Marquette magic: hybrid grapes and the rosés of summer

Marquette magic: hybrid grapes and the rosés of summer

Corey Nuffer, our wine expert and Wine Salon curator, shares with us details about the Marquette grape and the latest from Westport Rivers ahead of our virtual wine tasting on Thursday, July 9th.

Marquette. It’s a wine grape you should know about. Like Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. Bon Appetit’s Marissa A. Ross said of Marquette that it left her “insides as fuzzy as my favorite sweater.” Don’t you want this for your insides? :) I do. And I want that for you, too. Lettie Teague of The Wall Street Journal didn’t have as profound of an experience with Marquette but nonetheless spoke highly of it and other “hybrid” grapes like it. 

Hybrid grapes are how you refer to wine grapes that have as parents one European species and one American. The genus-species name of the European wine grapes is called vitis vinifera. “Is this vinifera?” is usually how I hear this term out in the wild. This is code for, “I’m in the business, I know about hybrid grapes, and am thinking there’s a possibility you just poured a hybrid for me because this is Massachusetts, and they are grown here because you can’t grow good--I mean vinifera--here.” 

Eye roll. Just a little. :) Why? Because there’s quite a bit of snobbery about vinifera versus hybrids. Vinifera is seen as superior. And it is, so far. Hybrids are very new. That doesn’t mean one should be snooty about the hybrids and even more so, about where the grapes are grown. It turns me a little bit into Hannibal Lector -- that type of snootery or snobbery or ‘tude. More than that, it gets in the way of the sensual aspect of wine. The sizing up, like a diamond merchant looking for a flaw. The deep inhale, as you let it enter you and hold its ghostly presence like a thought that’s about to be forgotten. The first sip. The pause as you assess. How long is the sip? Is there evolution on it, or is it like a sustained chord that the conductor is holding and holding and holding, rising it up to a fortissimo’s worth of presence on your palate, and then with each passing beat, the descent to the pianissimo, and then, a gustatory silence from which it emerged… Which one is it? Not sure? You’ll just have to take another sip, right? 

Again with Marissa A. Ross, as she clearly enjoyed the hybrids Vermont wineries had to offer: 

I’m talking bottles of La Crescent that crackled with the acidity of a dozen grapefruits and sang like Annette Funicello’s “Pineapple Princess”—the grape should have the world’s best Rieslings shaking in their boots. I tried Frontenac Noirs that gave me goose bumps, tasting like spiced cranberries rolled up and smoked in violets, and Marquettes that left my insides as fuzzy as my favorite sweater. Discovering these unsung grapes—add Baco Noir and St. Croix to that list too—inspired the same feeling as coming across a new wine region: exciting to explore and delightful to drink. Get yourself a bottle from Barnard, Vermont, winemaker La Garagista and you’ll see.


Westport Rivers grows hybrid grapes. Recently planted, the vines are now cropping enough to start canning a prosecco style version. Set for release soon, it’s called Farmers Fizz Red. 100% Marquette, it tastes a bit like a boozy berry popsicle, with lush cocktail cherry and black currant gravitas extending toward a depth from which much more can be said. Juicy acidity elevates it all into this refreshing, thirst-quenching, I-need-to-take-a-moment-and-savor sip that will leave you grinning. 


AHA! Night happens on the second Thursday of each month here in New Bedford, and we’ll be hosting a virtual wine tasting with the grower of such a marvelous grape, Rob Russell, owner of Westport Rivers Vineyard and Winery. Also of Westport Rivers, Vineyard Rep Corey Nuffer will be on hand, as well as our host, Anthi. 

We’ll taste the latest from Westport Rivers, introduce you to a new fizz, and share a recipe for a delicious cocktail: The Blooming Summer.

As always, we’ll have a bundle you can purchase ahead of time, featuring some of what we’ll be tasting.

Register in advance for reminders and the streaming link. 

And let us know if you have any questions about the wines, the grape-growing region, and more! Ask away during the event or submit your questions in advance to