Louis M. Martini Winery, Napa County

by Stevie on August 4, 2009

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

We had been talking about going to Louis M. Martini for ages, really ever since our friend, B, and her then husband-to-be, S, ordered several cases of their standard cabernet sauvignon for their wedding in San Diego a year or two ago. We went over to their house while they were still engaged and they offered us some of this delightful wine.

a classic tasting of Louis M. Martini wines in 1952

a classic tasting of Louis M. Martini wines in 1952

Frankly, I’d always been a little skeptical of Louis Martini simply because they’re so huge and have been around so long. Their brochure says that they were founded in 1933! Surely that means that the wines are boring, to appeal to the largest audience possible?!? Well, I’m glad to say that I was totally wrong!

We went to the tasting room just south of Saint Helena on the last Tuesday in July. We were in Napa for the day to go to Redd for dinner. But since we had the whole day, naturally this seemed a great opportunity to do some wine tasting. We’d just been to Heitz Cellars on a lark, which we didn’t like that much though they have a good reputation. I always think that if possible it’s better to taste wines before you buy. For American wines, that’s sometimes easier to do than French and Italian ones. So often wines from those places need to age for years or decades before you really can tell how they are. It’s a bit tricky if you ask me. I’m sure that I’ll have time elsewhere to philosophize about French wine tasting.

So Louis M. Martini… I was a little confused by their web site while planning this excursion. They seem to have vineyards in several locations in Napa County and their famous Monte Rosso vineyards are in southern Sonoma County. Because of that, I wasn’t that sure where the actual tasting room was located without re-reading the site several times. Initially, I thought that you could just go to any of the locations; visit the vineyards and wine taste. Actually I think tasting is just on Highway 29.

welcome to Louis Martini

welcome to Louis Martini

The building is right off the road and is actually kind of non-descript on the outside. There was no spectacular entrance with huge palm trees and stunning gardens like we saw at Heitz Cellars. Inside was a different story. I felt like we were entering a luxury store for designer merchandise. There were gorgeous flower arrangements, elegant furnishings and displays of old photos of Louis Martini as well as bottles of the numerous wines that they produce charmingly arranged around the place.

Wine tasting there is not free though they offer some interesting choices. They’ve broken down the tasting into several flights. These are linked together thematically. We tried the cabernet sauvignon flight and the red flight of wines only available at the tasting room. The fee was $35 for the two. We were offered three glasses simultaneously and were urged to taste all of the wines in one direction then in reverse to try to detect differences. They actually give a lot of wine though at first blush it seems expensive. In addition, we were offered a taste of the wine we had at S and B’s ‘on-the-house’ to get us started. Finally, when we’d settled into our tasting flights, the tasting room clerk offered us a sample of their 2005 Lot 1 cabernet sauvignon blend. This is their premier wine that they sell for $125 a bottle in the tasting room. That was nice to try especially as I’d be unlikely to buy it at the asking price.
The winery offers cellar tours which you need to set up ahead of time. They have a wine club too.

2006 No. 254 Merlot, Napa Valley: This was dark red. Hegui found it to have tobacco and sun-bleached grassy aromas. It had medium body with a long caramel finish. We enjoyed this wine. Sadly, we’re told that they’re not planning on bottling more in the future because they intend to blend with it in some of the other wines.

drink this wine if you can!

drink this wine if you can!

2006 Monte Rosso Syrah, Sonoma Valley: This was dark purple. It had aromas of berry, cherry, and mint. The astringent taste was chocolate, leather, and bloody or meaty. It had a long finish. Hegui thought that it needed some cellar time.

2003 Los Ninos: These wines was developed for aging with the idea that parents could buy some that corresponds to the birth year of their children and then give it to them when they become of age. I don’t know. I think that I’d want to serve my kids a bit of the wine but drink it myself. This one is a Bordeaux blend of 96% cabernet sauvignon, 2% malbec, 1% petit verdot and 1% cabernet franc, all form Monte Rosso in Sonoma.

It was a dark red color. Hegui thought that it had a “sourish smell” with herbal and fig notes. It was fruity with a very long finish. Really it was quite enjoyable.

2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: This wine had a dark ruby red color with chocolate and vanilla aromas. It was smoother than some of the other cabs that we tried next. It was very “fruit forward” with cherry and stone fruit notes on a medium body.

2006 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: This one was not our favorite. It smelled “sharp.” It had a medium body with tobacco and coffee notes.

2005 Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon: This was purple colored. It tasted astringent with leather, chocolate and cinnamon flavors predominating. We liked this one the best of the three cabs offered on the tasting list.

2005 Lot 1 Napa Valley: This is a blend of several cabernet sauvignon vineyards. It had the aroma of sage. It was very smooth with a creamy long, long finish. We thought it was mellow and could have enjoyed more but were put off by the price.

Overall Louis M. Martini was a great experience. The wines were generally quite interesting and good. The experience in the tasting room was very congenial. We’d recommend that you try it.

ah, the good old days, when men knew how to dress for wine tasting!

ah, the good old days, when men knew how to dress for wine tasting!

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Previous post:

Next post: