"Each move Marbue Marke made after earning his enology degree from U.C.-Davis added another piece to the puzzle that is winemaking."
Unbeknown to him at the time, Marbue Marke’s path to becoming winemaker at Oceano Wines commenced upon learning that he was accepted into the University of California-Davis with an eye toward medical school after college. That he chose to leave the West African country of Sierra Leone to pursue this profession is no surprise given that several family members, including his mother, are doctors. That he began his studies as a 15-year-old child at a junior college in California in order to take several prerequisite courses so that he could then become one of the youngest attendees in the school’s long history might be considered one. Those who know Marke, however, would say it simply speaks to his intelligence and drive.
After starting the program, it dawned on him that medicine was not his true calling. Perhaps being at the same university that also happens to house the most prestigious wine program in the United States – and among the most renowned in the world – made him recall with great fondness his first exposure to wine at the knee of his paternal grandfather, who was born and raised in neighboring Guinea. That “schooling” began when he was five, naturally with French wine given that country’s colonial past.
Marke earned his enology degree from Davis and, subsequently, added to his academic resume with an MBA from Sonoma State University. His practical experience began at J Winery in Sonoma, followed by a series of moves, each adding another piece to the puzzle that is winemaking. At Cosentino Winery, he learned about the rarefied world of high-end Napa wines. He was then a barrel enologist at R.H. Philips. For two years, Marke was charged with cooperage studies, an offshoot field that many winemakers are not experienced in. During a stint at Benziger, he was immersed in that family’s heightened concern for soil and winemaking purity.
From there, Marke made a seemingly counterintuitive jump to Gallo. He reasoned that it’s always a good idea to revisit the basics of one’s craft, and given Gallo’s depth and breadth of resources, it was the perfect place for him to hone all of the skills associated with the production process.
But perhaps the most pivotal move he made, at least in terms of his future connection to Oceano, was his decision to sign on as John Caldwell’s winemaker. That Marke began working with one of the Napa Valley’s true legends turned out to be prophetic for Rachel Martin. She met Marke by way of her very own connection to Caldwell. She sourced the plant material for Boxwood Estate Winery’s first vineyard block from him. Marke has since taken over as the Director of Winegrowing at Italics Winegrowers in Coombsville, one of Napa Valley’s cooler climes and another serendipitous similarity with Spanish Springs Vineyard.
So, when it became time to bring a winemaker into the Oceano project, how could it have been anyone but Marke?