s shepherding the evolution of Peter Paul Wines. While it wasn’t my passion to be a winemaker — nor do I really consider myself one; I am just a palate with decision-making authority —this is one of the more rewarding roles as it allows the ability to experience what I have learned in theory first-hand.

What is the latest wine that changed your perception?

MR: At a recent Balkan wine tasting I attended, there was a deep dive into the dry wines of Hungary, which I have rarely tasted. I was absolutely spellbound by the lessons and the unique perspective of those dry, scintillating, thrilling whites from Hungary. The cherry on top? How it reminded me the vastness that remains to learn/experience/taste in this industry, even after all these years.

Any exciting new projects on the horizon?

MR: Exciting new horizons. I am working with several Napa Valley organizations to create a month-long event in 2022 to raise the bar on the need for critical mass on the topics of sustainability and climate action. I want to give back to my community by helping to protect what I love about wine so that my kids and their kids can enjoy it someday, too.

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