The Martinelli family has been growing grapes in the Russian River Valley since the 1800's, when Giuseppe Martinelli and Luisa Vellutini eloped and moved from Tuscany to Sonoma County. In the 1970s third-generation vintners Lee Martinelli Sr. and Carolyn Martinelli assumed leadership and began developing vineyards on family properties throughout Sonoma County.
In 1992 they brought on renowned Winemaker Helen Turley and went on to establish new standards for world-class farming and winemaking within the Russian River Valley. Today Lee Sr. and Carolyn are joined by their four children, who will shape the winery’s future. Lee Jr. and George Martinelli share with their father the role of managing the vineyards. Julianna and Regina Martinelli head up the winery’s hospitality, marketing, communications and sales outreach. Winemaking is directed by Bryan Kvamme, a protégé of Helen Turley, who has been working at Martinelli since 1997. Martinelli Winery & Vineyards specializes in single-vineyard lots of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Syrah from 450 acres of estate vineyards in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast.
Recently I joined a group of journalists and sommeliers from across the country to visit with the Martinelli's both on their rugged and remote Jackass Hill vineyard at the western end of Russian River Valley not far from the coast, and at their easily-accessible tasting room on River Road. The 2.5 acre hillside, which is a vertiginous 60 degree slope, was planted in the 1890's to Zinfandel and Muscat. Jackass Hill, the steepest non-terraced vineyard in Sonoma, was given its name by the Martinelli's, "as only a jackass would farm a hill that steep."
Across the board, the wines were on the powerful end of the spectrum, with the lowest alcohol level at 14.5 for a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and the highest at 17.5 for the Jackass Hill Zinfandel, yet the wines were able to express a sense of place and time. Sisters Julianna and Regina regaled us with stories of family traditions including "Breakfast Chardonnay" where they sit in the creek eating bacon and eggs and drinking Chardonnay.
Visit Martinelli Winery & Vineyards here:
Martinelli Winery & Vineyards
3360 River Road, Windsor, CA 95492 707-525-0570, www.martinelliwinery.com
Facebook: Martinelli Winery Twitter: @martinelliwines Instagram: martinelliwinery
Read our expert reviews of Martinelli wines here: