Wine Review – 2004 Martinelli “Terra Felice” Syrah, Russian River, California


This wine was purchased during a visit to the wine country in May of 2007.  It was actually a trip where Susan and I got engaged.  In fact, we purchased the 2004 Martinelli “Terra Felice” Syrah from the Martinelli winery only a couple of hours before I popped the big question to Susan, so this bottle definitely holds some significance to it.

I remember the woman at the tasting room saying that this syrah was basically an old style Chateauneuf du Pape.  I guess Chateauneufs mostly had syrah in them prior to todays almost Grenache dominated bottles?  I don’t know, I haven’t been drinking wine that long to know the viticulture history behind Chateaneuf du Pape.

Anyway, the wine was stupendously delicious.  There was an old world sensibility to the wine in terms of it’s smokiness, meatiness and dirt characteristics I associate with wines from the old country, but there was no denying that the fruit was all California.  The thing that sticks out in my mind the most are the sweet plums and sweet blueberries.  The freshness of the fruit was still apparent even after the second and third days of this wine’s life.  Thinking back, I can’t believe a wine this delicious was not finished in one sitting.

Here are the cornucopia of flavors I experienced with this wine:  Kirsch, soy, dark raspberry liqueur, charcoal and graphite and the most intriguing to me; anise and licorice.  The wine was supremely balanced and was elegant, yet powerful.  A great iron fist, velvet glove performance.

I’ve had zilch experiences with Martinelli wines, which is why I was excited to finally get a chance to visit their winery as well as taste their wares.  The wines are available in Hawaii on the retail and restaurant level as well as the wholesale level, but they were still virtually inaccessible.  As a retailer I was not able to purchase any because of the whole allocation politics, bull doo doo  game you sometimes have to play with suppliers.  I understand it, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it, which is probably why I’ve been relegated to typing away at a keyboard instead of selling wine.  If you’re lucky to find them on the shelves or restaurant menus here, they’re how should I say it, overpriced?  At least for me they are.  Ok, that’s my rant and bitter kitty complaint for the day.  Sorry for digressing.

Martinelli makes some pretty fabulous tasting stuff.  I loved their chardonnays at the tasting room as well as a couple of their zins.  Helen Turley is their winemaker, so it’s pretty apparent why the quality of their wines are so good.  I don’t know too much about their vineyards, but they certainly contribute to the excellent finished products as well.

Good luck in tracking their wines down.  You’re best bet are family owned, boutique but not necessarily small, retail wine shops in California, especially ones in the bay area.


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