Brett Isenhower discusses his wild yeast fermentation and sustainability program
Isenhower Cellars works with several excellent vineyards located throughout Eastern Washington who are committed to growing outstanding grapes in an environmentally sustainable manner. We choose to buy from multiple vineyards to guarantee grape availability even in freeze years and to create highly unique wines that have a sense of place.
All the grapes are hand picked. At the winery all clusters are sorted by hand and those clusters that are less than perfect are removed and composted. The rule of thumb is when in doubt throw it out.
White wine grapes are press "whole cluster" after sorting. White wine is fermented at 14°C in primarily used French Oak barrels and the malo-lactic fermentation is prevented. Barrels are stirred once a week until bottling.
Red grapes intended for Rosé are picked at lower brix, destemmed and allowed to soak overnight to pick up color. The day after picking the grapes are pressed and the juice is fermented in a stainless steel tank at 15ºC to dryness. The Rosé is bottled without malo-lactic fermentation.
Red Grapes are destemmed and "kissed" by crusher wheels to split the skins open. After a 48 hours soak the grapes are inoculated with our preferred yeast for that variety of grape. All our reds and rosé are fermented by wild/native yeast that are from the vineyard or floating in the winery air. The result of this wild/native fermentation is a more complex and nuanced wine because of the dozens of wild yeasts producing different layers of flavors that gather during barrel aging to produce a superior wine. The vast majority of wineries use commercial freeze-dried yeast.
The fermentation of red grapes are carried out in open top stainless steel bins at a peak temperature of 28°C. The cap is either foot stomped or punched down three times daily. Pressing is done all according to the taste of the fermenting wine. Some Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah lots are allowed to macerate on the skins for 14 to 30 days after fermentation is complete.
Free run wine and Press wine are kept separate. Press is only used for the Last Straw red table wine.
Red wines are aged in French Oak barrels from selected coopers and forests with specific toasting levels depending on the grape variety and vineyard. Time in barrel varies depending on the wine and taste. Isenhower Cellars has a bottling line so we can bottle the wine whenever it is ready.