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bond in September of that year, they could not produce wine until the end of the year when Prohibition was officially repealed.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.

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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.