From $20.89 to $29.99, and CA$32.99 – and from $11.99 and £9.95 for the Pedroncelli
This widely distributed (in North America) wine is a silly price. Many long-standing American wine lovers know what a gold standard it is but perhaps not all of the millions of more recent converts to wine are aware of it. The Martini family somehow managed to continue to produce top-quality Cabernet at bargain prices for decades and, I’m delighted to say that new owners Gallo seem to be carrying on the tradition.
This family-owned enterprise will celebrate its centenary in eight years. The giant Gallo swallowed it up in 2002 after the founder’s grandson Michael Martini, who is still involved with the family firm, found life difficult as a medium-sized winery towards the end of the last century. As Linda Murphy wrote in our 2012 book American Wine, it was ‘not large enough (150,000 cases per year) to gain traction with wholesalers, yet not small enough to be viewed by consumers as special in the Napa Valley scheme of things’.
But, I would argue, Louis M Martini Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Napa Valley is special. Who else in the Napa Valley has such a long history of producing seriously well balanced, proper Napa Valley Cabernet for little more than $20 a bottle?
I was reacquainted with it during the Masters of Wine tasting of top US Cabernets recently and gave it the same score, 17/20, as many much grander and more expensive wines. It‘s not the most concentrated (thank heavens) and won’t last nearly as long as some of them – in fact I would drink it over the next few years, but, boy, does it deliver! Having been made in the unusually damp (for Napa Valley) 2011 vintage, it is a very vivacious, elegant claret with some of the opulence of Napa weighing in at a very precise 14.4% alcohol. I liked the appetising but not excessive charge of grainy tannins.
Alas, according to wine-searcher.com, this wine seems to be distributed only in the US (far and wide, without too much variation in price), in British Columbia in western Canada and in Bermuda. It would be great to see more California wines offering this sort of value venture further afield. I was struck by the value offered by two more Napa Valley Cabernets recently. Matt Parish Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Napa Valley (£12.99 Naked Wines next month) is a steal at this ‘angel’ price.
And UK-based members of another society, The Wine Society, can take advantage of this other bargain California Cab from another Italian old-timer source of great value: Pedroncelli Three Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Dry Creek Valley. This is just £9.95 in the UK and from as little as $11.99 in the US. It may not have quite the gloss (nor smart packaging) of the Napa wines but it’s already a great, pure, ripe Cabernet that comes soaring out of the glass in that friendly way of all Californians. Bravo! Members of Purple Pages can read our collected tasting notes on current American wines published on Wednesday.