Markus Niggli’s White Wine Vision: Markus Wine Co.

It began 15 years ago with a white wine Markus Niggli tasted when visiting his native Switzerland. It was a Kerner blend that had been aged in oak and it was unlike anything he had ever tasted. Markus made a mental note at the time that if Kerner was ever available to him he wanted to make a similar style wine.

Markus NiggliIn 2006 Markus joined Borra Vineyards in Lodi and he continues as winemaker today. In addition to Zinfandel, Barbera, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay and red blends, Markus makes a range of crisp white wines from German varieties.

As luck would have it, Mokelumne Glen Vineyards in Lodi grows over 40 varieties of German and Austrian grapes. Markus makes his crisp white wines from Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Bacchus and Kerner grown there. It’s doubly lucky that Kerner is among the grapes grown by the Koth family in their vineyard. What are the odds — right? Not only that Markus would land in Lodi, but that Kerner would be grown in this unlikely location.

Borra Vineyards IntuitionIn 2011 Markus made his first Kerner blend fermented and aged in oak under the Borra Vineyards label and called it Intuition. He started small, only 146 cases were produced. It was an exciting project, Markus liked what he tasted and so did others. The entire production sold out.

The 2011 vintage was a blend of 60% Kerner, 20% Gewürztraminer, 20% Riesling/Rieslaner. It was aged for 9 months in 50% French and 50% American oak. That first vintage Markus used 85% new oak.

Markus knew he was making a wine most people would find unusual. He purposely omitted the blend from the back of the label. He wanted tasters to ask him about his wine, he wanted to get the conversation started about the German varieties and wood aging.

In 2012 Markus made 200 cases of Intuition, which now is sold out as well. The blend was much the same, 60% Kerner, 20% Gewürztraminer, 20% Riesling. Oak aging in the same proportion of French and American oak took place for nine months, in 75% new oak.

2013 marks the third vintage for Markus’ oak-aged white blend. Once again, the blend varied just a bit, 69% Kerner, 11% Gewürztraminer, 10% Riesling and 10% Bacchus. Oak aging for nine months in French and American oak remained the same, but in only 60% new oak for the 200 case production.

With every vintage Markus has learned about the vineyard, the varieties and the winemaking. Every year he makes adjustments. His preferred white wine style is crisp and clean with high acid and to that end he harvests relatively early. It’s always a balancing act between acid and flavor development, and Markus is expert at that balancing act.

He ferments the Riesling and Bacchus together, the other varieties are fermented separately. All fermentation takes place in oak and once fermentation is well under way Markus blends the varieties and ferments to dry. Aging takes place in wood after that.

One more note on fermentation. All fermentation is completed using native yeast and the wine does not go through malolactic fermentation.

2013 Nimmo2013 is a special vintage. It debuts the Nimmo label, produced by Markus Wine Co., ‘a subventure of Borra Vineyards.’ The Markus Wine Co. label allows Markus to make and market wine in his preferred style, from German varieties, separate from the Borra Vineyards wines which highlight Steve Borra’s Italian heritage.

The Nimmo label is the first in what will be a series of label designs. This label design begins with Place. Perth, AU a very important place in Markus’ life. He attended viticulture school there and his life as a winemaker was greatly influenced in Perth.

Nimmo is an important name from Markus’ time spent in Perth; and no, it has nothing to do with the fish, in case you were wondering. Markus was living in Perth, in a city unfamiliar to him, and finding his way around was a challenge. He created the acronym Nimmo, indicating the name of important streets where he needed to turn to find his way home from the winery. He attached the acronym to the dash of his car as his GPS.

The 2013 Nimmo was released in mid-August. It is an interesting wine with great acidity, significant oak influence at this stage in its life and interesting flavors. It is unlike other oak-aged white wines I have tasted. Don’t even think of comparing it to an oaked Chardonnay. This wine will challenge your notion of what you think an oaked white wine tastes like.

We were invited to attended a pre-release tasting of the 2013 Nimmo at Borra Vineyards in August. At that time we had the opportunity to taste the 2011 and 2012 Intuition as well. As the oak begins to fall away with time in the bottle, other interesting flavors develop. That’s the idea. These wines are made to be held and enjoyed over the years so you can appreciate the evolution of flavor.

Borra Vineyards
You can taste 2013 Nimmo at Borra Vineyards’ tasting room. While you are there be sure to sample the other German varietal wines produced by Markus, and don’t forget the rest of the Borra Vineyards wines, they are delicious as well.

From the Borra Vineyards’ website:

Winery and Tasting Room Address:
Borra Vineyards
1301 East Armstrong Road
Lodi, CA 95242

Phone: 209-368-2446 for general information for winegrape sales

Tasting Room
Open Friday-Monday
 Noon to 5:00 p.m.
And by Appointment

Tasting Fee is $5 per person and includes a souvenir wine glass. For groups of 8 or more please call ahead for reservations.



  1. I love Markus’s wines as well and am always curious what I will taste from his wines next. I don’t drink white wines regularly but when I do, his whites are the style I reach for. I am fortunate to still have a bottle of Intuition and Nimmo at home, but I want my friends to try it, too, so I’m saving them for a late summer party this month.