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