The Louis M Martini Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 is Cabernet blended with a bit of Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, and Merlot sourced primarily from a vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley AVA and another in the Alexander Valley AVA of Sonoma County. Louis M Martini was founded in Sonoma in 1933, but is now one of E & J Gallo’s family of wines and the Martini winery has moved to Napa. Sometimes when folks think of Gallo wines they conjure up images of Boone’s Farm and Carlo Rossi jug wines, but they own some of the best vineyards in California, they have one of the best vineyards in Napa, about half of the Dry Creek AVA and top-notch properties in the Central Coast. One of Gallo’s advantage’s for affordable wine is that they can add grapes from their own elite vineyards to value-priced wine and all good wine start with good grapes. The grapes from the two vineyards were fermented and aged separately, the aging was “on” French and American oak for an average of 16 months. 16 months on/in oak is pretty good in this price range (I found it on sale for $11.99, though the list price is higher), you expect oak flavors in a California Cab and 16 months should do the trick. The alcohol content is 14.5%.
The color is a dark barely see-thru black cherry red. The nose is bright dark berries, a hint of smoke, dark chocolate, brown sugar, cranberry, and pepper spice. This is a Cabernet with solid structure and bold, but balanced flavor. It tastes of extracted blackberry, black licorice and black pepper, then that intensity lets up with some plum and vanilla. The mid-palate is subdued compared to the initial blast of flavor, but adds soft spice, orange zest, smooth raspberry, and milk chocolate. The tannins are smooth, when CWF started 10 years ago Red wines with tannins that would grip your palate were common, but today tannins have been tamed, for better or for worse. The acidity is well-balanced, sip it or pair it, it’s all good. The finish is bold, but fades before long.
The Louis M Martini Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 is an excellent real-deal, affordable California Cab. It has the body, the oak, and the flavors that you expect from more expensive Cab Sauvs. What expensive California Cabs have that the Martini lacks is well offset by the affordable price. If a wine just can’t cut it, it doesn’t matter how inexpensive it is, but if an affordable wine delivers the real drinking experience, then that is something special.