Tag Archives: Louis Martini

Ceja Burgundy Dinner

Following the recent Las Madres Winemaker Lunch, we attended a followup dinner the next day with Las Madres Vineyard Manager and good friend Armando Ceja. Dinner at the Ceja’s is always a treat guaranteed to have good company, food and wine!

Armando generously shared several Ceja wines, as well as some very nice Burgundy. We brought along an old California Pinot Noir served blind, to see how well it was showing, and test our knowledgeable host! Surprisingly, Armando could not pick the grape, vintage or region! Our hostess Martha Ceja however accurately guessed a California wine from 1978! She mentioned the wine tasted like ones she drank with Armando a long time ago!

2009 Ceja Sparkling Brut – A good starter wine, crisp, clean, a well made wine. Was impressed how well made this wine was as a highly affordable everyday drinker.

2007 Ceja Carneros Chardonnay – Fuller, creamier, rounder wine, pineapple on the nose, a wine that is very youthful at this point. Would improve with a little cellar aging.

2004 Jadot Corton Charlemagne – An excellent Jadot, mature without showing signs of oxidation, bread yeast, subtle minerality, and light sweet citrus. In a sweet spot right now, will not improve with cellar aging. My favorite white wine of the evening.

2005 Domaine Leflaive Clavoillon – More advanced than expected, but still drinking very well, did not have the powerful sulfur, black tar, I often get from the wine, it was buried in the background. Nose was a touch astringent, slightly reduced. Improved considerably with time in the glass. A very nice wine.

1978 Louis Martini Special Selection Pinot Noir – An awesome wine! Served this blind to the group, most thought it was a Burgundy. Game meats, exotic minerality, earth and redwood, clearly had age, but amazing structure. A complete lucious wine that I could still taste the following day, it was that good. Had a very good condition cork, and high fill level, but the cork was very short with a plastic capsule. Buy this wine with care.

2005 Louis Latour Corton Grancey – A good showing by the Corton. Light to medium body, strawberry fruit, resolved with no RS, sometimes apparent in other Corton Grancey tasted. Thought it was a good wine, expected a little more density prior to opening.

2009 Ceja Dulce Beso – Powerful peach and orange citrus, clean and also well made. A very nice end of meal wine.

A very nice evening, and to top it off, got to see the Ceja’s new very good looking and intelligent German Shepherd!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine

Louis Martini Cabernet Lunch

This past weekend, got together with friends at our place in Sonoma to enjoy steaks and fresh fish from Bryan’s Fine Foods, along with a vertical of Louis Martini Cabernet spanning the 1950’s to the 1980’s. It was a real treat to taste the progression from an excellent California Cabernet producer with a long history in the Napa Valley.

While the vast majority of wines opened were excellent condition, it should be noted that all corks pulled on the 1958 through 1978 were short and the majority, not particularly tight fitting. It is strongly advised when sourcing old Martini to purchase with as high a fill level as possible. Suggest buying minimum base neck fills, anything lower may be ok, but risk increases. Another noteworthy point when purchasing this wine, the 1969 through 1978 bottles opened all had plastic capsules. It was not possible to press down on the cork to access condition.

Brief notes follow of all wines opened. The only wine decanted was the 1966, the rest were pop and pour. Wines are sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

Starter Sparkling Wine

1998 Thomas Fogarty Late Disgorged Blanc De Blanc – Yeasty, mango, some oxidation, a medium bodied wine with a mature golden color and some funk on the finish. Found the wine more a curiosity than anything to kick off the lunch.

Starter White Wine

1995 Peter Michael Belle Cote Chardonnay – Firm acid grip on the finish with a distinct honey nose. Initially thought the wine had turned and was disjointed, but got surprising better the longer it sat in the glass.

1950’s Louis Martini Cabernet

1958 Louis Martini California Mountain Cabernet – An exceptional wine! Some bricking, a medium bodied wine with earth, mint, leather, tobacco, and forest floor, all combined with a hint of structure that carried the wine over several hours. Top wine of the tasting!

1960’s Louis Martini Cabernet

1966 Louis Martini California Mountain Cabernet – Sweeter fruit and far more youthful than the 58, restrained, yet showed some nice spice and balance, thought this was a close tie as wine of the flight, but for very different reasons. No rush to open, will continue to age well.

1968 Louis Martini California Mountain Lot No. 1 Special Selection Cabernet – An interesting white pepper Zinfandel like spice, cognac, with bigger, more rounded full bodied fruit. A complete, rustic wine that showed very well, and more mature than the 66.

1969 Louis Martini California Mountain Cabernet – Distinct raspberry fruit, good structure, earthy and subdued. The wine was excellent. Along with the 66 and 68 Special Selection, the 60’s flight as a whole showed far superior to all other flights.

1968 Louis Martini California Mountain Cabernet – Advanced and immediate signs of oxidation. Showed some promise early on and thought there might be a chance it would improve, but sadly, it quickly went downhill. Thought it was an off bottle.

1970’s Louis Martini Cabernet

1973 Louis Martini California Mountain Cabernet – A clean, nice drinking wine, stewed red fruit, fresh cut grass, notable acidity and good balance. Thought this was easily wine of the flight. Second time tasting this wine, showed consistent.

1978 Louis Martini La Loma Napa Valley Cabernet – Tight, closed and green, took a while to open up, once it did, took on a slightly richer liquor quality. If recalled correctly, this vineyard was replanted in the early to mid 1970’s.

1975 Louis Martini California Cabernet – Grassy, not a lot else going on in this wine, it improved slightly in time, but overall, just an ok effort. Expected a lot more from the 70’s flight as a whole, it was overshadowed by the 60’s.

1980’s Louis Martini Cabernet

1985 Louis Martini Monte Rosso Cabernet – The best wine of the flight, also showed the most youthful. Noted almost a barrel sample like quality, a medium body, and slight notes of mint. Thought the wine showed very well and highly enjoyable with time in the glass.

1987 Louis Martini Sonoma County Cabernet – Grassy, somewhat vegetal, green and one dimensional. Did not find the wine particularly enjoyable or appealing. Generally speaking, really enjoy 1987 California Cabernet, but this one was a disappointment.

1986 Louis Martini Monte Rosso Cabernet – More substantial fruit than the 87, but an oxidized component that was distracting and unpleasant. Another really good California Cabernet vintage, thought this was an off bottle.

Finisher Wine

1975 Freemark Abbey York Creek Petite Sirah – Deep purple in color, huge blueberry fruit. One dimension, but gorgeous one dimensional fruit that works for the wine. Served blind, could easily have misidentified it as much younger. Showed surprisingly similar to a lovely 1969 Freemark Abbey Petite Sirah tasted some time ago.

Note Taking Wine

1993 Louis Martini Monte Rosso Cabernet – After quite a few wines among eight people in attendance, we never got around to trying Louis Martini Cabernet from the 1990’s to present, so opened one the day after as a reference point. Immediately on opening, noted a pleasant sweet chocolate nose. On the palate, a wine far more extracted and jammy than anything tasting prior, big raspberry fruit dominates the wine. After about two hours, it started to finally balance out, yet remained full bodied. Overall thought it was a delightful wine, though a significant departure from all other wines tasted at this lunch.

Cheers to Louis Martini Cabernet!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine

Aged California Dinner in Santa Rosa

A group of local friends and winemakers got together at Starks Steakhouse in Santa Rosa recently to enjoy an evening of aged California wine. Have been looking forward to this dinner for some time. There is something very special about 30 to 40 year old wines that continue to evolve nicely, and in the case of this dinner, taste surprisingly youthful!

Pictured at top was a really nice 1969 Hanzell Pinot Noir. Found the Pinot Noirs as a whole showed bigger, brighter, and more youthful fruit than the more toned down style of Cabernets. Brief notes follow of all wines opened, and are sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

Champagne Starter – A lovely start to the evening, the Vilmart Champagne served from Magnum was exceptional. Honey, crisp, and mildly sweet tropical fruits, thought it a compelling wine that kept improving over the span of the evening. It was a young wine that will continue to improve with age.

1997 Vilmart Champagne Couer de Cuvee Magnum

White Wine Starters – Before moving onto Pinot Noir, opened a few white starter wines. The Marcassin was outstanding and youthful. Noted oyster shell, some sweetness and smoke, butterscotch, but in no way oxidized, as well as flint that reminded me of a younger white burgundy. The wine was young, and will continue to age well for some time. In contrast, the Pinot Blanc was creamy with a fat mid palate and short finish. Thought it was slightly advanced.
1997 Marcassin Vineyard Chardonnay
1992 Chalone Estate Pinot Blanc
California Pinot Noir Flight 1 – The two 1969 Pinot Noirs had youthful colors and were both high quality wines. The Hanzell was more raspberry fruit, cleaner, deep and lightly candied, while the Chalone was more grassy and cherry. With some nice menthol and spice, it put on considerable weight in time. Both wines were beautiful!
1969 Hanzell Pinot Noir
1969 Chalone Pinot Noir magnum
California Pinot Noir Flight 2– The 1979 La Crema was the cleaner wine, elegant, spice, good acidity, well rounded. In contrast, the 1977 Chalone was more dark cherry and blue fruits becoming leathery in time. The 1979 Chalone was youthful, raspberry, and jammy. Sadly, one bottle of 1977 Chalone was corked and replaced with a backup bottle.

1979 La Crema Vinera Pinot Noir Ventana Vineyard
1977 Chalone Estate Young Vines Pinot Noir
1979 Chalone Estate Pinot Noir

California Pinot Noir Flight 3– The 1994 Chalone was bright cherry, cola, and surprisingly fruit forward, yet had plenty of structure. Stylistically different, the 1982 Chalone was mineral, earthy, good balance, a pleasurable wine. Thought the 1986 Chalone was more barrel sample like, young, notable acidity, though slightly out of balance. The 1984 Chalone never quite came around, very firm acidity for some time.
1994 Chalone Estate Reserve Pinot Noir
1982 Chalone Estate Pinot Noir
1986 Chalone Estate Pinot Noir
1984 Chalone Estate Pinot Noir
1980 Chalone Estate Pinot Noir Magnum

California Cabernet Flight 1 – After some amazing Pinot Noir, moved on to Cabernet. The 1973 Martini Cabernet was meaty, medium bodied, youthful and had a perfect balance, a lovely classic California Cabernet. Similarly, the 1975 Martini was intense, darker red fruit, and a long finish. The 1974 Martini was surprising light and grassy, not to expectations from a great vintage. After so many bright, youthful Pinots, the wines came across as more toned down and took some time to adjust.

1973 Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon
1975 Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon
1974 Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection

California Cabernet Flight 2 – The 1974 Charles Krug was a beautiful wine. From the Fay Vineyard, thought it was mushroom, meaty and earthy. The 1974 Ridge Monte Bello was nice, far more vanilla. A youthful wine, it showed well in the flight. The 1984 Caymus was surprising tannic, but still enjoyable. Sadly the 1984 Ridge Monte Bello was corked.

1974 Charles Krug Vintage Selection Lot F1 Cabernet Sauvignon
1974 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon
1984 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon
1984 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon

Post California Cabernet Flight – The 1970 Joseph Swam Gamay was beautiful. Inky thick, dark black licorice, a very long finish, almost had the consistency of a fortified wine. The Joseph Swan Zinfandel was plumy and in tough company next to the Gamay.

1970 Joseph Swan Gamay
1969-1971 Joseph Swan Zinfandel Lot Z

Late Harvest Finish– As if we did not taste enough already, opened a sweet end of meal wine! Thought the late harvest Beringer was very well made, balanced, paraffin, rich, and sweet. Plenty of age left in this wine.1986 Beringer Late Harvest Special Select Johannisberg Riesling

Cheers to the age worthiness of California wines and a highly enjoyable evening!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine

Sunday Rhone and Bordeaux

This past Sunday, got together with friends in Napa Valley to enjoy a few special bottles of wine. The theme was great Rhone and Bordeaux. What was particularly interesting about this dinner however was an excellent California wine opened at the end of the evening, a 1969 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon!

At 40+ years old, 12.5% ABV, this wine was simply outstanding! The reference to Medoc and St. Emilion on the pictured back wine label was priceless! In the case of this dinner, did not take notes at the time, but brief observations follow. All the wines were so enjoyable, no attempt is made to identify a wine of the night.

1982 Pichon Lalande – The first time having had this wine, immediately found it a delightful, delicate and elegant wine. Tasted strawberry and sweet raspberry fruit, dry wheat, and some fresh cut grass on the palate. Took a few hours on a pop and pour for the wine to open up and show its full potential. This was an exceptional Pichon Lalande that will continue to age and improve for years.

1982 Ducru Beaucaillou – Another excellent wine, the Ducru was an interesting contrast to the Pichon Lalande. More rustic and old school Bordeaux, the palate was strikingly upfront with stewed baked red fruits and an appealing almost tomato sauce like palate. Immediately reminded of a young 1993 Philip Togni Cabernet. Like the Pichon Lalande, the Ducru will age gracefully for many more years. A beautiful wine!

1989 Jaboulet La Chapelle Hermitage – The two Bordeaux were both excellent, but stylistically different. Such was the case with both Rhones. The Jaboulet was gorgeous, exotic dark fruits, plum, barnyard, asian spice and game meat, had so many dimensions to the wine, it hit the palate in different ways with every taste. An excellent Rhone that is drinking very well now, but could easily continue to age.

1994 Chave Hermitage – Almost polar opposite to the Jaboulet in style, the Chave was pure and clean, with lush bright red fruit, yet restrained and subdued with a rich menthol finish. Aromatically, the wine had an appealing tropical citrus nose that was highly enjoyable. The youngest wine in the group with notable tannin, could easily age this wine for a significant amount of time, and it will continue to improve.

1969 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon – The final wine of the evening, this was a gorgeous old school California Cabernet! Almost a hypothetical blend of a good year BV Georges de Latour, with mushroom, spice and earthiness, with the structure, depth, and darker clean fruits of a well aged Chateau Montelena. The wine showed no signs of oxidation, yet was fully mature and highly enjoyable. Cannot say enough positive things about the quality of this wine!

Cheers to a small but highly enjoyable evening with good food, friends and wine!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine