Winemaking Across Generations
The story of Louis M. Martini is deeply rooted in a multi-generational legacy that began more than a century ago. As a young teen in 1899, Louis M. Martini left his home in Genoa, Italy and traveled across the Atlantic, then across the United States, to join his father’s seafood business in San Francisco. But while he helped his father, he was also pursuing his own passion: winemaking. Martini and his father made wine together in their home before Martini eventually returned to Italy to study and refine his craft. After auditing enology classes at Universality d’Alba, he set out to California again, but this time as a winemaker.
In a daring leap of faith—confident that Prohibition would soon be overturned—Martini built the Louis M. Martini winery in 1933 in St. Helena. His decision to settle in Napa Valley was driven by a desire to produce exceptional wines by sourcing the best fruit possible. In the years that followed Prohibition, he established a legacy of craftsmanship and a passion for Cabernet Sauvignon that continues to this day.
Louis M. Martini’s son, Louis P., had worked at his father’s California winery before studying at university. His father paid him the same number of pennies per hour as his current age. He studied food technology at the University of California, Berkeley, and added classes in enology and viticulture at Davis. When the United States entered the World War II, Louis P. enlisted in the Air Force and served from 1941 to 1945.
For the Martini Winery, the single most important event of the postwar period was Louis P.’s decision to return to the winery after his service. In direct contrast with his father, Louis P. was described as, a soft-spoken man whose demeanor suggests none of the bragging rights he could claim. Still, Louis P. and Louis M. did agree on their overall philosophy and goals in the winery. An inventor and tinkerer, Louis P. demonstrated his ingenuity in viticulture early on by introducing wind machines to combat frost and developed many superior grape clones that are still used today.
In 1954, Louis M. Martini officially passed the responsibility of crafting complex, varietally expressive Cabernet Sauvignon to his son. And while Louis P. shared his father’s firm belief in blending, he shifted the Martini focus to showcasing the flavor of the grape variety from which the wine was made.
In 1977, Louis P. Martini’s eldest son, Mike Martini, took the helm as head winemaker. Soon after, Louis P. told him, “You’ve got to learn to make your own mistakes,” and walked out of the winery. By all accounts, Louis P. was a gentle man. Mike, however, was more in the mold of Louis M., saying that he and his father, “really went at it tooth and nail for a while.” Mike played in a blues band called Private Reserve with his fellow vintners, rode a motorcycle and was described by his friends as having the demeanor of a football player with a loud, raucous laugh. And although Louis P. and Mike were diametrically opposed in personality, they shared an exceptional talent for winemaking. Louis P. took great pride in his son’s work.
“My father’s wines are silk,” observed Mike. “Mine are velvet.” Mike says he admires both the ‘robust Italian-style wines’ of his grandfather and the ‘elegant’ wines of his father. He aimed to craft wines in his father and grandfather’s style. “What I’d like to do is make elegant, robust wines!”
Michael’s tenure as head winemaker was marked by experimentation in the winery. In 2002, Mike Martini created Cellar No. 254, an “artist’s studio” where the Martini team continues to craft limited production wines. The winery’s most sought-after releases from mountain vineyards, such as the Crown Cabernet Collection and the pinnacle of the portfolio, Lot No. 1 Cabernet Sauvignon, are meticulously crafted in this small-lot winery.
When Mike retired about 10 years later, he handed off winemaking responsibilities to his assistant winemaker, Michael Eddy. Today, Michael Eddy continues the legacy of craftsmanship after spending more than a decade under the tutelage of Mike Martini and is only the fourth winemaker in Louis M. Martini Winery history. He continues to pay homage to the patriarchy that built Louis M. Martini and works tirelessly alongside his winemaking team to maintain Martini’s legacy of excellence.
As Father’s Day approaches, we’re doing a deep dive into some of our cellar-worthy treasures that would make the perfect celebratory gift. For the month of June, we’re offering $1 shipping on orders of 4+ wines for club members and $1 shipping on orders of 6+ wines for non-club members. Show Dad some love with a meticulously crafted bottle of exceptional red wine.
Our 2018 Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is a cornerstone for the history of the winery. We selected the fruit from some of our favorite blocks at our historic Monte Rosso Vineyard, including the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon block in California, and crafted a wine that showcases the site-specific characteristics from the esteemed Monte Rosso Vineyard. The nose fills with Monte Rosso’s signature spice and sweet wood aromatics and a thread of smoky ancho. Notes of ripe cherry, black currant and warm plum compote fill the palate. Underlying hints of sarsaparilla and caramelized oak lead to a long, earthy finish with a touch of wet clay.
This exceptional Cabernet is a robust single-vineyard wine hailing from the rock-strewn slopes of the Vaca Mountains in northeastern Napa Valley. The high elevation of the vineyard and tremendous diurnal shift result in rich, structurally unique wines. The dark, inky hues that show in the glass reveal the warm and sunny location where the grapes thrive. Aromas of sifted cocoa, cinnamon and nutmeg lead to notes of melted licorice, cherry cola and crème de cassis. Plush, dusty tannins add to the complexity and a touch of violet punctuates the long finish.
James Suckling (January 2020) and Wine Enthusiast (July 2021) both gave this wine a 94-point score, describing it as, “full and dense with mountain-fruit character,” and, “offering contrasting elements of savory, earthy and rich tones.”
Our flagship Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic representation of the appellation’s preeminent varietal. Sourced from several of our premium Napa Valley vineyards to represent both high elevation and valley floor fruit, our 2018 vintage results in a beautifully balanced blend. Notes of black cherry, blackberry and plum are complemented by hits of toasted oak, dried currant and baking spice. Fine-grained tannins and ample brightness on the palate give way to a polished mouthfeel and exceptionally long finish.
James Suckling gave this Cabernet a 93-point score, noting a, “slightly high-toned red with walnut, berry, chocolate and spice on the nose and palate.”
In 1970, Louis P. Martini became one of the first winemakers to varietally label a Merlot. Today, our inaugural Cellar No. 254 Merlot is a beautifully structured expression of the variety. Enchanting aromas of fresh blueberries, Bing cherries, and ripe red plum mingle with hints of violet and dried mint leaves as they dust the nose. These notes are echoed on the supple palate where polished tannins and flavors of boysenberry pie and raspberry, as well as subtleties of baking spice, vanilla and freshly shaved chocolate carry through the long, textured finish.
Now is an excellent time to take advantage of our $1 shipping on orders of 4+ wines for club members and $1 shipping on orders of 6+ wines for non-club members. Celebrate your own family heritage with a wine born of multi-generational passion and craftsmanship.