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Marietta Winery is just outside the little town of Geyserville in California's premier wine growing region, Sonoma County. Owner and winemaker Chris Bilbro founded Marietta Winery in 1979 after cutting his wine business teeth by working at Bandiera founded by his grandparents Emil and Luduina Bandiera in 1937.
Marietta Winery was named for Marietta Pandini, Grandfather Emil's sister-in-law. She was a native of Tuscany, Italy, and emigrated to the United State with her mother at the age of ten. She was a wonderful cook; known for her large garden and love of hunting wild mushrooms. A favorite saying was; "Most anyone can make a good meal with lots of ingredients, it's when you can make good things with very little that you have talent."
As Chris was growing up Marietta taught him how to put flavors together, how to learn to use and trust his palate and sense of taste, and develop a style. For Chris, this educational experience was so valuable he showed big appreciation by naming the winery after her.
As winemaker, Chris describes his wines as "full bodied, fleshy reds with lots of fruit and structure." While they are created to age well for a decade or two, one can enjoy the can enjoy their youth, as well. Marietta Winery style combines basic winemaking skills with the best fruit available. The final product is well-made and mildly seasoned, with an abundance of fruit characteristics and only a touch of oak. While all the wines are aged in 60-gallon French and American cooperage, Chris' winemaking style emphasizes the unique attributes or the varietals rather than the oak. A little bit of blending is used to take full advantage of flavor combinations for the optimum in taste and enjoyment.
The grapes are primarily from Sonoma County and Northern California and grown in older, dry-farmed vineyards with limited production per acre. These are grapes that produce wines with the maximum concentration of fruit and complex flavors. Through his years at Bandiera and owner of Marietta Winery, Chris has established a reputation for high quality. The old-time growers know him well and appreciate his loyalty to their vineyards. Chris has recently planted 26 acres of Zinfandel, Merlot and Syrah and will soon be planting some Sangiovese.
The initial case production for Marietta Winery’ Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon was only about 3,000 cases combined. Today, case production nears 30,000 - all of which is totally allocated. The wines currently produced are Cabernet, Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, a proprietary blend called Old Vine Red, and a limited-quantity special blend called Angeli Cuvee. Occasionally, a Port is added to the line-up.
Marietta Winery continues the tradition of family involvement. Chris' three teenage sons are active in winery activities at various levels. The three; Jake, Scot and Sam, have recently been joined by brother Lucas who is still a toddler. Marietta Winery wines are sold at the wholesale level-in 46 states and 6 countries. Because of the limited production and availability of the wines, there are no tours, tasting or retail sale on the premises.
The wines of Marietta Winery are a personification of Chris Bilbros' personality, outlook on life and general lifestyle. Chris believes that good wine is the perfect complement to good food and good friends. Pleasurable pursuits such as cooking, fishing, hunting, gardening and entertaining add balance to the flavor of wine, as it does to life.
Hints of toasty vanilla oak compliment an aromatic core of ripe raspberry jam and black pepper spice. A serious wine yet eminently approachable… broad and lush on the palate with an ever so slight tannic, acidic, lingering finish. Zinfandel from Paso Robles and Mendocino play a more dominant role than past offerings lending buoyant fruit and structure respectively. This is a very classy Old Vine Red.
The ’99 Zin is unquestionably big and rich, yet evenly balanced by a focused core of fruit. A lush, ripe nose full of sweet raspberries and black pepper is complimented with hints of oak and earthy tar. On the palate, it is extremely full bodied, offering raspberries, oak, and black pepper as well, with a nice dollop of fruity tannin to hold and extend the flavors through the finish.
The ’99 Zin is a classic example of the Marietta winemaking style. Ripe jammyness, complimented by balanced and delicate tannins allow for a huge, “fruit-forward” style wine. This is a wine that will compliment a wide variety of foods ranging from spicy appetizers to fresh fruit and cheese desserts. This vintage experienced a warm growing season that is plainly apparent in the lushness of the fruit and the mouth-saturating body. The 5300 cases produced are ideal for both restaurant pours and fine dining at home as the wine is versatile and pleasing in its own right.
This wine smells and tastes like a classic Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose on the ’99 Cab is rich with cassis, black currants, and cherries, complimented by subtle oak. Broad and smooth, the wine is structurally balanced by sufficient tannins and acid to carry through to a lingering finish. Big and bold in its youth, this wine provides several years aging potential within which it can be expected to refine and solidify. It is hard to let sit, however, with such a high caliber of fruit showing so early.
This vintage offers such delicious fruit with such bold body and structure because of the warm growing season and the attention to cluster formation and control. Originating from small firm berries, the flavors are highly concentrated. This is a wine suited for rich, flavorful meals that are enhanced by powerful wines. The 3400 cases produced can be consumed now or aged and enjoyed over the next five to seven years.
The ’99 Syrah offers a nose of dense black fruit, sweet oak, and hints of vanilla. The heavy, meaty, and earthy aromas are a classic depiction of what this variety has to offer. The lush, creamy entry is immediately mouth filling with dense black fruit and plum flavor. Additionaly, with oak and vanilla bean accents and a warm lingering, slightly tannic finish, this is a wine very approachable in its younger stages but hefty enough to offer added complexity and refinement with additional bottle time.
The ’98 Cuvée offers a heady, broad, and dense yet somewhat tight nose with raspberry jam, spice, camphor, hints of anise, and toasty oak. The generous, warm, “glycerine-like” mouth coats the palate with toasted oak and ripe spicy berry flavors. This wine is young and tight; expect it to blossom and gain fruit as it ages in the bottle.