A three-generation winery, Louis M. Martini is located at 254 St. Helena Highway in Napa Valley, California. Although smaller in stature than some in the area, this winery makes a big impression with taste.
A welcome glass of delicious and crisp cabernet sauvignon rosé from Celler 254 sets the stage for an impressionable visit. This particular small-production wine is made on site, hence the name, which comes from the winery’s address. Only 300 cases are produced each year; this winery is referred to as a micro-winery. The cabernet rosé is a perfect choice on a warm California day — or as a pairing for brunch.
In 2002, Louis M Martini partnered up with E.J. Gallo wines so that they could grow in a bigger market. Michael Martini, now the lead winemaker, works alongside family members whose roles are in sales/marketing. As popular it is in the U.S., Louis M. Martini cabernet sauvignon is the number one selling cabernet in Asia – a testament to successful marketing.
A wine worth the splurge, the Louis M. Martini 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, priced at $30, offers good tannins and just enough oak to add character. It has aged nicely and is ready to be enjoyed. With 10 percent merlot, 5 percent petit syrah, 5 percent cabernet franc and 3 percent petit verdot added to its blend of cabernet sauvignon, this wine is a winner. As is the silky 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, an enticing wine with its added syrah and merlot. This wine has a good tannin structure with smoky notes of toasted herbs and flavors of mocha and raspberry. Simply put, it is elegant. And the winemaking process is artisanal.
Behind the scenes, four women sort grapes before wine is stored in large wooden casks to ferment. One man climbs up on these vast barrels to manually punch the grapes down as they ferment. He does this for about 20 minutes, three to four times a day.
More on taste: the Napa 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is heavenly — velvety in texture, rich in taste. Finally, the pièce de résistance, a Monte Rosso 2008 Cabernet served with thinly sliced salami and some extra virgin olive oil made by the Martini Family.
The latest release of 2010 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, made with grapes from vineyards in the Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley, is delightful as well, best served with pasta in mushroom Bolognese gravy or homemade minestrone soup (you can find these recipes online at www.LouisMartini.com). With some cabernet franc and petite syrah, the blend is balanced and with a round, with a full mouthfeel, notes of plum and blackberry — a fruit-focused finish. At a bring-your-own restaurant, this bottle was enjoyed with a dish of veal saltimbocca and spaghetti.
Worth mentioning, one sustainable practice Louis M. Martini utilizes is the collection of pumice from the skins of the grapes, used to create a natural, non-caloric sweetener that is sold to Vitamin water and Snapple.
NOTE: On-site correspondence by Cheryl Flynn