Markham Vineyards • St. Helena, CA
There are so many wineries to choose from in Napa that you could spend a month exploring and not exhaust the bounties of experiences waiting to be discovered. Markham Vineyards is one of those, “let’s pull in here” wineries that you leaved pleased as punch that you did. In fact, I had driven past their property for years always saying the same thing. “I’m going to pull in there one day.” Well, I finally pulled in and very grateful that I did.
Markham Vineyards is one of those wineries that stakes a great claim to some of the “old world” wine making “cred” in Napa Valley. The winery dates back to the 1870s and there are multiple shout outs around to the original owner Jean Laurent. The iconic stone cellar at the center of the property still bears Laurent’s name and Markham continues his vision inside the cellar that was built with hand tools over 130 years ago.
Entering the property definitely lowers the blood pressure and shoulders. The old world charm of the old stone cellar, the stone walkway flanked by well fed koi coupled with the gurgling of the water features almost forces you to stop and take it all in. It’s definitely a great spot for a photo-op. *Winery Hint* Do it on the way in to avoid the purple teeth picture.
As you enter the tasting room, the buzz of oenophiles to your right will definitely catch your attention but the pops of color and pattern will take your eyes away from the buzz. This is no singularly focused tasting room. This place is also a full-on art gallery. The room is airy and full of light and color. Definitely an unexpected treat that allows ample opportunity for you to amble about before, during and after your tasting.
Markham Vineyards has a few great flights to choose from. They are best known for their Merlot. If you ask me, its their Cab Franc and Petit Verdot that deserve a special glance. If you are lucky enough to visit on a less crowded day, the experience definitely improves. The folks pouring are great at giving you fantastic information about the wines they pour. The story behind Altruist and Philanthropist, as well as the side by side tasting, is an E ticket ride for wine geeks like me. I always appreciate when wineries don’t hard sell their wines. I think their philosophy is to let the wines sell themselves. It is a breath of fresh air.
The day I visited, it was a busy Memorial Day Sunday and Greg stepped up to pour for us. Sounds like Greg doesn’t pour all that often because he is usually busy managing the wine club. Greg was great. He had plenty to offer about the history of the winery, vertical information on their varietals and even gave us a quick peek inside the stone cellar which is an awesome facility. I had to ask Greg what he thought was a key point about their wine club. Keyword is access. Access to wines that are not always available to the general public makes their wine club a no brainer. Before I could ask for clarification, this was quickly verified by a decade old wine club member just down the bar that had just entered the tasting room. He and his wife are regular visitors to the valley and they always anchor their trips with visits to Markham. When I saw them walk up to the bar, they felt as if they had returned home. I think that says it all.
2812 St Helena Hwy
St. Helena, CA 94574
How to get there:
Head North up HWY 29 through Napa Valley. After you emerge on the North side of St. Helena, just past the Culinary Institute, Markham Vineyards will be on your right.