Thursday, January 8, 2015

Martini Winery and Monte Rosso Vineyard

                                                       ENTRANCE TO CELLAR #254

Recently I was able to visit Louis M. Martini winery and see their small scale winery built within the larger Napa facility.  Cellar 254 is the place where all Monte Rosso and Lot 1 Cabernet are made.  Tasting the array of wines made by one of the original  Napa wineries was a special treat. We were able to talk with Kori Butler the head winemaker at Cellar 254.  She told us the name 254 is actually the address of the winery along Highway 29. I will give you my impressions of the wines tasted and and hopefully help you find and enjoy the classic reds produced by this state of the art producer.

Mike Martini is the head winemaker and last current member of the family to be fully involved in daily production and decision making issues. He has a long history of participation and innovation at Martini as well as in Napa.  The winery has been owned by Gallo since 2002. Since there were no family members who wanted to continue in the business Gallo offered to continue the style and  reputation and maintain the family name in wine.

The real story here is the Monte Rosso vineyard on the Sonoma side of the Mayacamas mountains. This vineyard of almost 250 acres has significant parcels  of Zinfandel and Semillon which are over 100 years in age. Much of the fruit is sold to other wineries  such as  Baile, Rosenblum, Spragia, Bedrock, Ravenswood as well as from time to time Cameron Hughes.  What separates Monte Rosso from other vineyards is the iron red soils and proximity it has which is frost free with warm days and cool nights. Taste is the ultimate signature of a vineyard and Monte Rosso has it in spades.  Deep rich and ripe fruit that has aromatics of earth, berries, stone and solid acidity and tannins. Planted in the 1880's there is still the shell of the original winery on the site. In my opinion no other vineyard has  this    unique quality produced year in and year out. Priced between $30-$85 these are reds to savor and sip with others who want an experience that is unique and  profound.

                                             LOUIS M.  MARTINI WINES TASTED

2011 SONOMA  -   one of the best deals in quality Cabernet at a price all can afford. Made in large quantities with superior winemaking

2011 ALEXANDER VALLEY CABERNET--- this is a stunning bottle of wine. I found a huge nose of wild berries and a distinctive cedar/pine aroma that was worth the price of the experience. This was a huge eye opener for me and I brought home some bottles for future consumption.  OUTSTANDING.

2011 LOT 1  CABERNET--   made from select parcels of Cabernet grown in the Napa appellation. Two to four ton lots are fermented separately then blended for the optimum expression of the vintage. This is their flagship wine to rival wines like Mondavi Reserve, B.V. Private Reserve or other top flight   wineries.  Excellent quality.

2011 MONTE ROSSO BLEND---   a mix of Cabernet, Zin, Petite Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Franc.  This bottling shows the intense flavors and sense of place that is Monte Rosso.  Alcohol in the 15% area with huge fruit that  flows over the palate and fills your mouth with rich flavors and persistent mineral tones. This wine shows what sense of place there is from this classic vineyard.

2011  GNARLY VINES ZINFANDEL--- This is Zinfandel like no other due to old vine limited production (one ton +). This four acre vineyard was planted in the early 1900's and is dry farmed.  Zinfandel lovers must try this ample example of historic wine from a great source.   Rosenblum,  Baile, Bedrock, Sbragia, Rockwall and Rancho Zabaco make similar wines but not the same intensity. Stunning

2010  MALBEC----  tastes like Monte Rosso red wine period.  Does not show the aromas and flavors of the typical Argentine wines sold at $20 price point.   This shows the fact that it is more the vineyard than the varietal that  drives the fruit and aromas of each wine.  Very good especially with typical meats and cheeses that absorb and compliment red wine.  Really fine for the expression of the vineyard.

                                                       LAST IMPRESSION

If you are interested in tasting California history look for and experience any Monte Rosso wine. Better yet compare a few wines made by other producers and decide for yourself.  So many wines sold as Old Vine are about 25 years old which is when production begins to decline.  Monte Rosso is true old vine fruit that does not have to be pruned as it regulates itself and provides intense fruit on a limited basis. As the old saying goes "some things do get better with age"

Thanks to the staff  at Gallo for their help in putting this event together.

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