Each month, Fabulous California is showcasing the local wine community. If you missed the most recent spotlight, simply click here. Already checked it out? Read on!
Located in Northern California’s acclaimed St. Helena – a city within Napa County known for its combination of small-town charm, 400-plus wineries and epic epicurean experiences – Louis M. Martini Winery is one of the reasons Napa even became “Napa” in the first place.
This physical structure was first build in 1933 in anticipation of Prohibition coming to an end in the United States. Awesome, right? Nothing like foresight to ensure the second wine was legal; it was readily available for all.
Its founder, Louis M. Martini, is not just the namesake of the award-winning vineyard and renowned wine; he is actually a founder of the Napa Valley Vintners Association, which helped create the Napa we know today. The full story, which is shared with great color and delight by wine educators when visiting in person, is a goodie.
Martini first moved to San Francisco from Italy at just 12 years old in 1899 and within a few years was making wine with his father. A prodigy, Martini’s father sent him back to Italy in 1906 to study winemaking in a more formal manner. Once back, undeterred by Prohibition, the duo actually made sacramental wine while awaiting the country to come to its senses. By December 1933, it was legal to make and sell wine again, and Martini was ready. Over the next several decades, the Martini family – which eventually included Martini’s own son, Louis P. Martini, who was one of the first winegrowers to use wind machines to prevent frost in the vineyards – led Napa in coming America’s premiere wine destination.
In 2002, In the Gallo winemaking family, close friends of the Martinis for three generations, purchased the winery and vineyards, dedicating themselves to keeping the legacy alive while evolving it for a whole new generation. In the 20 years since, the Gallos have not only preserved the Martini brand, but grown it exponentially, including undertaking a massive restoration project to the home winery in 2019 to add an extensive culinary program in house. The result is stunning, and delicious.
Given the culinary addition, there are many pairing opportunities from which to choose when visiting. I happen to be partial to the Heritage Terrace Tasting as much for the food as the location as you will be seated near what must be a 25-foot fireplace that is equal parts art piece and warming tool. Hello, photo opps.
Once seated, the show begins. Guests will learn the storied history of the vineyard while sipping on a flight of some of the most exclusive and sought-after small-lot wines from Martini’s coveted Monte Rosso Vineyard. Each pour is expertly paired by culinary wizards with sumptuous sweet and savory bites ranging from foie gras mousse with local jam to beet macarons to smoked brisket ravioli with pea tendrils. There are also a host of other experiences as well, including some new ones set to launch any day, notably a history tour that allows you into the semi-secret underground wine cellar and an exclusive library tasting with your own personal sommelier.
You can honestly neither go wrong with any experience on property, nor any of the wines – especially any of the cabernet sauvignons. My personal recommendations are the 2016 Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2016 Lot No. 1 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2017 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. I am also quite partial to the 2018 Monte Rosso Vineyard Gnarly Vine Zinfandel for its cherry and vanilla bean tasting notes and silky finish.
To learn more about Louis M. Martini Winery, www.louismartini.com.