Markham Napa Valley Vineyards The Altruist 2017

Deep ruby color; cherry, raspberry, redcurrant, vanilla on the nose; cherry, plum, raspberry, redcurrant, chocolate on the palate.

Markham Napa Valley Vineyards The Altruist 2017

Dry; supple, tasty tannins and balancing acidity (3.62 pH). Very smooth easy drinker; rich, fruit-forward in the mouth. Right bank Bordeaux-style blend of 68% merlot, 16% cabernet sauvignon, 6% petit verdot, 5% malbec, 5% cabernet franc. Two-thirds of the grapes were estate grown. Vintage 2017 was a year of wildfires in Napa. The winery reports almost all the fruit had been harvested by the time the fires came in October. In any event, there is no smoke taint in this effort. 14.6% ABV

Fermented in stainless steel. Aged 15 months in French and American oak. Medium body. Four years of bottle age have been beneficial. Early reviews noted a somewhat disjointed, rustic, chewy wine. I don’t get that in my tasting. There remains a tincture of rusticity, but that is a plus on my palate. Mostly this comes across as a nice merlot effort.

Merlot is a Markham Vineyards specialty. One of the first female winemakers in the Napa Valley, Kimberlee Nicholls has been a winegrower and winemaker since 2001. She supervises 350 acres of Napa Green certified sustainable estate vineyards in Yountville, Oak Knoll, and Calistoga. Markham Vineyards hold Napa Green Land, Napa Green Winery, and Fish Friendly Farming certifications.

Markham Vineyards winemaker Kimberlee Nicholls

Founded in 1874, Markham is one of the Napa Valley pioneers. It has operated continuously since its founding, albeit under different names. It is the fourth-oldest continuously operating winery in Napa County. The present-day winery still uses the stone cellar built in 1879.

Jean Laurent

Jean Laurent, an immigrant from Bordeaux, arrived in the region in 1852, part of the California Gold Rush. Laurent’s wines earned acclaim through the 1880s. Laurent died in 1890. A succession of owners operated the winery until Bruce Markham purchased the winery in 1978. Markham consolidated vineyards and increased production from 3,500 cases a year to some 20,000 over the next decade. A US Navy veteran, Markham instituted a tradition of firing a small signal cannon to mark the start of each harvest. The cannon on the label celebrates that tradition.

In 1988, Markham sold his winery to Japanese wine and spirits producer Mercian Corporation. Mercian initiated a four-year, multimillion-dollar renovation, expansion, and replanting program. The efforts more than doubled Markham’s production. In 2019, they became part of Distinguished Vineyards & Wine Partners, which is owned by the Japanese company Kirin. Kirin units include Kirin Brewery Company, Mercian, and Kirin Beverages. Kirin is a member of the Mitsubishi Group.

Markham Winery

Markham Napa Valley Vineyards The Altruist 2017 delivers velvety right-bank Bordeaux style blend with merlot the dominant grape. Opulent notes of cherry and plum. Slight rustic elements, especially on the late mid-palate and finish, generates some drama amid a very smooth easy drinker. Pair with grilled chicken and other chicken dishes—including chicken pizza; roasted vegetables; lamb; lighter cuts of beef; comfort food—meatloaf, burgers and sliders, pizza, pasta with meat and red sauce; pulled pork; Asian-style pork chops; shepherd’s pie; brie, camembert cheese. $29-31

Markham Vineyards website

Markham vineyard
Markham vineyard