Make Room for Merlot

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It was 15 years ago that the movie “Sideways” put the kibosh on merlot. It made for a good story, but many pundits and customers alike still avoid it without good reason. (Just why do some people stand in line to pay hundreds of dollars for Italy’s “Masseto,” a merlot wine?) Markham Vineyards, with 350 acres in the Napa Valley, has made a quintessential merlot for decades. Its approachable richness, and a remarkable track record for ageability, makes it a perfect “try now/try later” example. It displays the kind of generosity that other regions only dream of. And it may put merlot on your front burner once again.
2015 Markham Merlot, Napa Valley $27 suggested retail price
Opaque purple/magenta in color. The bouquet jumps out with blackberry, black currant, plum and the wild, leafy smell of young merlot. Elements of cedar, leather and smoke emerge with further aeration. Flavors are structured and somewhat restrained with chocolate-covered cherry, vanilla and spice. It’s balanced and sumptuous with a graphite-like finish keeping it focused. Let it breathe a couple of hours and match with beef, lamb stew or a creamy mushroom pasta. Markham merlots can age gracefully for years; your call. (86% merlot, 12% cabernet sauvignon, 2% petite sirah) Drink now-2028.
92/100 points

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Arturo Ciompi

Trained as a classical clarinetist and conductor, Arturo plied his trade for many years in New York, performing with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, New York City Opera, the American Symphony and countless chamber music groups. While living in Durham, Arturo became the wine manager at two iconic gourmet stores: Fowler’s in Durham and Southern Season in Chapel Hill. He had a wine spot on NPR in the ’90s and has been a continuously published wine journalist since 1997. He has won national awards for his work and is currently writing for Durham Magazine and its weekly blog, “Wine Wednesdays”. In addition, he loves teaching the clarinet. Read more on his website.

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