Martinelli Winery is impossible to miss on River Road in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley wine country. The massive brick-red hop barn facade is legendary in these parts. Tuscan transplants Giuseppe and Luisa Martinelli cultivated grapes in 1898 on a steep 60 degree slope, now known as Jackass Hill. The non-terraced steep slope was originally planted to Zinfandel and Muscat Alexandria and surrounding fields were planted to Gravenstein and Golden Delicious apples, cherries, pears, prunes, hops, berries, walnuts, potatoes and green beans. The centurion vineyard, Jackass Hill, took its name when family told Martinelli that “only a jackass would farm a hill that steep”. Today, that very vineyard produces some of the finest old vine Zinfandel in the valley.
Descendants of the Martinelli family, Lee Sr. and his sons now farm the vineyards and his daughters manage the office and marketing for the winery. The turn of the century tasting room also serves as a mini museum with many artifacts, an old wine press and sepia wall photos of the Martinelli family.
Martinelli‘s vineyards are strategically positioned in the Russian River Valley and along the Sonoma Coast in the Fort Ross/Seaview area. While the best grapes are retained for the estate wines, over 90% of the grapes are sold to other Sonoma County wineries.