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The Martinelli Family has been farming their estate vineyards for over 135 years, continuing their rich history and making them 6th generation wine growers and farmers.


The story of the Martinellis began in 1880 when a young couple, Giuseppe Martinelli (19) and Luisa Vellutini (16), eloped from a small village in Tuscany and made their way to California, Russian River Valley, seeking for land to farm and start a winery.

Giuseppe had been a winemaker in Italy and with his viticulture knowledge he was hired to plant a vineyard for a farmer in Forestville back in 1880. Within two years he earned enough money, and borrowed some from a local wood cutter, to purchase land of his own. Working side by side on a 60 degree slope, Giuseppe and Luisa planted a small area of Zinfandel and Muscat Alexandria vines, which later became known as the Jackass Hill vineyard. Over 135 years later, this south easterly exposure remains the steepest non-terraced vineyard in Sonoma County.

The Martinelli children have always been raised working in the fields from a young age. Leno Martinelli was making wine at a very young age, and farming his own vineyards at the age of 12. Leno taught his son, Lee Sr., to make wine alongside him when Lee Sr. was just 5 years old. This tradition continued with Lee Sr. having his children tying vines, suckering, and picking apples at ages as young as 6 years old. 

In 1973 Lee Sr. took over management of his Uncle Tony Bondi’s estate, which was comprised mainly of apple orchards, and began planting vineyards in the rich soil of the Russian River Valley. Soon considered a premium grape grower, Lee’s fruit was in great demand from many wineries. Lee and his wife, Carolyn, realised the exceptional potential to create superb wines from these grapes, and decided to start their own winery. They converted two historic hop barns along River Road into a wine-making facility and tasting room, keeping with the original feel and structure of these centurion buildings. Inside the Tasting Room, you can still see the hop pickers’ writings on the walls and doors from the early 1900s.

To this day, the Martinellis still sell more grapes than are used to make their own wines; about 90% of the grapes they farm are sold to other Sonoma County wineries. Lee Sr. and his two sons, Lee Jr and George, continue the proud legacy of taking care of the land.


The Martinelli Family has been farming land and growing grapes in Sonoma County for over 135 years, consistently providing their winemaking team and other wineries with exceptional fruit. Every vineyard and the winery itself is 100% certified as sustainability maintaining the long term health of the winery is a priority to the Martinelli family. They believe that it's essential for wineries to continually strive to find ways to improve the quality of the land and people's lives so Sonoma County can continue to be a cherished wine region.

Today, Martinelli grows fruit in three regions: Russian River Valley, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, and Fort Ross-Seaview. Planted in the 1880s by Giuseppi Martinelli, Jackass Hill in Russian River Valley is the steepest, non-terraced vineyard in Sonoma County, California and possibly the US. Its steepest section is a 60–65 degree slope. It's illegal to plant anything over 30 degrees today. The Martinello family always says “you’d have to be a jackass to farm a hill that steep,” hence its name.