In 1874, a Frenchman from Bordeaux built a winery just north of the city of St. Helena, Calif. It was one of the first wineries in the Napa Valley—along with its neighbor Charles Krug—and its stone cellar remains the heart of the present-day winery, much as it was 140 years ago. The property went through a number of owners until 1978, when Bruce Markham purchased the then-defunct winery. At about the same time, he also purchased 100 acres of choice vineyards in the Yountville area of Napa Valley, about 20 minutes south of St. Helena.
Today the winery covers 330 acres, and Markham grapes come from vineyards in Yountville, Rutherford, Oak Knoll, Calistoga and other parts of the Napa Valley. Markham Vineyards is a Napa Green Certified winery and a Napa Green Certified Land winery that practices sustainable farming in the vineyards and at the winery.
I first met Bruce Markham in 1979 when he was just beginning to upgrade the winery. This year, I returned to Napa Valley and again visited the Markham Winery. It was a pleasure meeting their president Bryan Del Bondio who has been at Markham since 1978. He is dedicated to creating a family environment and preserving the winery’s history. I also met winemaker Kimberlee Nicholls, who has been at the Markham Winery for over 20 years. It was a delight to visit and talk to both of them and learn about their history and dedication to creating high quality Markham wines. Today the winery is owned by Terlato Wines International, which has developed a global network of wineries around the world. If you are in the Napa Valley, take the time to visit Markham Vineyards, soak up its history and try their wines.
Winemaker’s Notes for the 2012 Markham Merlot tell us that “on the nose, this wine has attractive red cherry jam layered with vanilla crème caramel and spicy cinnamon. On the palate, the wine feels lush and silky with harmonious cherry jam, ripe plum and hints of spearmint flavors.” Pair this wine with a peppered rib eye steak, mild to medium hard cheeses or baked pasta dishes in a red sauce like lasagna. The Merlot retails for $24.99.
For the 2014 Markham Chardonnay, the winemaker notes that “aromas of roasted hazelnuts and caramel covered apples create a decadent first impression. The sur-lie barrel aging adds oodles of texture but also allows each swirl of the glass to open up new aromas like nutmeg, vanilla and pineapple. On the palate, it has a lush mouth feel with just the right amount of acidity and juicy, ripe fruit character to pair with your favorite meal.” Pair this wine with steamed or grilled fish, grilled salmon, chicken or vegetable terrines and pasta or risotto with spring vegetables. Enjoy a glass of this Chardonnay with a chunk of hard cheese and a slice or two of artisanal bread. It retails for $16.99.
Markham Vineyard wines are available at Acme Fresh Markets, Buehler’s Fresh Foods, Giant Eagle, Papa Joe’s, Mustard Seed, Regency Wines, Wine Reserve of Medina, and fine wine retailers throughout Northeast Ohio and the Greater Akron Area.
Wine Wisdom: The longer the growing season—the time it takes for grapes to reach full maturity—the more complex the resulting wines will be. That’s why wines from warm weather climates such as California, France and Italy are more complex than wines from more northern climates, like Michigan.