I picked Martinelli as a wine tasting destination after stumbling across their web site. When I saw the beautiful picture of their large red hop kiln, I was sold. You see, we were traveling to Sonoma County with our friend, Chris S, who has entertained us several times with fascinating aged zinfandels from nearby Hop Kiln Winery. Why not check out this place as part of our “architectural and vinous education?”
If you don’t know, a hop kiln is exactly what it sounds like: a large structure used for drying hops to make beer. I understand that nowadays that is done with machines so these old buildings have really lost their original raison d’être. But the structures themselves are so stunning I’m glad to see them being maintained and given new life.
The one at Hop Kiln now serves as the tasting room. At Martinelli, it appeared to be either offices or perhaps a special events room. I’m not exactly sure and of course, we got so wrapped up in Hegui’s asparagus, fava and edamame tart and wine tasting that we completely neglected to ask.
Martinelli has been around the block. Originally founded in 1896, this family-run winery is now in its fifth generation. They’re especially noted for their Jackass Vineyard zinfandel. I know, the name is insane! I read while visiting that this was not because the vineyard was cultivated with the help of mules, but rather, that it was so steep and difficult to access, that the wife of the then Martinelli owner/winemaker thought it was a jackass idea to even try. That’s funny. Unfortunately, they were all tapped out of wine from this esteemed locale. Can you imagine bringing a bottle of this to a formal dinner party and solemnly unveiling it to the hostess? It has a comic potential that seems almost endless, like a play by Molière.
We did try a series of whites and reds for a minimal fee: $5 a person. Overall these were not much in the style that we generally go for. Each wine seemed so buttery, esp. the whites, that we felt overwhelmed. I had to pour some of my white out, if you can believe it, the flavor was that intense. That never happens to me normally.
2007 Woolsey Road Chardonnay: transparent lemon yellow with a nose of nail polish, this was creamy and buttery. Where there yellow fruit? We did note spice on the finish.
2007 Charles Ranch Chardonnay: This hales from a costal vineyard about a mile from the Pacific. It was so pale it was almost colorless. There was peach and mineral on the nose. This was über-buttery and thick on the tongue. The flavor was long lasting but not welcome. We detected some spice too.
2009 Bella Vigna Pinot Noir: This is a blend of pinot noir grown at a few different locations. A transparent purple red with rich mulberry, raspberry, blueberry and barnyard notes with a creamy textured medium body that led to some fruit and pepper. It was okay.
2007 Lolita Ranch Pinot Noir: This too was a transparent purple red with a rich nose of straw and barnyard. It was bigger than the Bella Vigna and more complex. This too was quite creamy.
2007 Red Barn Red Russina River Valley: A syrah blend, this had a more intense nose of jackfruit, smoke, eucalyptus and forest floor. We tasted red and purple stone fruit and black pepper.
2008 Vigneto di Evo Zinfandel: This is the wine that we had at our picnic lunch before the tasting. What’s odd about it is that we really enjoyed it at lunch, but in the tasting room when our server told us it was “more on the sweeter side” that was all we noticed and it didn’t seem as delicious. I guess wine professionals are right. The context does matter when you’re tasting wine.
It was full of red fruit compote, pepper, with herbal notes that seemed then almost syrupy. Medium to full bodied with a good finish.