Louis M. Martini Cabernet (Sonoma vs. Napa)

I must confess, that despite it being one of the older names in Napa Cabernet, I had never had a bottle of Louis M. Martini. I guess I just never felt compelled to get around to it. A couple of weeks ago, my wife bought a bottle of their 2012 Sonoma Cabernet, the $16 bottle for us to try. We drank it and it was fine. Definitely flabby and not much structure at all, but an ok weeknight drinker. Well about a week ago, I came home and my wife had a taste test set up for me. Two glasses each different. I guessed that one of them was the Martini Sonoma Cab, but I was perplexed by the other one. It had enormous structure, earthier mouth-feel, well-ballanced, and definitely well made. It was also obviously very you. I guessed it was probably a $40 or $50 cab.

Turns out it was the 2012 Louis M. Martini Napa Cabernet, the $25 bottle. Needless to say, I thought it was a great wine, and is now very high up on my value wine list. So am I missing something here, or is this really just that good for the price? I mean it can’t just be the grapes. The Napa is just made so much better. For the extra $9 I will always get the Napa for an everyday drinker.

Anyone try this or have any thoughts?

Sounds good, but my aversion to all things Gallo makes it unlikely that I’d enjoy it as much as you did.

Same here, I try to avoid Gallo and Constellation.

So neither of you drink Monte Rosso wines?

When I first got into the wine business in the late 70s, Gallo was of course a dirty word. The stores I was working for went through over 1,000 cases a month of Gallo 3 Liter jugs and Carlo Rossi 4 Liter jugs. Needless to say we were the biggest Gallo customers in the state - and I hated them. I thought I was all this and all that and was into Burgundy and Bordeaux because that’s what the book’s were telling me I should be into to be cool.

One day in the early part of 1982, one of the Gallo supervisors came in the store and gave me a bottle of 1978 Napa Valley Gallo Cabernet Sauvignon. He told me I could get it for $40 a case. I of course laughed his butt out the door, and refused to taste the bottle because I was a stuck up, obnoxious twit who thought he knew everything about wine (hell, I had been in the business for three years!), so I didn’t taste the wine.

Scan to a couple years later, I was putting together a tasting of 1978 California Cabernets and just threw it into the lineup for Sheets and giggles since it had been taking up space in my cellar (or closet back then) and I was embarrassed to have it in my house.

It ended up placing second in a group of 10-12 wines that included Shafer, Jordan, Heitz, Freemark Abbey etc - right behind the Martha’s Vineyard. It was by far the prettiest wine of the night, with just a luscious, chocolatey palate and this shocking length on the palate. And it would have sold for $5.00. I’ll never forget pulling the paper off the bottle and looking at my fellow tasters with the most astonishing “WTF” look.

I have never doubted Gallo again. And I think they are doing a terrific job with the Martini wines, very consistent from vintage to vintage and very well could be the best everyday Cabernet values in California today.

Great story and lends nice perspective to this forum

I haven’t tasted the 12 but have gone through several bottles of the 09. They are singing right now (for a $25 cab); I think I paid half that as I got them on sale. Last one I had was this past summer on a camping trip. Perfect wine for drinking around the campfire.

My dislike of Gallo also dates back to the late 70s. I was VP Marketing of a medium-sized winery that posed absolutely no threat to Gallo, but they still saw fit to screw us in a major way. They didn’t need to, but they had the power and so they did - part of their scorched earth policy aimed at putting everyone else out of business. As a businessman it’s hard not to admire their extraordinary success, but it’s obvious that I hold onto grudges for a long time - I have never and will never carry any of their products in my store.

I have admired the Napa Cab for years. Always a really nice bottle year in and year out plus affordable. The Sonoma is more affordable and good for parties but it seems to me it’s more apt to vintage variation.

Great story Thomas!

I know what you mean Richard. I remember standing with Lou Preston (who made my favorite California Zinfandel at the time) in the early 80s. He pointed down to a vineyard from the hill we were standing on and with an exasperated look and told me that Gallo had just purchased his Zinfandel source right out from under him. The Frei Ranch. That made me hate them even more after that. And around the same time I was really into the white wines of a Friulian winery called GALLO-STELIO who eventually were sued by Gallo over using the name in the United States, even though they had used the name since the late 18th century. The Italian winery lost the suit and had to change their name.

I must admit that I have met many an ex-Gallo employee who have ventured off into some pretty great things in the wine business over the years, so they do know how to hire the right people. But they are like battling Shell Oil.

I had a couple glasses of the 2012 Sonoma CS last night, with a small steak.

I liked it a bit more than you did - finding it to be a solid honest cabernet.

Freely admit I like the Gallo style more than others might although its been a very long time since I’ve had them. But they are nice for enjoying with non wine geeks.

Hopefully it will be a touch better with some air tonite.

Thanks for posting, and the suggestion on the Napa bottling.

Anyone know whether or not the Monte Rosso Cabernet bottling is still available?

Google is your friend.

Has anyone ever tried the Martini Monte Rosso Cabernet Franc? Just noticed the 2012, kinda intriguing.