Martinelli Vineyards & Winery

The farming roots of Martinelli Winery

WWMD What would Margaret drink?

Margaret Pearman is a certified sommelier under the Court of Master Sommeliers and is responsible for curating the award-winning wine list at Charlie’s Coastal Bistro. Here are her sipping suggestions for May:

At the core of every wine bottle is simply a beverage derived from grapes cultivated in the soil. Amidst the dazzle and allure of the wine industry, it’s easy to overlook that it fundamentally remains an agricultural endeavor. Martinelli Vineyards & Winery exemplifies this truth, steadfast in their commitment to the traditions of family farming. Located within Sonoma County’s prestigious vineyards, the Martinelli family proudly maintains their farmer-first identity, a legacy that spans five generations since their European ancestors settled in the 1880s, seeking a new life on American soil.

Initially cultivating apples, prunes and hops, the Martinellis adapted to the burgeoning California wine market by transitioning their fields to grapevines. The winery is renowned for its Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, particularly the illustrious Jackass Hill Zinfandel. The vineyard earns its name from its perilous 60-degree incline, the steepest non-terraced slope in California, so steep that planting on such a gradient is now prohibited. The vineyard’s name originated from Giuseppe Martinelli’s family, who humorously remarked that one would be a “jackass” to farm such a challenging terrain.

Today, at 81, Lee Sr. continues to cultivate these ancient vines, maneuvering his tractor with the expertise of decades. The 2020 vintage of the Jackass Hill Zinfandel was limited to just 88 cases, yielding a wine rich in concentrated flavors of boysenberry and blackberry, accented by a cinnamon spice that lingers long on the palate.

More widely available are the winery’s sumptuous Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varieties, produced across 15 estate vineyards that span more than 400 acres in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast AVAs. The Bella Vigna Chardonnay stands out with its rich, expansive, fruit-forward profile. A personal favorite, the Lolita Ranch Pinot Noir 2019, captivates with its blend of juicy raspberry, tart pomegranate and a hint of warm spice, making it a standout selection from the Martinelli portfolio.

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