Martinelli Winery

Longtime Sonoma County grape growers make fruit-forward wines with palpable restraint.

The first Martinellis began growing grapes in Sonoma County in the 19th century, and some of the vines planted then still supply fruit for their winery’s coveted Jackass Hill Zinfandel. In addition to Zinfandel, Martinelli Winery makes Chardonnay, Muscat of Alexandria, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. All the wines are crafted in small lots from estate-grown grapes.

Hop-Barn Tasting Room

Like many Italian-American grape-growing families in Sonoma, the first few Martinelli generations sold fruit in bulk to larger producers. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Lee Martinelli Sr. and his wife, Carolyn, opened a winery and tasting room inside two former hop barns.

All the Martinelli wines are made from grapes the family grows.

Exacting Standards

In the 1990s, Lee hired Helen Turley, a winemaking consultant known for exacting standards in the vineyard and cellar. (Turley’s Marcassin Vineyard along the Sonoma Coast adjoins the Martinelli-owned Charles Ranch.) Turley introduced agricultural practices that improved fruit quality and created the house style, which her successors have fine-tuned over the past two decades.

Two former hop barns became Martinelli’s original winery and tasting room.

Purity Emerges

The wines tend toward the fruit-forward while simultaneously exhibiting palpable restraint. Purity emerges as the overriding characteristic; one gets the impression that the post-vineyard interventions have been few and exceptionally wise. This seems particularly true of the Pinots, of which there are a dozen (most of them highly regarded year after year).

Guests on The Terrace enjoy vineyard views.

Tasting Options

Depending on the time of year, the tasting options run the gamut from by-the-glass or bottle service and a survey of current releases to sessions involving collector-quality wines. Reservations are advised, though hosts accommodate walk-ins when possible.

Why go:  a dozen Pinots, all made with restraint; tasting room in historic hop barn; Friday and weekend terrace tastings.


3360 River Rd., Windsor 95492

The original press used to squeeze grapes to make Jackass Zinfandel.

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This story originally appeared online in 2017; it was fact-checked and updated in 2022.

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