Martinelli Winery and a visit from the family

Leslee, Regina Martinelli & friend, Tina H
Leslee, Regina Martinelli & friend, Tina H

Martinelli Winery, with five generations deep of family wine growing, the Martinellis are a family held to their roots by tradition, sincerity and quality.  While on her short visit to the mid west, I had an opportunity to visit with daughter Regina Martinelli of her family’s ancestral wine making roots.
Just to get down to the brass tacks here, I need to say that hanging with Miss Martinelli was more than a pleasure.  Her enthusiasm for her family’s industry is really quite adoring.  Although not part of the winemaking team or the viticultural team as many of her family members are, she holds her own inside the winery helping with the tasting room, marketing and travelling the country administering the national sales team.  What a great lady!  From the stories she told to the wines that were poured, my day was filled with a lot of great laughs and some delicious wines.
The portfolio that we tasted ranged from a number of varietals starting with a varied selection of Chardonnays from the ranch.  While the winery produces 6 Chards including the Charles Ranch, Zio Tony Ranch, Three Sisters, Woolsey Road and the Lolita Ranch – my favorite of the day was their Martinelli Road.  Soft and easy on the palate, the wine had a really wonderful backbone of crushed white rock, light floral aromas and a citric peel.  Rich, yet supple and dry enough to really enjoy with a number of different plates on the table.  Found for roughly $50 on selected retail shelves, this is spendy little Chardonnay but well worth the bling if you’ve got it to spend.
Next, came a selection of Pinot Noirs.  Now, if you’re familiar with my style – you know that I am a Pinot brat doubting that many can make a Pinot Noir in the U.S. better than my friends in the Willamette Valley.  With that being said, I gave the Martinelli Pinots a chance.  Starting with the Blue Slide Ridge – you may have heard the name because the Martinelli’s current consulting partner, Ms. Helen Turley – once their winemaker, makes a bit of this Pinot herself now under her own label, Marcassin.  With the cult ‘disorder’ of our industry here in the U.S. regarding winemakers, there’s not a Pinot Noir in this country worth the $320 that I just recently found the 2003 Marcassin Blue Slide Ridge Pinot for in a retail store, sad.  BUT, the Martinelli’s version, good – in fact, nice.  With its carmelly, smooth, seductive fruit the wine certainly leads you towards enjoyment.
With that all said – my favorite of the grouping was the Bella Vigna.  With a leanness that tends to follow more of its Oregonian friends, I’m a fan of this wine.  Pretty with floral notes, supple dark cherries and a hint of dirt – I like the femininity of this Pinot much more than its trendier cult friend, the Blue Slide.  And, you can easily find this one on the shelf for roughly $40-$50. 
The Terra Felice Syrah could have been one of my favorite tastes of the day – a gorgeous version of American Syrah from the Russian River Valley that really did a nice job of presenting itself.  What I loved about this one in particular was its tendency to show a-typical tasting notes of the grape: Syrah.  With hints of stewed plums and dried tobacco, the crazy aromas of dried peppered beef jerky, dried herbs and rosemary really stuck to me.  Loving this wine, this is the one that I would pick up if you wanted to try something different from the family’s portfolio.  Again rich, but constrained – as well as its price point – approx $40 on the shelf.
Embarrassed to admit that I was impressed with a wine of this alcohol content, I think the fumes of this little bugger were truly what lead me to my ‘crush’ and the opening of my pocketbook.  With a content of 16.4% and a ridiculous cult following, the wine laid a lot more gentler on the palate than one would think.  Certainly rich, juicy, and concentrated – this California Zin also showed subtle hints of restraint.  The beef jerky came back to the nose, peppers, plums and dried oregano reminding me more of an Italian Primitivo (except with alcohol!)  So, I bought some…now this little baby again closer to the $50-$60 range is a stretch for me because I’m not usually a big, over blown Zinfandel fan – but it was unique in it’s own way.  Look out, however, even though the alcohol is not as apparent when tasting – after your first couple of sips, the wine does end up knocking you on your butt.  Not for ‘first timers’ that’s for sure.
So there you have it.  While the Martinellis have many, many more wines in their portfolio, these are just the couple that I decided to report on.  My visit with Regina, very fun and again, if you ever get the chance of taking on a public tasting with any of the family members, go for it.  The stories of the family’s ancestory and its philosophies now are intriguing, entertaining and lively!  Good stuff.

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