The SOMM Journal

October / November 2015

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Page 81 of 132

{ }  81 Markus Niggli (Borra Vineyards) on Lodi's Culture of "Change" Markus Niggli is the Swiss-born winemaker of Borra Vineyards, Lodi's oldest continuously operating family winery, bonded in 1975. Yet today, Borra is known as Lodi's most innovative winery, particularly because of Niggli's work with native yeast–fermented, Lodi-grown Northern European grapes, such as Riesling, Kerner and Bacchus, as well as with old Italian-inspired field-blends utilizing heritage plantings of Barbera, Carignan, Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouschet And so naturally, when Niggli talks about what makes Lodi special, he talks about the region's natural dispensation towards change—an environment that fosters innovation. In Niggli's words: The more I think about what makes Lodi different over the past few years, the more it comes back to change. It is a changing of the guard—a "next generation" of vintners and winemakers already exploring the new, adventurous opportunities that the region offers. It is a change in climate—we have been seeing earlier- ripening growing seasons, which has pushed winemakers to get creative. The big winners are the new white wines, with much higher acid levels than what people expect out Lodi. We have the climate—the Delta breeze cools off the valley every night with temperature drops of up to 40° Fahrenheit. It is a change in grape varieties: a new generation of wine- makers working with the many new varieties—German grapes, Spanish grapes, Portuguese grapes, French grapes—available to them, and consumers responding with great enthusiasm. Clearly, the market is hungry for new style wines; and maybe more than any other region, Lodi is capable of delivering this. Markus Niggli harvests Kerner grapes at Mokelumne Glen Vineyard. Stuart Spencer (St. Amant Winery) on Lodi's Authenticity Since 1979 St. Amant Winery has produced quintes- sential Lodi Zinfandels from Marian's Vineyard—majes- tic, own-rooted (i.e., ungrafted) vines originally planted in 1901. Owner/winemaker Stuart Spencer's father— the late Tim Spencer—is credited by the Fry family, who own and farm Marian's Vineyard, for "saving" these ancient vines from being pulled out during the years when Lodi Zinfandel was thought of being no good for anything but cheap, pink wine. Today, ancient vine plantings like Marian's Vineyard define Lodi's terroir. Like all classic wine regions, Lodi's "thereness" has been shaped by the traditions—the historic human input—associated with the region. As Spencer tells us: Apart from our excess of own-rooted old vineyards, what really sets Lodi apart from most California wine regions is the authenticity of its people and community. These are people who are con- tent in the vineyard, on a tractor, being out in the sun. Lodi's winegrowers are honest and straightfor- ward. Their livelihood is dependent upon the land, and farming is their way of life. To me, this ethos helps give Lodi a sense of place—one that the rest of the world is just beginning to discover, and finally appreciate. Stuart Spencer during the 2014 Marian's Vineyard Zinfandel harvest.

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