As a wine writer, I always strive to find something new and different. While in Lodi I discovered a winemaker, Markus Niggli that does just that. Not only does he utilize less common varieties but also he creates blends that set him apart from others. The wines of Markus Wine Co. are both unique and unusual.
Markus is the winemaker for Borra Vineyards where he makes some outstanding wines. One of my favorites is the Heritage, a blend of 55% Barbera, 14% Carignane, 17% Petite Sirah, 14% Alicante Bouschet. Markus own label Markus Wines is a joint venture with Borra Vineyards.
While visiting Lodi last month we explored the Mokelumne Glen Vineyards, which specializes in German and Austrian varieties. On this visit, I met Markus. He served several wines and I discovered the Kerner Grape, a white variety that was created in 1929 by August Herold. Kerner is a cross between Trollinger and Riesling. We tasted two wines that represented the Kerner grape. The first was 2016 Nativo, a blend of 69% Kerner, 21% Riesling, 10% Bacchus and the second the 2016 Nimmo, blending 64% Kerner, 16% Riesling, 5% Bacchus and15% Gewürztraminer. Both wines were bright and vibrant and excellent representations of what can be produced in Lodi especially with German varieties.
In Lodi, I purchased Markus’ 2016 Insieme. The wine consists of primarily Torrontes with a very small percentage of Traminette. The latter is a hybrid grape that is grown in North Carolina. Although there is only 5% Traminette, the intensity of this grape really shines through. At first, the wine is semi-sweet quality to the wine. This sweetness comes from the Traminette but once paired with food the wine becomes much dryer as the Torrontes comes into play giving the wine almost a sweet and savory balance. Think White Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Aromas of citrus and white flower dominate. The wine exhibits flavors of citrus and ginger.
Markus Wine Labels
As the back of the label states, this wine is about friendships, which often occur when we travel to places across the country and the world. Insieme means together with or along with and in this case it is the bringing together of two very different wines from different regions. The Torrontes comes for Silvaspoons Vineyards in Lodi and the Traminette comes from Cain Vineyards in North Carolina. The wine is the bringing together of the east and the west. This union is defined by a wine that is both fresh and dry yet fruity. The wine signifies a friendship between winemaker Markus Niggli and Joey Medaloni of Lewisville, North Carolina.
The Insieme label’s art resembles a map distinguishing both the west and east but if you look closely at the center of the label it symbolizes the two winemakers involved with this wine. Michael Leonard from the University of the Pacific in Stockton creates the artwork for Markus Wine labels. Like all labels, it also signifies something from Markus’ past whether it be a meeting or a place. In the case of Nativo, the label denotes the postal code of Markus’ his place of birth in Switzerland. The Nimmo label represents Perth where Markus went to viticulture school.
This wine also represents the new generation of winemakers coming to Lodi and other regions that are making their mark by doing something different and unique. Markus Niggli does just that for Lodi.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer was hosted to a wine tasting for the purpose of part of this review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.