Regina Martinelli’s Breakfast Chardonnay Club

Sonoma winery family celebrates weekend mornings with wine instead of OJ

Kristen Hom

Chardonnay for breakfast? Sounds easier to make than a Bloody Mary.

If Regina Martinelli invites you for breakfast at her wine family’s Sonoma Coast ranch, be prepared to answer the question, “Would you like some chardonnay with those bacon and eggs?”

Martinelli Winery is best known for its very serious, high-end red wines — zinfandel, pinot noir, syrah — that it produces at its iconic turn-of-the-century converted hop barn along Sonoma’s Russian River. But it also makes a variety of chardonnays, and, over a late-afternoon glass of Marinelli Three Sisters chardonnay at CraftBar in Manhattan, Regina lets me in on a family secret: “We drink it at our breakfast club.”

I’ll admit that on past wine trips to California, I have on occasion greeted the morning with a half-full bottle of oaky chardonnay on my night stand. Before brushing my teeth, I’ve re-sampled the room-temperature chard and noted that the oak gives it a lovely orange juice flavor. 

But this is the first time I’ve heard someone from a winery provide serious wine pairings for breakfast.  Tell me more!

“The citrus flavors are lovely to awaken your palate in the morning,” Regina says. “Most people have orange juice, but I prefer my citrus in my chardonnay. I find chardonnay refreshing when eating a savory food like bacon. It begs me for another bite.”

And the Breakfast Chardonnay Club?

“It started about 15 years ago with my sister, Julie, and our family friends, who love chardonnay,” she says. “We spend our summers camping at our Fort Ross-Seaview ranch on the coast. I believe Julie pulled the first cork at 9 a.m. and offered up chardonnay instead of coffee for the campers.

“We are still usually in our PJs and just starting to crack the eggs and fry the bacon,” Regina continues. “It can be very warm where we camp in the sunshine, so a cool morning drink sounded refreshing, and it’s easier to make than a Bloody Mary.”

In the years since, the club has grown to a larger group of family and friends, she says, and even has its own “Breakfast Chardonnay Club” sweatshirt. “It is something to be proud of earning. You have to come up for three weekends, not consecutively, and imbibe in the tradition to earn a sweatshirt. We wear them proudly.”

A sister-in-law brings farm fresh eggs, and protein comes from wild-boar bacon hunted on the property. Toast and cheese are optional.  

“When the food is cooked, we take our plates and sit in the creek, or at its edge depending on how cold it,” Regina says. “We finish eating and keep the chardonnay coming until about 1 p.m. as we read, sit in the creek, and chat. If you leave the circle to get something from the camp area, you always ask if anyone needs a little more chardonnay before returning to your chair.”

The ritual is repeated on weekends from Memorial Day through early October and on Thanksgiving.

“Chardonnay tends to be a wine that has toasted oak, butter notes, and citrus/tropical fruits,” she says, “all notes of flavors you find at your breakfast table.” Regina recommends that readers who want to start their own chardonnay breakfast clubs start small with like-minded friends, choose a mutually enjoyed wine, and choose a beautiful outdoors breakfast location “so that it’s not just about the wine.” 


In time, you may want to create your own logo and gear.