Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Markham Vineyards

Markham Vineyards is on Highway 29 just north of St. Helena.  It was originally founded as Laurent Winery in 1874.  After being owned by a succession of owners, Bruce Markham purchased it in 1978 and founded Markham Vineyards.  The winery focused mostly on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  In 1988, it was sold to the Mercian Corporation and was extensively renovated.  They now have 350 acres of vineyard in Calistoga, Yountville and Oak Knoll.  Markham offers two tastings, the Rock and Roll Tasting of five varietals for $15 or the Estate Tasting of four varietals for $25.  We had the R and R Tasting but also tried the Cabernet Franc from the Estate Tasting because we both love Cab Francs.

Our host was very pleasant and friendly, making us feel welcome.  The tasting began with the Markham 2010 Sauvignon Blanc ($15) that had a light nose and some pleasant lemon on the palate.  It was not as dry or crisp as many SBs.  At only $15, it is a softer, easy to drink SB that some people might prefer to Sauvignon Blancs with livelier acid.  The Markham 2010 Chardonnay was only $18 a bottle.  It had 30% malolactic conversion or MLF and is not as dry as many Chardonnays.  Their signature wine is their Merlot, and we had the 2008 which was $23.  It was a fruity, lighter bodied Merlot that was easy to drink.  The Markham 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($36) had some cherry and perhaps pomegranate on the nose with a rather light, fruity entry but some soft integrated tannins.  It was pleasant and could stand on its own or be paired with steak or other food.  We opted not to taste the Muscat Blanc. These were all decent enough wines that are easy to drink and reasonably priced.  But our favorite was the Markham 2009 Cabernet Franc ($42) from the Estate Tasting.  It had a nice aroma, with some vanilla, plum and soft tannins on the palate.  We were informed that it is blended with 13% Cabernet Sauvignon.  This was a good wine, and we immediately purchased some to taste at home.  It made me want to taste the other three wines on the Estate Tasting, the Petit Verdot and two Cabernet Sauvignons called the Altruist and the Philanthropist but we will have to save that for another visit. They also have a Petite Sirah, which I would love to have purchased, but which was sold out. Addendum 9/18/2012: After drinking a bottle of the Markham 2009 Cabernet  Franc I am less enthusiastic than I was a the winery.  It is very tight, and needs lots of air.  It is decent enough but not as complex or interesting as I prefer, although it is certainly worth trying. 

In addition to offering easy to drink and reasonably priced wines that should have a broad appeal, Markham provides easy access with plenty of parking and currently offers an exhibit of the photos of Baron Wolman of Rolling Stone Magazine.  Markham wines should probably appeal to many tasters who visit the winery, but they also make some premium wines, a Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah and two Cabernets that we would be interested in exploring during a second visit.

2812 Saint Helena Highway North
Saint Helena, CA 94574
(707) 963-5292
Date of visit: June 6, 2012

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