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Martinelli Winery & Vineyards

Sonoma County region

One of the Russian River's under-the-radar premier wineries

Even though it has been in existence for nearly thirty-five years, the Martinelli Winery of Windsor must still be considered one of Sonoma County’s under-the-radar premier entities. The story of Martinelli Winery’s evolvement could easily come from the pages of a Hollywood script.

Starting more than 100 years ago, Guiseppe and Luisa Martinelli came to Sonoma’s Russian River Valley from their native Tuscany Region of Italy. After a few years, Guiseppe’s wine background and hard work allowed him to purchase some land. He could only afford steep (60 degree slope) hillsides but that fact did not deter Martinelli. He farmed the vineyards planting Zinfandel and Muscat Alexandria and eventually produced some first class fruit.

Guiseppe’s youngest son Leno took up the reins of the property after the passing of his father. His family teased him that no one but a jackass would farm such steep vineyards and the name Jackass Hill was born. The hilly plantings still remain the steepest non-terraced vineyard in Sonoma County.

Leno Martinelli eventually passed the mantle to his eldest son, Lee, Sr. In 1973, Lee Sr. took over management of his uncle Tony Bondi’s estate in the Russian River Valley and soon became a top grower in the region. Along with his wife Carolyn, the pair saw the enormous potential for their high-quality grapes and decided to start their own winery.

Along Sonoma County’s famed River Road, a pair of old hop barns were converted into a winery and tasting area. Much of the original ambiance was preserved and early writings on the walls and doors are still visible today.

As it’s been since inception, the greater part of the fruit Martinelli Winery produces is sold to other wineries in the area. Martinelli Winery itself produces around 12,000 to 15,000 cases a year depending on each annual harvest.

“We don’t intend on growing our production,” informed Regina Martinelli, executive vice-president. “We are comfortable with where we are and will only get bigger if some of our newer planted vineyards in the Russian River AVA or the Ft. Ross-Seaview AVA come to fruition.”

The Martinelli Winery is a full-fledged family affair. Lee, Sr., remains the “top dog” of the operation while his sons George and Lee Jr., are mostly involved with the growing side of the business. His wife Carolyn remains active while daughter Regina runs the business end. Another sibling, Juliana is involved with the marketing of the winery.

The key to Martinelli’s continuing success is the marvelous fruit that evolves from the Martinelli’s bevy of top vineyards. These include Zio Tony Ranch, Moonshine Ranch, Bondi Home Ranch, Guiseppe & Luisa Vineyard, Vellutini Ranch and the patriarch Jackass Vineyards. The latter planting, now well over 100 years old, continues to produce superb Old-Vine Zinfandel fruit that rivals anything in California.

“I feel so fortunate and blessed that my ancestors came to Sonoma County, specifically, the Russian River Valley, with the vision to own and farm their own land,” said Lee Sr. during a recent interview. “Our family has been able to continue that farming legacy while respecting and nurturing the land that has made it all possible.”

The releases of Martinelli Winery have produced numerous awards for many years and continue to be included on every important Sonoma County list. Much of the recent success can be traced to winemaker Bryan Kvamme, a Bachelor of Science graduate of the iconic University of California Davis.

Kvamme’s passion for wine started while he worked as a shepherd in the late 1980’s. His first job after graduation was at the Napa Wine Company where he worked on a number of their wineries that were alternating proprietorships. He later put in stints at both Gloria Ferrer Winery and Benessere Winery. He joined Martinelli Winery in 1997 when the noted winemaker Helen Turley was consultant and has been with Martinelli Winery since that time.

Bryan Kvamme is also a disciple of Turley’s no nonsense approach to winemaking. He fervently believes that he must allow the essence of fully ripened fruit shine through from the vineyard to the bottle.

Martinelli Winery is a significant part of Sonoma County and Northern California. In a sense, it is a throwback to older days and older wineries. Its winemaking techniques haven’t changes in decades and its estate fruit continues to be among the finest grown anywhere.

It is our pleasure to welcome Martinelli Winery to our Wine Club's family of fine wineries. Enjoy!

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Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,

Picture of Dear <i>Platinum Wine Club</i> Members,

Our family has been farming in Sonoma County since 1860. All of our wines are produced from estate grown grapes, from vineyards farmed by patriarch Lee Martinelli Sr., and brothers George and Lee Martinelli Jr. Our focus at Martinelli Winery has always been making the best possible quality wines that are born in the vineyards. We use extensive cultural practices in our vineyards to reach this goal. Our winemaker Bryan Kvamme employs a natural approach to winemaking, allowing the essence of fully ripened fruit to shine through from the vineyard to the wine.

As a Platinum Wine Club feature, we are excited to share this very special wine with you, the 2009 Zio Tony Ranch Syrah. The "Zio Tony Ranch" is named after Lee Martinelli Sr.'s uncle, whom was the first in the Bondi family to be born on American soil. This vineyard lies on rolling hills in the Russian River Valley and has blocks of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. The Zio Tony Syrah is aged in 90% New French Oak barrels for one year and clarified only by racking before bottling. This is a big, meaty wine, with dark berry flavors, medium tannins, and sweet fruit aromas. We are sure you will enjoy this wine with your favorite meat dish, or simply on its own!

Regina Mertinelli
Owner-Martinelli Winery