Jackass Hill

Russian River Valley

Planted in the 1880s, Jackass Hill is the only vineyard that Giuseppe Martinelli planted that is still in use. It is the steepest, non-terraced vineyard in Sonoma County, California and possibly the US. The steepest section is a 60-65 degree slope, and it is illegal to plant anything over 30 degrees today. Our family always says “you’d have to be a jackass to farm a hill that steep,” hence its name.

These vines are dry farmed and over 130 years old. Giuseppe died at 55 years old, and because his 2 eldest sons were not interested in farming this vineyard, they gave it to their youngest brother, Leno Martinelli. Leno dropped out of 8th grade to become a full-time farmer. He farmed Jackass Hill from the time he was 12 years old until he was 87. Part of those 75 years he did it behind a horse and plow, then eventually a John Deere crawler. This crawler Lee Martinelli Sr. still uses today. Lee Sr. is Leno’s only son and is the current Jackass on the Hill at 81 years of age. He farms the ancient vineyard much as his grandfather Giuseppe had one hundred years before, without irrigation, pesticides, or trellising.

Leno Martinelli Farming Jackass Hill 1950’s


Russian River Valley
Varietals Planted
Zinfandel, Muscat
Soil Information
Franciscan, Goldridge
Soil characteristics
Fractured bed-rock, Clay Loam
St. George
Year Acquired
Year Planted