Markham Muscat Blanc (half-bottle) 1997
Today, Markham Vineyards owns 350 acres of vineyards strategically located in several of Napa Valley's best growing regions. From its Calistoga vineyards in the north to Oak knoll in the south, Markham has the luxury of hand-selecting grapes from several diverse microclimates to achieve its balanced and rich wines. Winemaker Kimberlee Nicholls sums up the benefits offered by this extraordinary palette of vineyards: "The expressions of terroir from each unique location create a greater whole; 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."
One of the world's most highly regarded regions for wine production as well as tourism, the Napa Valley was responsible for bringing worldwide recognition to California winemaking. In the 1960s, a few key wine families settled the area and hedged their bets on the valley's world-class winemaking potential—and they were right.
The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980s, when producers scooped up vineyard lands and planted vines throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, and today Napa is home to hundreds of producers ranging from boutique to corporate. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Napa whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that claim specific characteristics based on situation, slope and soil. Farthest south and coolest from the influence of the San Pablo Bay is Carneros, followed by Coombsville to its northeast and then Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford. Above those are the warm St. Helena and the valley's newest and hottest AVA, Calistoga. These areas follow the valley floor and are known generally for creating rich, dense, complex and smooth reds with good aging potential. The mountain sub appellations, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs, include Stags Leap District, Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley (farther east), Howell Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain District and Diamond Mountain District. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from a lot of time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
Alluringly aromatic and delightful, Muscat never takes itself too seriously. Muscat is actually an umbrella name for a diverse set of grapes, some of which are genetically related and some of which, are not. The two most important versions are the noble, Muscat blanc à Petits Grains, and Muscat of Alexandria, thought to be a progeny of the former. Both are grown throughout the world and can be made in a wide range of styles from dry to sweet, still to sparkling and even fortified. Muscat is well-known in Italy's Piedmont region (where it goes by Moscato) mainly as Moscato d’Asti, a slightly sparkling, semi-sweet, refreshing wine low in alcohol. On the Iberian peninsula, it goes by Moscatel, not to be confused with Bordeaux's Muscadelle, which is acutally unrelated.
Tasting Notes for Muscat
Muscat makes a dry, sweet or sparkling white wine. Regardless, Muscat wines always possess marked aromatics of rose petal, jasmine, honeysuckle or orange blosson. These wines can have flavors of peach, pear, Meyer lemon, orange and lychee, often with a hint of sweet spice.
Perfect Food Pairings for Muscat
Muscat is a perfect match for Asian cuisine and other spicy foods. Off-dry Muscat can work well with lighter desserts like key lime pie and lemon meringue, while fully sweet Muscat-based dessert wines are enjoyable after dinner with an assortment of cheeses.
Sommelier Secrets for Muscat
Muscat is one of the oldest known grape varieties, dating as far back as the days of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Pliny the Elder wrote in the 13th century of a sweet, perfumed grape variety so attractive to bees that he referred to it as uva apiana, or “grape of the bees.” Most likely, he was describing one of the Muscat varieties.