Louis M. Martini is one of Napa Valley’s most historic wineries. It was founded by Louis M. Martini, who left his home in Genoa, Italy, to join his father in San Francisco in 1899. After experimenting with winemaking, the senior Martini sent his son back to Italy for 5 years to learn winemaking, and by 1911 the men were making wine for sale in rented space outside of San Francisco. Always known for its progressive thinking and attention to quality, the winery became one of the first and most successful large wineries in Napa Valley. In 2002 it was purchased by the Gallo family. The estate owns 700 acres and makes Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Malbec, Meritage and Petite Sirah.
Sonoma County is not an AVA, but it is a commonly used informal designation for wines made outside of more specific AVAs within Sonoma, which is a large wine producing region just west of Napa Valley. Though Sonoma is often overshadowed by its glamorous neighbor Napa Valley, it has a long history of wine production. The area specialized in jug wine until the mid-20th century, when Sonoma producers took a cue from Napa and started improving quality. Unlike Napa, where Cabernet Sauvignon is king, Sonoma specialized in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, though excellent Cabs are produced too. There are at present 16 AVAs within Sonoma County, and, like much of the West Coast of the United States, new AVAs are created in Sonoma County with regularity. Some Sonoma appellations, such as the Russian River Valley, are renowned for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Zinfandel is a black-skinned grape, but 85% of the wine produced is made into a rosy “White Zinfandel.” Red Zin is far more complex and bold, while still being light-bodied. It grows in popularity as winemakers continue to experiment with new styles and blends.