A Bold and Complex Masterpiece From One of Napa’s Most Historic Producers

Today’s Story: Louis M. Martini

Louis M. Martini is a historic Napa Valley winery, established in 1933 and one of the first after the repeal of Prohibition. Louis was born in Italy and, at the age of 12, left Genoa to join his father in San Francisco in 1899. The duo made their first wine together in 1906, upon which Louis was sent back to Italy to study winemaking as a profession. Once back in America, he established the L.M. Martini Grape Products Company in 1922 where he focused on the production of sacramental wine during Prohibition. By the middle of 1933, however, Louis expected the repeal of Prohibition and constructed his winery in St. Helena of the Napa Valley. Though the winery received its bond in September of that year, they could not produce wine until the end of the year when Prohibition was officially repealed.

After a few years, Louis expanded into Sonoma with the purchase of the Goldstein Ranch in 1938 and renamed the property to his Monte Rosso Vineyard. This site sits 1,000 feet up in the Mayacamas Mountains and still to this day produces some of the highest quality bottlings in the Martini lineup. Louis’ son Louis P. joined the family business as well, ultimately taking full responsibility as head winemaker in 1954. The winery then remained a family business for decades, with Mike Martini taking over as winemaker in 1977. In 2002, however, the Gallo family purchased the Martini winery and vineyards though not much changed as the two families were friends throughout several generations. In 2013, Michael Eddy took over the winemaking role and is the first non-family member of the Martini’s to make wine at this historic estate.

The Louis M. Martini portfolio of wines is quite robust, so I’d encourage you to explore the website here to learn more about their offerings. In addition to Monte Rosso, they source fruit from Stagecoach Vineyard, Cypress Ranch Vineyard, Sun Lake Vineyard, and Thomann Station Vineyard. While Cabernet Sauvignon dominant, Martini also produces wines with Merlot, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Sauvignon Blanc.


Today’s Wine: 2014 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petite Sirah; 14.9% ABV

The 2014 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is deep ruby in color. I decanted this for an hour and drank it over the following two hours. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with a nose of crème de cassis, blueberry, plum, black cherry, redcurrant, licorice, violet, tobacco, graphite, scorched earth, underbrush, vanilla, clove, and cedar. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity, and the palate showcases notes of blackberry compote, blueberry pie, spiced black plum, black cherry, licorice, sweet tobacco, violet, thyme, charcoal, mushroom, gravel, mocha, and baking spice. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but silky tannin, high alcohol, and a long finish. Overall a very rich, intense, and concentrated wine of very good quality.

Price: $100 (I paid $28 five years ago). What really impresses me here is the intensity and depth of this wine. While I can’t necessarily call it great value for my palate at its current market price, the price I paid was an absolute steal. This is richer and more of a brute than what I typically go for, though I think this is a fantastic wine for knowing what it wants to be.

Over-Extracted Red Blend From Alexander Valley

Today’s Story: Captûre Wines

Captûre Wines is a boutique estate established in 2008 in what is now the Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak AVA within Sonoma County. Though now part of Jackson Family Wines, Captûre was established by Carol and Michael Foster with founding winemakers May-Britt and husband Denis Malbec (formerly of Château Latour). With a goal of marrying rugged, mountainous California frontier with French winemaking, the team settled upon Pine Mountain with their estate vineyard between 1,600 and 2,500 feet elevation in the Mayacamas Mountains. The brutal landscape which makes up the Tin Cross Vineyard consists of volcanic gravelly soil, originally planted to vine by homesteaders in 1855 and today consisting largely of Cabernet Sauvignon with small blocks of Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. Following sustainable and organic farming practices, Captûre receives only about 2 tons of fruit per acre due to the harsh geography of their estate, in turn which produces highly concentrated and intense mountain fruit. Since 2015, winemaker Sam Teakle took over and he crafts wines from the Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, and Lake County appellations.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Harmonie

85% Cabernet Franc, 9% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon; 15% ABV

The 2013 Harmonie is opaque deep purple/ruby in color. I decanted this for 2 hours and drank it over the following 3 hours or so, and unfortunately this got worse with air versus the better I was hoping for. The nose is highly concentrated with aromas of blackberry, plum, blueberry, crème de cassis, licorice, cigar box, clay, baking spice, bell pepper, and oak. There’s some heat there too from the high ABV. Moving onto the palate, I get notes of black plum, blackberry compote, wet tobacco, coffee, chocolate, blood, sopping wet herbs, and ground black pepper. This thing drinks like a cocktail wine. It is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high tannins, and a medium (+) length finish that is somewhat repulsive. Balance seems to be out of whack here too. 180 cases produced.

Price: $60 (I paid $40 on sale). I really wanted to like this wine, which was made by the late Denis Malbec (whose wines at Blankiet I love), but I do not. It is filled to the brim with over-extracted fruit and what I speculate may be a heavy-handed winemaking mandate. You should lose no sleep over passing on this wine.

Bordeaux in California

Today’s Story: Jordan Vineyard & Winery

Jordan Vineyard & Winery was founded in 1972 by Tom and Sally Jordan, a husband and wife duo from Colorado. During the early years of their marriage, Tom and Sally shared a passion for French food and wine that they expanded upon by traveling throughout France, ultimately realizing they wanted a vineyard of their own. Not believing they could realistically purchase one in France, the couple had their epiphany over a glass of Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour by realizing they could achieve their dream of crafting French-inspired wines in California. It was May of 1972 when this passion came to fruition and Tom and Sally signed the deed for their property in Alexander Valley.

At this time both Alexander Valley and the Napa Valley were quite rustic, full of prune orchards and cattle without much vineyard land. Tom and Sally removed the prune orchards on their property and set about planting 200 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot on the valley floor. Two years later, in 1974, the couple realized it was time to construct a winery and plans began for their 58,000 square foot French-inspired chateau overlooking the vineyards. The chateau took 18 months to complete, though the production wing was completed first one week before the 1976 harvest – Jordan’s first vintage.

Funny enough, Jordan hired André Tchelistcheff in 1974 as an enology consultant. If that name sounds familiar, it should because I wrote about André in my post on Beaulieu Vineyard. André was essentially the architect behind the Georges de Latour bottling, coincidentally the same wine that proved impetus for Tom and Sally to start Jordan, and he helped the couple select fermenters, oak tanks, barrels, and picker-stemmer and presses. André also hired Jordan’s winegrower Rob Davis to oversee the first vintage in 1976, and Rob remains winegrower to this day.

In 2005, Tom and Sally’s son John took over as CEO of the winery and while he remains fully committed to carrying on his parents’ vision he is making important steps in bringing the estate into the modern world. One of his major initiatives, for example, is making the winery more eco-friendly through sustainable practices and more diverse uses of the land. This endeavor so far includes “reducing the winery’s energy consumption, composting all of the winery’s organic waste, and installing hillside solar arrays to offset 75% of the winery’s electricity usage” – source. One of the most important traditions John carries, on the other hand, is hospitality. Jordan was one of the first (if not the first) wineries in Alexander Valley or Napa Valley with an executive chef in house and a hospitality wing that married wine tasting with food and entertainment with such ease. A visit to this winery is a must if you are in the area.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec; 13.8% ABV

The 2015 Cab is an opaque, deep ruby in color with purple at its core. This wine requires some time to open up due to its youth, but once it does the nose emits aromas of black cherry, blueberry, pomegranate, purple florals, cedar, tobacco, graphite, smoked red meat, and a hint of vanilla. Once in the mouth, this gorgeous wine showcases notes of ripe cherry, boysenberry, black raspberry, earthy green herbs, cigar box, iron, and clove. The 2015 Cab is medium-to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) yet dusty tannins, and a long finish dominated by notes of cherry, earth, and black peppery spice. I think Jordan achieved their goal in producing Bordeaux-like wines in California, particularly with this 2015.

Price: $55. Jordan is a great value for this price range, as this drinks like a wine 25-50% more expensive. These wines have great aging potential as well, with many Jordans drinking beautifully after 10+ years of cellaring. Pair this with filet mignon, lamb, roasted chicken, or grilled pork loin.