Longtime 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 collector-worthy 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.
Exacting Turley 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. She also created the house style, which has been fine-tuned over the past two decades by her successors.
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), and the Syrahs.
As of July 2020, Martinelli is offering the outdoor Vineyard Terrace Tasting of estate-grown wines. from Thursday through Monday at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm. Reservations are advised, though walk-ins are accommodated when possible.
Why go: a dozen Pinots, all made with restraint; tasting room in historic hop barn; terrace tastings.
This story originally appeared online in 2017; it was fact-checked and updated in mid-2020.