September 17, 2010 at 9:01 am , by Tom Claire
It isn’t every day that you get to sit down with a third- or fourth-generation member of one of California’s founding wine families. So I was pleased as proverbial punch to visit with Michael Martini recently as he walked me through tastings of a few of his vineyard’s recent releases. (Michael’s grandfather established Louis M. Martini in Napa County in 1933.) Apart from being a veritable encyclopedia of California’s wine scene (past and present), Mike represents what every wine enthusiast hopes to find: the genuine article. He knows the farmlands and vineyards of Napa and Sonoma Counties as a typesetter knows fonts. So he discerns which vineyard areas produce the best grapes and he has the ability to source his vineyard pickings to his liking, giving him (and us) the absolute best Cabernet Sauvignons available at mid-level prices.
His 2008 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon ($17), for instance, features the inviting aromas and flavors of red cherry, blackberry and crushed sage in a full-bodied wine that finishes in a long-lingering complex chocolate and vanilla dénouement. And his 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) is even richer, featuring the concentrated flavors of ripe plums and Bing cherries combined with spices and vanilla; this wine’s finish of fruit and dried herbs tapers off to a mellow tobacco. I highly recommend both.