Louis M. Martini Winery in St. Helena impresses as soon as you set foot onto the historic property. As you stroll up the landscaped walkway, exceptionally grand red doors sweep open to welcome you to the beautifully furnished and newly remodeled tasting room.
The winery, originally built in 1933, recently underwent a massive facelift that modernized the space while also paying homage to its historic roots. This Napa Valley icon hosts multiple tasting experiences, from an introductory tasting at the Crown Bar to the intimate Underground Cellar Experience, offering an exquisite something for every palate.
For the foodies, the Heritage Lounge Tasting cannot be missed. This guided, seated tasting offers perfectly paired bites with each wine. Executive Chef Jeffrey Russell brings his fine-dining background to the new culinary program at Louis M. Martini. His nuanced flavors and unexpected pairings are the perfect complement to Winemaker Michael Eddy’s award-winning wines. From ash roasted beets with golden raisin and almond agrodolce to crispy pig ears with Caciocavallo cheese and charred treviso to the unexpectedly delightful pink peppercorn panna cotta, each pairing highlights the flavors in the wines. The menu changes seasonally, so you’ll likely get to enjoy a whole new experience upon your next visit.
Chef Russell hails from an illustrious career in high-end dining establishments from New York to Napa Valley. His creativity in leading this cutting-edge culinary program is evident in his exceptional creations that complement Martini’s cabernet sauvignon-led collection. Winemaker Eddy is especially known for his hands-on crafting of their signature cabernet sauvignon wines. Under the tutelage of Michael Martini, grandson of founder Louis M. Martini, Eddy spent over a decade honing his skills and becoming deeply acquainted with the wine and the historic vineyards from which they source the grapes. The collaboration between the wine and food allows each element to shine and truly enhances the overall tasting experience.
The tasting itself offers a selection of small-lot wines from the famed Monte Rosso Vineyard in the Moon Mountain AVA of Sonoma County. This iconic 575-acre vineyard sits atop the Mayacamas Mountains with 250 acres of planted vines. Named for its distinct Red Hill Loam soil, the iron-rich volcanic soil imparts a special “Monte Rosso Spice” to the wines’ distinct flavors, namely, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. In this experience, your winery host not only guides you through the wine pairings, but also educates you on the fascinating intricacies of vineyard sites, soils, and winemaking and aging techniques, as well as how everything works together to produce outstanding wines.
While many people know Louis M. Martini for its balanced cabernet sauvignon, the wines in this Heritage Lounge flight also include cabernet franc, malbec, the Mountain Red Blend, and a Gnarly Vine Zinfandel. Each wine — with the exception of the Mountain Red — is 100% of its designated varietal, which truly allows the characteristics of this exceptional vineyard to shine through.
For those looking for an even more exclusive experience, The Underground Cellar Experience is not to be missed. It takes you below ground into the winery’s 85-year-old barrel cellar to learn about the history of the winery and the Martini family’s old-world heritage. The original cellar offers two private libraries for seated tastings and a genuine bank vault that Louis Martini purchased from a bank going out of business in San Francisco. You’ll taste small-lot wines alongside delicious culinary creations. To visit the cellar without the food pairings, check out the Historic Tour & Tasting, which highlights the history of the property, the influence of the Martini family on the development of the Napa Valley, and the wine that earned a coveted 100 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.
For a more casual experience, spend your afternoon lounging in Martini Park, which is open Thursday through Sunday until 6 pm. This relaxed al fresco environment allows you to taste your way through three wines with culinary pairings or purchase a bottle and kick back with friends. Private cabanas dot the grassy courtyard and can be reserved for four-hour windows — they seat up to 12 people. Wood-fired pizzas, spit-roasted meats, and more are available to pair with your wine.
If you’re not into reservations, you can visit the Crown Tasting Bar without any advanced planning. Located at the heart of the newly renovated winery, the Crown Bar introduces you to the Louis M. Martini portfolio from both Sonoma County and Napa Valley. Here you can taste a range of their most well-loved wines, such as their refreshing Napa Valley Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon and classic Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, alongside some small-lot selections.
No matter which tasting option you select, your visit to Louis M. Martini Winery is sure to be unforgettable. This Napa Valley favorite offers the best blend of history, modern innovation, and world-class wines that all showcase the bounty of Napa Valley and Sonoma County.
Images courtesy of Louis M. Martini / Kristen Cropper and *Steve Orozco