Louis M. Martini, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2018


This is super-charged, intense and age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon from one of the few non-Napa subzones that can claim a seat at California's top table.

This is a dark, powerful wine full of black fruits, currants and a top layer of baking spices that build a complex and intense palate. Earth and herbs develop too, with a dark and spicy base. Balanced by supporting acidity and fine-grained earthy tannins, this has a lifted and fresher finish than than its Napa stable mate, but this is simply part of its lovely, generous DNA, rather than any weakness.

Positioned to the north of the town of Heladsburg and running alongside the Russion River, the Alexander Valley AVA has a number of interesting feature that distinguish it from other parts of Sonoma and Napa. It's Diurnal temperature shift is wider, meaning cooler nights and warmer days; the alluvial soils give a more distinctively Chocolatey flavour to the reds (especially thick-skinned varieties like Cabernet); the mouth-feel is more voluptuous than the rest of Sonoma, and typically, the wines are more approachable in youth than those of Napa. 

It sounds like the perfect balance, right? Well, it is, and that's why the Martinis have been here for so long. Home to the incredible Geyserville vineyard too, Alexander has been overlooked until recent years, so do expect the name to appear more regularly as well as prices to start moving...

This is a very significant step above the Sonoma Cabernet and is already developing with 6 years of age. This will genuinely delight any red-wine drinker and is a contender for a wine that would convert pioneers...

Louis M. Martini grew up in Genova, in the Italian region of Liguria. He left when he was 12 in 1899 to join his father in California, who was already making wine outside San Francisco. Learning on the job, Louis M. made his first wine under his father's gaze at the age of 18 and was promptly sent back to Italy to study winemaking in a more official context. In 1922, when he had returned to California, he set up the L.M. Martini Grape Products Company, which was forced to make "Sacramental Wine" during the Prohibition era.

Once that policy was binned, he was among the first winemakers to seriously seek out the best possible sites and clones for Cabernet Sauvignon production in Napa. These sites are still among the best and most respected for Cabernet Sauvignon in the world: it really is that good. 

The sense of family and tradition is writ large over the story - three generations were involved in the promotion of Napa as a whole, receiving countless honorary awards for their work, while pioneering techniques in vineyard and winery ranging from the use of frost-repelling wind turbines to cool fermentation tanks to gently limit the alcohol levels in their wines. Along the way, growth partnered progress and the expansion to Sonoma and Alexandra Valley regions for more specific sites where Cabernet Sauvignon was grown with serious character. This of course wasn't to lessen the output but to show other, varied sides to the potential of the grape and region. In fact, the search for high quality has been even further intensified since the winery was sold to long-standing friends and neighbours, the Gallo family. 

Now, when most people think that Gallo have any part to play in a winery, eyes roll and we're often set for an inevitable slide in standards, increased production and a generally puffed-up brand message with inadequate quality. However - these families have history that stretches back pre-Prohibition and whatever was said and done during the sale of the business has left the Martinis with an even better future than before! Quality has increased by the addition of an on-site micro-winery, that is dedicated to specific fermentations of single lots from the vineyards that they own, forming a sort of 'cru' system for the winery. And the success? Well, just after a decade of its creation the Lot #1 Cabernet Sauvignon scored one of the only ever 100 point ratings from Parker. Not bad going...

92 Points, James Suckling: "Ripe blueberries, black plums, herbs, toffee and milk chocolate on the nose. It’s full-bodied with firm, tight-grained tannins and bright acidity. Structured, deep and intense. Firm finish."

And I couldn't resist putting up what Robert Parker wrote about the 2014 vintage:

"The bigger, richer 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley is 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petite Sirah aged 16 months in 50% new French and American casks. This is a bigger wine and close to 2% higher in alcohol at 15.5%. There are 11,000 cases of this big, full-bodied, boisterous Cabernet Sauvignon that has a dense ruby/purple color, notes of underbrush, forest floor, tobacco leaf and oodles of blackcurrants and black cherries, with a touch of woodsmoke. The full-bodied wine hits the palate with a cascade of glycerin, fruit and purity. This is a beauty – dense, rich, and structured, but capable of lasting 20 or more years." 

97 Points

Region: Sonoma

Country: USA

Grape(s): Cabernet Sauvignon

Style: Vegan Friendly, Svelte, Sustainable, Structured, Silky, Round, Organic, Medium Bodied, Elegant, Complex, Balanced

Best food matches: Steak, Soft Cheeses, Red Meats, Mature Cheeses, Lamb, Hard Cheeses, Charcuterie

Alcohol: 15%

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When you buy wine from The Allotment Wine Co. you're helping a small Irish company that in turn supports small, sustainable wine producers who grow the grapes and make amazing wines. We only work with partners who share a deep respect and connection with the land and its traditions, witnessed in a firm commitment to quality and sustainability. All of which makes for better wines.

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Patrick H.
Hi, I'm Chris Gifford.

And you're very welcome to The Allotment Wine Co.

When you wine from me, you're supporting a small Irish business which in turn supports small, sustainable wine producers, as well as other small, dedicated Irish wine importers.

When selecting wines, I look for partners who share a deep respect and connection with the land and its traditions, witnessed in a firm commitment to quality and sustainability. All of which makes for better wines.