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markham vineyards tannat vines

If you know me, or anyone on my staff, then you probably already know that we all love working on exciting new projects. And so it is that we are just about ready to release a project we started almost 3 years ago. It was just a normal day during the 2014 harvest, returning to the winery after a morning spent grape sampling. I stopped on the side of the road, where I saw my vineyard manager, Peter, to discuss my harvest plans. He mentioned he had an extra ton of Tannat grapes and asked if I was interested. I definitely was, and quickly I called my boss to confirm I had permission to purchase the fruit. Of course, then I needed to figure out how to tell my cellar master of my last minute audible. Contrary to what it may seem with only a ton of fruit, the logistics are a little more difficult than they might typically be at the winery. Did we even have T-bins available? Luckily, my crew was just as excited about this new lot as I was and everyone has been eager to see the project evolve into our latest release.

markham vineyards tannat dry ice

markham vineyards tannat harvest

markham vineyards tannat crush

Tannat (pronounced “TUH NOT”) is a red grape that originates in southwestern France, near the Pyrenees. The Basque took cuttings with them to Uruguay about 150 years ago, where Tannat is now most widely planted and considered the national wine of the country. I’m not really sure how long Tannat has been in California, but I do know that my vineyard manager grows the only Tannat that shows up on the Napa County Crop Report, so I was lucky to get my hands on some of these grapes. Typically, Tannat is known as a hugely dark and tannic wine. However, this Green Land certified vineyard is close to our Calistoga Estate, which I always feel has a more feminine nature on its canyon site, with rocky soils that radiate the heat all night.

While our Tannat was aging in French Oak barrels for two years, it was always one of our favorite lots of the vintage. We only made 6 barrels and in the end, decided to blend in some of our Calistoga Estate Cabernet. It wasn’t until we were blending that we really noticed the smoky, tar characteristic inherent to the varietal itself. Wines made in Uruguay tend to be more elegant, as opposed to the robustly tannic French wines. Our Tannat has tarry, raspberry fruit with opulent tannins, and we are really pleased with how it developed— this project was certainly worth the last minute add to our harvest plate. We hope a glass of our 2014 Tannat inspires you to try something new!