We harvest our Cabernet Sauvignon in September and October, when the flavors we taste in our grapes are fully ripe. Cabernet is a late-ripening variety, so California's long, warm growing season affords ideal conditions for our fruit.
After tasting the grapes and testing their sugar (brix) levels to confirm full ripeness, we make the decision to pick. We selectively harvest as various vineyards and blocks mature, picking at night or in the cool early morning hours to ensure our Cabernet Sauvignon grapes remain firm and intact, ideal for handling at the winery and for premium character in our wine.
Sending to the Winery
Preparing our Cabernet Sauvignon fruit for the winery is a balancing act between speed and quality. At our Monte Rosso Vineyard in Sonoma County, we move quickly to pick and transfer fruit to bins before it gets too warm-which could cause a premature fermentation to begin-and take care not to damage the delicate grape skins.
Arrival at the Winery
To preserve freshness once our grapes arrive at the winery, our cellar crew rapidly works to prepare our grapes for fermentation. Our team has incredible depth of expertise in crafting Cabernet Sauvignon, and works tirelessly throughout the season to steward our fruit through the winery.
For our smaller lot wines, we hand-sort fruit on a shaker table to ensure we select only the best berries. Following sorting, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are de-stemmed before transitioning to a cold soak for up to 72 hours to extract maximum color and character from the skins.
After the cold soak, the grape must is warmed to between 88°F and 92°F so that alcoholic fermentation-the heart of the Cabernet Sauvignon winemaking process-can begin. As the process reaches its halfway point, we slowly drop the temperature to give the fermentation yeast a more hospitable environment for developing elegant aromas and flavors.
Punching Down & Pumping Over
Because mixing the skins and seeds found at the top of the tank-known as the cap-with the remainder of the juice is essential for good color and flavor extraction in Cabernet Sauvignon, we electively punch down the cap or pump juice back over up to four times a day throughout fermentation.
We taste our wine daily as it progresses through fermentation-which typically lasts 2-3 weeks-to monitor the development of structure and flavor. Following fermentation, we leave some Cabernet Sauvignon lots in fermenters for extended maceration on the skins. As a final step, we transfer the wine to the press vessel, using gravity flow techniques for select lots, and gently press to preserve the delicate character of the new wine.
Transition to Oak
Once our Cabernet Sauvignon has been pressed from its skins and solids, we immediately transfer the wine to oak, where it undergoes malolactic, or secondary, fermentation. This traditional practice softens the acidity in the wine and encourages the development of still more complex aromas and flavors. A slower process than primary fermentation, ML can proceed over as many as three months in the cellar.
Winemaker Mike Martini
Winemaker Mike Martini has overseen the development of Louis M. Martini wines in the cellar for decades. Mike meticulously monitors our smaller lot wines as they progress through the barrel aging process, tasting our Cabernet Sauvignon along the way to inform decisions he makes at final blending time.
Ultimately, each fermentation lot is evaluated separately as it ages for up to 24 months in the cellar. When they're ready, Cabernet Sauvignon lots are blended together and placed back into a premium selection of French, American and Hungarian barrels to marry together until bottling.
From Winery to Glass
Our Cabernet Sauvignon winemaking journey comes full circle when you raise a glass of Louis M. Martini. We take pride in delivering a quality Cabernet for you to enjoy vintage after vintage, and it is an honor to be a part of your special moments. - CHEERS!
Growing up in his family's vineyards, third-generation vintner Mike Martini learned firsthand what it takes to make world-class wines. Today Mike proudly continues the legacy of the Martinis, crafting Cabernet Sauvignon at our Napa Valley winery. "The great thing about Cabernet," says Mike, "is that its structure can show power but also elegance, grace and finesse."
Cellar No. 254
Cellar 254 is the home of winemaking for our most sought-after, small-lot Cabernets and other wines. Named for our address on Highway 29, Cellar 254 was inspired by Mike Martini's travels to France, where he learned artisan winemaking techniques in Bordeaux and Burgundy. Cellar 254 offers Mike the tools he needs to imbue his blends with superb balance and texture.