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Early Budbreak Deja Vu

Budbreak Day 1
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Budbreak Day 2

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Budbreak Day 3

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A sideways glance at the vineyard as I drove into the winery this morning had me jumping out of my car and investigating what was going on in the vineyard. Just as I suspected, another early budbreak! The Sauvignon Blanc vineyard belonging to our neighbor just south of the winery had buds pushing out from their dormant canes and the pruning cuts showing the telltale signs of wetness as the vines spring to life. This is healthy sign that the grapevines have plenty access to water at their feet. Of course we still have a full two months of watching the weather until all threat of frost has passed, somewhere around Mother’s Day. Here in Napa Valley, fans are used in our vineyards to move the cold air when the temperatures dip below 35°F to protect the delicate new growth. Good thing too, because our 2013/2014 winter has been one of the driest on record here in California. I am happy to report our reservoirs are full from early March rains, plus our groundwater tables appear to be strong at each of our estate vineyard wells. Luckily grapevines thrive with limited water so using careful crop and canopy management will allow us to make excellent quality wines again this year.

-Winemaker Kimberlee Nicholls

Watching Ourselves on TV - AWKWARD!

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Much like you, I am viewing the Vintage TV series filmed at Markham Vineyards for the first time. Well that’s not entirely correct, because I lived the 2012 harvest! I was in Chicago to watch the premier with the other winemakers, each of us ribbing each other as we awkwardly waited to view ourselves on screen. However what actually resonated for me in the first episode was how all the winemakers were thinking the same thoughts and feeling similar pressures that harvest brings. As I relaxed, I allowed myself to remember the vintage…the nervous energy before we began, the acceptance of the inevitable collision of varietals and finally the joy we all still treasure from being a part of the wine business. I’m excited to see more of this Markham harvest time capsule and watch my boys proudly work their hearts out for me!

- Winemaker Kimberlee Nicholls

 

 

A Vintage Year for Markham

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Soon everyone will have an insider’s view into how wines are made here at Markham Vineyards through the public television series Vintage: Napa Valley 2012 (check your local listings). I’m not really sure how it came about – it all happened so fast.

I won’t lie; the prospect of a camera crew following us around during harvest wasn’t something in which I had any interest at first. It’s the busiest time of the year here at the winery and my thoughts need to stay focused not only on the wines I WANT to make, but on the wines that are BEING made daily. But Vintage producers Peter Backeberg and Antoine AR Hunt were passionate about sharing the story of how wine is made, giving the public at large unrestricted insight into an age-old process that is typically surrounded in mystique and romance. The cellar crew and I were won over and happy to share our story with people who had such a vision. Hopefully you will see how seriously we take our jobs but also that we are a family putting our love, sweat and tears into each and every wine during the organized chaos that is harvest. CHEERS to Peter & Antoine for bringing it to life for all to see!

- Winemaker Kimberlee Nicholls

Markham Terroir

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Red wines are made by fermenting the grapes on their skins thereby extracting all the good stuff in the entire berry. Not only are tannin and ultimately color pulled from the skins, but hints of where the grapes are grown become lavishly layered into the wine. The French call it terroir, a sense of place, and Cabernet Sauvignon is the best example for showcasing it. With our estate-bottled Cabernets, the terroir is so overpowering that I can’t help but try to get as much as I can into every drop of wine.  With the fantastic fruit quality in this vintage, I have allowed many of my fermenters to languish on their skins in what is referred to as extended maceration. I would normally press a fermenter full of Merlot at 10-12 days on the skins to preserve the lush fruit character inherent to the varietal. However if I push past the fruity berry aromas and youthful tannins, I can create a wine with velvety mouthfeel, containing every last taste from the place where it was originally grown. Today our last Calistoga estate Cabernet tanks are being lovingly pressed after 40 days on the skins! I can taste not only the rich berry fruit, but the violets, licorice and wild Bay Laurel that surround the narrow canyon where the grapes were grown. True beauty!

- Winemaker Kimberlee Nicholls

Everyone in the Vat!

 Cluster Samples72  JesusFlashSplash72  Robert72  Rogelio in jail72

And just like that it’s over! It has been a furiously fast paced harvest here at Markham Vineyards - see some of my favorite moments above. The main four varietals that we make all collided here at the winery during the same four week period. Sauvignon Blanc, which has seen several years of lack-luster yields, sported a healthy crop and thus arrived late. The tiny berries on our Merlot meant another early vintage and eventual competition for time in the press. As our late to arrive Chardonnay enjoyed the last days of summer and is finally perking away in barrels. I did mention more than once that I would not sample the Cabernet until we were ready to receive it. Sure enough, the Cabernet was ready the minute it was sampled and we were not! Alas things have a way of working out and the end is in sight. This vintage has blessed us with a bounty of tropical Sauvignon Blanc, rich Chardonnay, lushly tannic Merlot and classic Cabernet that my crew and I will be proud to show you all soon!

-Winemaker Kimberlee Nicholls