5 Artisanal Wine Producers
A native of Switzerland, Niggli has been in Lodi eight years. As the winemaking partner of longtime grape grower Steve Borra, he’s an avowed devotee of unusual red and white blends.
“Wine drinkers are starting to open up,” Niggli says. “I say, ‘You don’t have to like it, but try it, and if you don’t like it, fine. But at least I gave you the experience to try a variety you’ve never tasted before.’”
Niggli has ferreted out obscurities like Kerner and Bacchus planted in Lodi dirt, two white varieties he knew growing up in Switzerland, but hard to find in California. He also sources local Riesling and Gewürztraminer.
“The wines are not made up of acids, they are coming from the vineyard that way, so after fermentation, there is no acid added,” he says. “I aim for freshness and acidity over aromatics. It’s something different, and it’s something new.”
People open to experimenting with white wines often try his red field blends as well, Niggli says. These include varying combinations of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Barbera, Carignane, Mourvèdre and Alicante Bouschet.
“Five to six years ago, Lodi was probably not ready for this new wave,” he says. “As Lodi’s changing, more people are paying attention to it. Before, somebody could yell that they had the greatest wine, but nobody was listening.”
A youthful generation of Lodi winemakers is committed to changing the old ways, and collaboration on vineyard sources and winemaking philosophies is the norm, Niggli says. He also finds interacting with customers through Borra’s active wine club and tasting room to be invaluable.
“Everything has a personal touch—I have a connection to these wines,” he says. “I want to make sure they’re in the right place, and the story is told correctly.”