Elevated Burgers Paired with Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignons


“Drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life’s most civilized pleasures.” – Michael Broadbent

This quote could not be more apropos, especially in this unprecedented year of 2020, when it has been only on rare occasions that we were able to gather with good friends and share conversations around a delicious meal paired with a great bottle of wine.  

Besides not being able to travel during the pandemic (which my husband and I have done for work for so many years), there’s also been the lack of interaction with others and the inability to entertain and spend time with friends like we used to. Travel, cooking, and entertaining are my life’s greatest passions, and it’s been challenging not to be able to do two out of the three during the pandemic. While there has been plenty of baking and cooking for two (with more leftovers than we know what to do with), it hasn’t been the same as relaxing over a leisurely meal gathered around the table with friends. I miss those evenings when after many hours on end of food, wine, and laughter, we wondered where the time had gone.

Louis M. Martini Winery

Louis M. Martini is one of our favorite producers of Cabernet Sauvignon. This world-class winery, located in the Napa Valley, crafts its wines from five of the best vineyards in Napa and Sonoma. Their Stagecoach vineyard is the largest contiguous vineyard in Napa and produces some of the region’s most powerful and complex fruits. While Cabernet Sauvignon is the primary grape grown, they also grow and source Petit Sirah, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec, and Zinfandel to blend and produce their Bordeaux-style wines.

Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon (Photo credit – Louis M. Martini Winery)

The winery history dates back to 1899 when the young Louis M. Martini, at age 12, traveled to San Francisco from Genoa, Italy, to be with his father. In 1906 he and his father made their first wine together, and then Louis M., at the request of his father, returned to Italy to study winemaking. L.M. Martini Grape Products Company was established in 1922 during Prohibition when they could only produce sacramental wine and concentrate, also known as “forbidden fruit”, for home winemaking.

Louis M. Martini Winery entrance (Photo credit – Louis M. Martini Winery)

Anticipating the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the family built their new winery, located in St. Helena. It was one of Napa’s first wineries to open after the repeal of Prohibition, and their wine sales resumed on December 5, 1933. The winery underwent a significant restoration last year (March 2019), updating the original historic building and creating a beautiful new tasting room where guests can sample some of their renowned wines that are only available at the winery.

Winemaker Michael Eddy (Photo credit – Louis M. Martini Winery)

Michael Eddy, Louis M. Martini’s Winemaker, who was mentored by Michael Martini for more than ten years, is the company’s fourth winemaker and the first non-Martini family member in this role. Together with Executive Chef Jeffery Russell, who worked with the legendary Charlie Palmer for 11 years and is a Culinary Institute of America graduate, they create world-class culinary and wine experiences at the winery. “If I was ever going to leave the Charlie Palmer Group, it had to be for another property with pedigree,” says Chef Russell. “Louis M. Martini is one of the most prestigious wineries in Napa Valley – to be tasked with creating our culinary wine experiences in the restored winery with an acclaimed portfolio of Cabernet Sauvignons is an exciting challenge.”

Executive Chef Jeffery Russell (Photo credit – Louis M. Martini Winery)

While I couldn’t experience the exceptional food and wine pairings offered at the property in person this year, I was able to prepare one of Chef Russell’s recipes at home and share the experience with good friends. After a few weeks of Florida’s rainy late summer and early fall evenings, we finally had the perfect night to cook, entertain, and dine outdoors.

Elevated Burgers Paired with Two Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignons

Chef Russell’s burger recipe was fun to prepare and over-the-top from our usual house-made cheeseburger. I started with Angus beef (Chef prefers ground chuck 80/20) to make the generous ½ pound burgers. My husband grilled them outdoors, marinating them with melted butter as they cooked. They were then topped with sharp cheddar cheese (we used Tillamook) and then placed the cooked burgers on the bottom half of a Brioche bun that was spread with homemade bacon marmalade that I prepared earlier in the day. (Chef recommends that the buns are slightly toasted). 

The next step was to add a butter-fried egg to each burger. We prepared the egg over medium to reduce the yolk from flowing onto the bun when assembled. We then topped the egg with a handful of battered crispy Vidalia onions that were soaked in buttermilk, drained, tossed in a mixture of cake flour, cornstarch, and seasonings, and fried in Canola oil. The burger is finished with a fresh leaf of Boston Bibb Lettuce and the other half of the Brioche bun. Viola! That’s one heck of a burger!

Elevated Burgers

While the burger was the star of the show, we felt like it needed an elevated food pairing, so we opted for homemade French fries with truffle oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. I used an air fryer to prepare the fries. Next time, I’d go all out and make regular fries in a traditional fryer. 

The Wine Pairings

The first wine was a 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon made with grapes selected from several of the premium Napa Valley Vineyards, including Cypress Ranch, Sage Canyon, and Sun Lake. This complex wine was crafted to create a beautifully balanced blend representing both the high elevation and valley floor fruit. Tasting notes say, “It is a densely layered wine showcasing plush notes of cherry cobbler and blackberries backed by hints of cedar and fresh herbs. Full-bodied and elegant, this Cabernet has a polished mouthfeel and an exceptionally long finish.”

The second wine, a 2016 Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, was made with the grapes from the Monte Rosso Vineyard, which sits at almost 1,300 feet above the Sonoma Valley. This vineyard covers steep, rugged terrain in the majestic Mayacamas Mountains and has been owned by the Louis M. Martini winery since 1938. It’s named for the area’s rich, red volcanic soils and the combination of the high altitude, location above the fog line, low-yielding vines, and optimal western exposure has produced award-winning wines for three generations that have a unique sense of terroir. This vineyard is one of California’s most prized locations for grapes.

Monte Rosso Vineyards, Sonoma County (Photo credit – Louis M. Martini Winery)

Tasting notes say that the “Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was crafted from a handful of select blocks on our historic Monte Rosso Vineyard, including the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon block in California. The wine opens with generous aromas of blueberry, vanilla, and black licorice. Notes of black cherry, cassis, cedar, and soft leather are highlighted on the deeply layered palate. Fine-grained tannins and Monte Rosso’s hallmark hints of cinnamon and clove spice make their presence known on the exceptionally long, earthy finish.”

Firm tannins produce the structure for aging and counteracted the fattiness of the 80/20 beef used in these burgers to soften the mouthfeel. The lush and plush fruit and soft leather flavors complemented the aged cheddar cheese. The acidity of the Monte Rosso also helped cut through the fat.

While the Monte Rosso will age well for decades producing softer tannins and more integrated notes, the current structured tannins and youthfulness of fruit and spice played well with the burger and cheddar cheese. The more medium body and round tannins with fresher fruit-forward flavors of the Napa Cabernet Sauvignon complemented the burger and condiments well. They each provided a different experience but both immensely enjoyable.

The two Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignons

Some may say why would you pair one of California’s most carefully crafted wines with something as routine as a hamburger. Well, this hamburger isn’t routine, and it deserves the respect of this pairing.

This food and wine pairing would be a real treat to share with friends around the holidays while gathered around a cozy fire outdoors. Louis M. Martini hosts private 30-minute virtual tasting experiences that can also be shared with friends and family and would be a great holiday gift. Private offerings are available at the winery and include winery tours, wine seminars, and culinary experiences.

Chef Russell has shared his recipe below so that you can prepare Elevated Burgers with Fried Egg, Crispy Onion, and Bacon Marmalade at home. We hope you will enjoy the recipe and the wine pairings. Cheers!

For more information on ways to travel, dine, and sip wine virtually this year, please check out my recent article in Reader’s Digest.

Elevated Burgers With Fried Egg, Crispy Onion, and Bacon Marmalade
Yield: 6 burgers

Elevated Burgers With Fried Egg, Crispy Onion, and Bacon Marmalade

Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Additional Time: 12 hours
Total Time: 13 hours 45 minutes


  • For Burgers:
  • 3 Lbs. - Ground Chuck 80/20
  • 6 each – Fresh Farm Eggs
  • 6 each – Brioche Burger Buns
  • 2 Tsp. - Salt
  • 1 head – Boston Bibb Lettuce
  • 6 slices – Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • ½ Tsp – Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • ¼ Cup – Unsalted Butter, Melted
  • For Crispy Onions:
  • 1 each – Vidalia or other Sweet White Onion
  • 1 Cup – Buttermilk
  • ½ Tsp. – Salt
  • 2 Cups – Vegetable or Canola Oil
  • ¼ Cup – Cornstarch
  • ¼ Tsp – Ranch Dressing Powder
  • 1 ½ Cup – Cake Flour
  • ¼ Tsp. – Granulated Garlic
  • ¼ Tsp. – Smoked Paprika
  • For Bacon Marmalde:
  • 1 Lb. – Thick Cut Bacon, Diced
  • ½ Cup – Honey
  • 1 Cup – Red Verjus (I used Red Wine Vinegar)
  • 2 each – Shallots, Minced


Method for Burgers:

1. Heat the grill on high for 15 – 20 minutes. While grill is heating, form ground beef into 4” patties, about 1 ½” thick. Season them with salt and pepper, and place on the hot grill. Cook the patties on high heat for about 4-5minutes each side for medium rare, brushing them with melted butter frequently.

2. Top with cheese during the last minute of grilling and close the lid of the grill, allowing the cheese to melt fully.

3. Heat a non stick skillet over medium heat and add a little melted butter. Crack one egg in the skillet and cook to your desired doneness, set aside. Repeat this process for as many burgers that you would like to top with an egg.

4. With remaining melted butter brush the cut sides of your burger buns and place on the grill to toast. Gently slide fried eggs on top of burgers, then top with crispy onions. Once buns are toasted, apply bacon marmalade to the bottom bun. Then, slide on the burger, add lettuce and top bun. Serve with your choice of sauce.

Method for Crispy Onions:

1. Carefully slice the onion into 1/8” rings. (Please exercise caution while using a mandolin or knife.) In a medium bowl, toss the onions in buttermilk. Allow them to marinate for up to 12 hours.

2. In separate medium bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, salt, ranch powder, granulated garlic and paprika. Whisk together until ingredients are uniformly incorporated. Heat Canola Oil to 350˚ over medium heat in tall stock pot.

3. Remove onions from buttermilk and drain off any excess liquid. A few at a time, toss onions in flour mixture until coated evenly. Shake off any excess flour and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Carefully add onions to the oil a few at a time. Cook until they are a nice golden-brown color. Remove them from the oil with a skimmer and place them on a wire rack to drain and cool.

Cook the onions in shifts. Adding too many at any given time may result in clumping and a mushy texture.                 

Method for Bacon Marmalade:

1. Render the diced bacon in a skillet until crispy. Drain off the fat and then return to pan. Add shallots and sweat together for about 1 minute. Add honey and verjus. Cook over low heat until liquid is mostly evaporated and mixture is at a jamlike consistency. Remove from heat and keep warm until service.


This recipe is courtesy of Executive Chef Jeffery Russell, Louis M. Martini Winery - St. Helena, California

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1757Total Fat: 100gSaturated Fat: 42gTrans Fat: 3gUnsaturated Fat: 48gCholesterol: 462mgSodium: 3128mgCarbohydrates: 101gFiber: 4gSugar: 35gProtein: 109g
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Disclosure – I partnered with Louis M. Martini Winery on this article but was not compensated by them or paid by them for any articles. The opinions expressed regarding the recipe and wines are my own.

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