Sunday, January 8, 2012

Louis M. Martini Winery

Louis M. Martini Winery is a landmark winery in Napa Valley that every wine lover should visit at least once. The winery was established in 1933 and was the first winery to be built in Napa County after the end of prohibition.  They will celebrate their 80th anniversary in 2013. Louis Martini has long been famous for their Cabernet Sauvignons, and is a name that almost every wine drinker across the country recognizes.

Louis M. Martini entry sign
Louis M. Martini came to California in 1899 and made wine with his father who also had a wholesale seafood business.  After the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, they quit making wine and Louis M. returned to Italy where he studied enology at the University d'Alba. He returned to California after a year of studies and began working for various wineries until opening his own winery in 1922 called L.M. Martini Grape Products Company. It was during prohibition so he could only  produce sacramental and medicinal wines.  In 1932 he purchased 28 acres in St. Helena and the following year he built the building that is now the home of this famous winery.  In 1938 he purchased the vineyard that is now quite famous and is known as Monte Rosso the Italian name for "Red Mountain."  Some of the finest grapes in the world now come from Monte Rosso and a number of high end wineries source grapes from this prestigious vineyard. The Martini family were close friends with the Gallo family and sold the winery to them in 2002, but Mike Martini remained as the winemaker and many Martini family members remained involved with the winery. They soon created a special micro winery they called Cellar No. 254 for producing limited production state of the art wines to be sold only directly out of the winery.  I would love to have an opportunity to taste some of these wines.

A variety of tasting options are offered with prices starting at $15 for a sampling of three wines (as of January 2012).  They offer a complimentary tasting with each wine purchase. But they start everyone out with a complementary tasting of their Merlot. We had the Louis Martini 2008 Ghost Pines Merlot which sells for $20 (only $15 if you are a club member). This was a very pleasant Merlot and my friend bought a bottle.  The tasting option we tried was the Taste the Appellations tasting that begins with the 2009 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, proceeds to the 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and ends up with the Louis Martini 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  These were priced at $18, $30, and $35 respectively. Both of us preferred the Alexander Valley one, with its cherry to plum nose and cherry with soft tannins on the palate.  This is 91% Cab, 5% Syrah and 4% Merlot.  All three Cabs are very drinkable now.

Louis Martini main building

We were also able to taste the Louis Martini 2007 Monte Rosso Cabernet Sauvignon at $85.  2007 seems to be a great year for Napa Valley wines and is considered the best of recent years by many.  This 2007 was a very good Cabernet, indeed.  It has an especially nice aroma of cherry and a palate of cherry and chocolate with good well-balanced tannins and a long finish.  It was rated 95 by the Wine Advocate, and I think that is a fair rating. This might be that Cabernet Sauvignon for a birthday or special occasion.  It is exceptionally good!

During our visit service was exceptionally friendly and positive. We think you will enjoy visiting Louis Martini Winery.  Their prices are exceptionally good for Napa Valley. Louis M. Martini Winery is open seven days a week from 10 AM to 6 PM, except for certain holidays.  No appointment is needed for a tasting but it is required for a tour.  Please see their website for current information on fees and holidays.  Visiting Louis M. Martini Winery  We have not been on any of their tours, but have heard that they are very good

254 South Saint Helena Highway
St Helena, CA 94575
(707) 963-2736
Date of visit: January 4, 2012 

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