The wines of Louis M Martini, California


Louis Martini established the winery named after him in 1933, just after the repeal of prohibition. He’d established L.M. Martini Grape Products Company in 1922 – then, with making and selling wine banned, Martini produced sacramental wine and grape juice concentrate for home winemakers. With the repeal on the cards, he went ahead and built a winery in Napa to be ready to go when prohibition was over. Louis later bought vineyards in Sonoma, including the Monte Rosso vineyard in 1938.

Winemaking passed to his son Louis P, and then on to Louis P’s son Mike Martino. In 2002 the winery was sold to Gallo.

Martini have significant vineyard holdings in both Sonoma and Napa.  I tried these five wines as small-bottle samples. UK stockists are listed.


Louis M Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 California
14% alcohol
Majestic £17.99
Grapes mainly from Frei Ranch (Dry Creek Valley AVA) and Barrelli Creek (Alexander Valley AVA). Part aged in tank, the rest in French and American oak, with a touch of Petite Sirah in the blend. Nice brooding blackcurrant fruit here with some gravel and ash notes, as well as a fine spiciness. There’s a liqueur-like richness here, but it never gets out of balance. Stylish with nice intensity and a good level of complexity. 93/100

Louis M Martini Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 California
15% alcohol
Vineyard Cellars £44
Mainly from Barrelli Creek Vineyard, with sloping gravelly soils. 18 months in French and American oak (36% new). Inviting, spicy and rich with aromas of blackcurrant, gravel and toasty oak. The palate is rich and concentrated with a core of sweet, spicy blackcurrant fruit showing richness and polish. There’s a core of sweet fruit, surrounded by spicy structure, but it always stays generous and approachable. 94/100

Louis M Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
15% alcohol
Majestic £35.99
Two day cold soak, 15-20 day maceration. Aged in French and American oak (40% new). 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petite Sirah , 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, 1% Merlot. Sweet, brooding, lush blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. This is very ripe, sweet and a little jammy, with soft tannins and a slight saltiness on the finish. Very lush and seductive in style, showing concentration and polish. Offers a lot of pleasure, although a tiny bit Port-like. 92/100

Louis M Martini Monte Rosso Gnarly Vine Zinfandel 2017 Sonoma, California
16% alcohol
The Great Wine Co £66.50
Old vines, some as old as 125 years. Grapes destemmed into small, open top tanks for a two day cold soak before primary fermentation. Aged in French oak (53% new) and American oak (25% new) for 16 months. Aromatic, green-tinged, jammy strawberry and plum fruit on the nose. The palate is lush and rich with dried herbs and sweet stewed strawberry fruit, with a hint of medicine in the background. This is very rich and a bit alcoholic, and tastes a bit like a dry tawny Port. 91/100

Louis M Martini Monte Rosso Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 Sonoma, California
15.5% alcohol
The Great Wine Co £110
Destemmed into small, open top fermenters for cold soak of up to five days. Racked by gravity to oak barrels for MLF and ageing. Aged for 26 months in a combination of French oak (75% new) and American oak (19% new). 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec. Brooding, sweet, intense blackcurrant and blackberry fruit with some jamminess, but also nice fresh cherry notes adding a contrast to the sweet fruit. This has richness and a sense of luxury with supple blackcurrant notes, finishing salty and briny with a touch of bitterness from the high alcohol. It’s a bold, immense wine showing great concentration, but made in a late-picked style. 93/100