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2001 Markham Merlot, Napa

As I've mentioned in the last few weeks, I'm trying to drink more Merlot. In the last few years I haven't favored it, and until my recent focus on it, I couldn't remember the last time I had drunk a full glass of it, let alone bought a bottle.

So in my quest to bring a little bit more of that varietal here to Vinography, I've returned to a wine that has a certain nostalgic value for me. You see, Markham Merlot was one of the first wines that graduated me out of the "buy a bottle at Safeway" wine shopping world and into visiting real wine stores to look for wines that I thought I would like.

I have a very specific memory of having this wine for the first time in a restaurant and deciding that I needed to track it down and get some. At that time in my life I was in the habit of carrying around a little voice recorder, and so I trotted it out in the middle of the restaurant (being as discreet as I could but not avoiding the chuckles of my friends) and said into the microphone: Markham Merlot.

So when I came across it in my wine shopping recently I decided, what the heck, let's have a little reunion.

Markham had its beginnings as a family run affair, created by its namesake Bruce Markham, who bought up land in Napa Valley starting in 1975 and throughout the 80's made small production wines of extremely high quality. The vineyard was sold to the Mercian corporation, which has since drastically increased production, and successfully built the brand into a commercial success.

How to gauge the results now are a matter of perspective. My tastes have changed and evolved since that first dinner with a bottle of this wine. What tasted divine to me then (granted, it was a different vintage) tastes somewhat prosaic now. Not bad, mind you, but lacking the things that I know now to look for in a wine. But I suppose many things are like that, returned to 10 years later. The experiences of the time never come back to us quite the same way. Even so, there is a certain pleasure in nostalgia.

Tasting Notes:
A perfect dark ruby in color, this wine has a thick musty nose of candied black licorice, bacon fat, mocha, and oak. In the mouth it has primarily flavors of black cherry that taper into a finish of toasted oak. While the wine is relatively balanced, with light, nearly imperceptible tannins, I wish the fruit flavors were more expressive.

Food Pairing:
This went very well with a beef tenderloin with smoky bacon bourbon sauce.

Overall Score: 8/8.5

How much?: $16

This wine is readily available on the Internet and in most reasonably good wine stores. In the Bay Area you can find it at K&L Wines.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud