Markham The Altruist 2017, Napa Valley
Cost: $28-30
H ow great is it when you can support a worthy cause by drinking wine? Markham Vineyards makes that possible by dedicating their newest wine, The Altruist, to veterans, first responders and their families.
Beyond partnering with the Gary Sinese Foundation, Markham plans to honor everyday heroes with their Community Hero Awards in 2021.
Even better, this Bordeaux-style red blend is a knockout. It combines the velvety flavors of Merlot with the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon in a balanced, smooth wine. Aromas of dark fruit, cola and vanilla lead to tastes of blackberry, cherry and plum jam. It is a lush, delicious wine full of ripe fruit and silky tannins.
Made from mostly estate fruit, the mix is 68 percent Merlot, 16 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 6 percent Petit Verdot, 5 percent Malbec and 5 percent Cabernet Franc. The grapes are 80 percent Green Land certified, which means the winery went beyond existing environmental regulations to help the Napa River watershed.
The grapes were fermented in all stainless steel tanks for 16 days that included skin contact. Then it was aged for 15 months in French and American oak barrels (50/50). It spent another year in the bottle before it was released this summer.
The winery was lucky to escape any major damage from the 2017 wildfires because most fruit was already cellared when major fires swept through wine country in October of that year.
While making great wines, Markham also has made a significant effort toward sustainability.
“The character of our wines is intrinsically tied to the health of the soil and the vines,” said winemaker Kimberlee Nicholls. “We are committed to delivering excellence beyond just the wine inside our bottles.”
Those efforts include Napa Green Land certification, Napa Green Winery certification and Certified Fish Friendly Farming. They recycle all wastewater, are powered by purchased wind and solar energy, use grape pomace for compost, recycle everything and use environmentally preferred packaging.
That includes using light weight glass for their bottles to reduce fossil fuel use in trucking.
The Altruist also features a new label that features the Markham Cannoneer, a symbol that stands for the people, land and values that make up Markham’s past and present. As a US Navy veteran, founder Bruce Markham depicted a cannoneer from a treasured bronze sculpture on his first Markham Vineyards label in 1978.  The Altruist’s new package is part of a full overhaul of the winery’s packaging.
So let’s all hoist a glass to our veterans and first responders who keep us safe during these unsettling times.
Winery: Markham Vineyards was founded in 1977, but the land for the winery goes back to the 19th Century when Bordeaux immigrant Jean Laurent came to California to find gold.
He built his first winery in 1874 and in 1879 he built the stone cellar that is the heart of Markham Vineyards winery.
Bruce Markham arrived almost 100 years later, arriving in Napa Valley in 1972. He was one of the pioneers who bought premium vineyard land before most people realized great wine could be produced there.
He bought the old Laurent winery in 1977. It is the fourth oldest continuously operated winery in Napa County. By 1980 he produced the first vintage of his merlot, for which Markham is best known.
Markham has helped push Merlot to one of the most popular wines in California. In 1994 California’s consumption of Merlot reached 2.8 million cases, growing to 18 million cases by 2014.
Markham owns 350 acres of vineyards strategically located in several of Napa Valley’s best growing regions.
“The expressions of terroir from each unique location create a greater whole,” said winemaker Kimberlee Nicholls, explaining the benefits of using grapes from different regions of Napa. “Each vineyard complements and elevates the next. The result is endless blending options to weave together the rich fruit flavors, elegant acid structure, broad texture and velvety tannins we want in our wines.”
Today Markham is owned by Mercian, a Japanese wine and spirits producer and importing company.
Goes with: We had this wine with turkey Sloppy Joes, which I suppose should be called Sloppy Toms. I just start with ground turkey and brown it. Then add a package of Sloppy Joe spices, tomato paste and water. Then I let it simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sauce gets nice and thick. Then you can serve it on buns or sliced bread.
The nice thing about using turkey instead of ground beef is there is a lot less grease to drain off. In fact, I didn’t find any grease after I browned the turkey.
We added French fries and Silver Queen corn on the cob and had a summertime feast.
The wine was a nice match for the sandwiches, with the smooth fruit flavors matching the spices in the sauce.
The Altruist also would pair well with fine dinners such as Beef Burgundy, grilled steaks or roast duck. It is a versatile wine.
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