White Wine Club
White Wine Club - October
This month, we were lucky to score some Martinelli Chardonnay Zio Tony Ranch, Russian River Valley, 2008, one of the great California Chardonnays!
Your allocation is for one bottle.
Awarded 95 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "The light green/gold-colored 2008 Chardonnay Zio Tony Ranch reveals more butterscotch, honeyed mandarin orange, citrus oil, brioche, leesy, waxy notes along with full-bodied richness and a California style that mimics a premier cru Meursault with its hazelnut and subtle smokiness. Drink this stunning Chardonnay over the next 7-8 years."
The venerable Martinelli winery, one of the iconic families and longtime growers in Sonoma, has turned out another impressive group of wines.Awarded 94+ points from the Wine Spectator: "Bold, ripe and fleshy, offering exotic floral and spicy notes, along with flavors of bubble gum, fig, honeydew melon and hazelnut. Full-bodied and viscous, gaining depth and nuance on the long, tapered finish. Drink now through 2017."
The Martinelli family has been growing grapes in the Russian River Valley since 1887. At the ages of 19 and 16, Giuseppe Martinelli and Luisa Vellutini eloped from their small village in the Toscany region of Italy, making their way to California looking for land to farm and start a winery. Giuseppe had been a winemaker in Italy and with his viticultural knowledge he was hired to plant a vineyard for a farmer in Forestville. Within two years he earned enough money, and borrowed some from a local wood cutter, to purchase some land. Working side by side on a 60 degree slope, Giuseppe and Luisa planted a small area of Zinfandel and Muscat Alexandria vines, which later became known as the Jackass Hill vineyard. Over 100 years later, this south easterly exposure remains the steepest non-terraced vineyard in Sonoma County.
In 1918 Giuseppe died, leaving Luisa with four children and the farm to care for. Their youngest son, Leno was twelve years old at the time and had wanted no other career in life than to be a farmer. Leno’s two older brothers wanted nothing to do with the impossibly steep hillside so after completing the eighth grade, Leno finished school and took on the sole responsibility of farming the Zinfandel vineyard. His family told him that only a jackass would farm a hill that steep. Hence, he and his vineyard earned the name Jackass. Leno received all of his farming knowledge from his parents and through his own lifelong experience of tending the vines the way his father had. He even continued using a horse and plow until 1949. At the age of 89, Leno decided to hang up the keys to his John Deere, and handed the vineyard over to his son, Lee Sr. Following the family tradition, Lee was introduced to vineyard work at the age of seven, performing all seasonal tasks necessary and learning the old viticultural practices handed down through the generations.
In 1973 Lee Sr. took over management of his Uncle Tony Bondi’s estate, which was comprised mainly of apple orchards, and began planting vineyards in the rich soil of the Russian River Valley. Soon considered a premium grape grower, Lee’s fruit was in great demand from many wineries. Realizing the exceptional potential to create superb wines from these grapes, Lee and his wife, Carolyn, decided to start their own winery. Two old historic hop barns that grace the property have been converted into the wine making facility and tasting room, keeping with the original feel and structure of the centurion buildings.
Twenty years later in 1993, Lee and Carolyn met and befriended Helen Turley on a dusty road in the middle of nowhere. They discovered that they were vineyard neighbors; Helen’s Marcassin vineyard rests on the same ridge as the Martinelli’s Charles Ranch vineyard along the Sonoma Coast. Soon they began working with Helen professionally, and she introduced new viticultural and cellar practices to the Martinelli family. The winery’s new vineyards are all planted with the professional consultation and specifications of John Wetlaufer and Helen Turley. Lee Sr. and his two sons, Lee Jr. and George, do all of the farming, keeping the business traditionally family owned and operated. Helen Turley is the consulting winemaker and Bryan Kvamme is winemaker.
About Zio Tony Ranch. According to Lee Martinelli, Sr: "The "Zio Tony Ranch" is named after my father's uncle whom was the first in the Bondi family to be born on American soil. Zio Tony was the son of Paolo Antoni Bondi and Adele Gemma Cardellini, who emigrated from Italy in the late 1800's, and immediately set up farming potatoes. In one year they saved enough money raising potatoes to purchase the apple ranch on which Tony was born and where he and his sister, Alma, were raised. Zio Tony, Zio meaning 'uncle' in Italian and pronounced 'tseo', was a very charismatic man with a big booming voice whom loved a good time. His broad handsome smile is still legendary in the old farming community of western Sonoma County. He was the entrepreneur of the family and began buying individual properties and planting apple trees, eventually establishing the largest apple orchard in the county. When Zio Tony passed away in 1971 his nephew, Lee Martinelli, Sr., took over management of the estate. The love of his family's heritage land was too great for Lee to sell the property and in one short season he went from High School teacher to Apple Farmer.
The market for apples in Sonoma County eventually grew unbearably soft and the Zio Tony Ranch has gradually made the transformation from apples to grapes. Keeping with our family heritage we have preserved a large grove of the old thick-trunked Gravenstein apple trees. Bursting with flavor, Gravensteins are the best in the world for baking and eating. Surrounding this acreage of ancient fruit bearing trees Lee Sr., has planted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir which are varietals that glorify in this particular climate's warm/cool temperatures. The vines are planted on rolling hills, are densely spaced at 2,000 per acre with clones '115', 'Quail Hill', '548', and '95', and rootstocks, '420', '101-14' and '3309'. This small vineyard is trained on a vertical trellis system with the fruit hanging just 24 inches above the ground. The grapes are thinned down to only 3 pounds of fruit per vine. These practices all insure mature fruit flavors in the wine as well as even ripening.
The grapes are picked between 25 and 26 degrees brix to ensure mature ripe fruit flavors. They are hand selected at harvest time by Lee Martinelli, Sr. and Helen Turley who taste the grapes and choose when to pick according to the developed concentration of flavors in the berries. The wine is fermented with wild yeast in 75% new French oak barrels, where it rests in on its gross lees for 10 months. The grapes, juice, and then wine are minimally handled. This Chardonnay is neither heat nor cold stabilized and is unfined and unfiltered.
We began our immigrant farming careers with apples and they will always have a huge place in our family's hearts and on our tables. They supported our family for generations as an agriculture product. So next time you sip a taste of Martinelli wine, don't forget the apple pie for dessert."
Recipe: Simple Roasted Chicken Serves Four
I'd pair a wine this stunning with a simple roasted chicken. I wouldn't want the complex flavors of the wine to be overwhelmed by complex sauces or strong flavors. Adapted from Cook's Magazine.
1 roasting chicken
Crushed garlic (to taste)
1 onion, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
Rub crushed garlic in cavity (after removing neck and giblets) under and on the skin of a roasting chicken. Sprinkle lemon pepper and seasoned salt in cavity and on skin. Place slices of lemon and onion in cavity. Roast chicken on a rack, breast side down in a 350 degree oven until thermometer reads 165 degrees (75 to 90 minutes). Remove chicken from oven. Wrap tightly in foil to allow cooking to continue. After an hour, remove foil, carve and serve.