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.
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!
Santa Rosa Fine Wine