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What is in your wine?

Today winemakers have a toolbox full of additives and technology to make modern wine. The FDA and TTB (federal agencies that regulative wineries) have a broad list of additives that are legal for wineries to add but not have to disclose to consumers. Some (but not even close to all) include:

  • Enzymes to increase extraction from grapes resulting in higher yields and more color in red wines.
  • Tannins extracted from grapes, oak, chestnut, or exotic woods to hide or change the flavor and stabilize color.
  • Gum Arabic and Mannoproteins to make wine taste sweeter and increase mid-pallet richness. Some mannoproteins can be used to stabilize tartrates in wine.
  • Yeast derived nutrients to increase polysaccharides resulting in wines that are round and less astringent.
  • Velcorin (dimethyldicarbonate) can be added at bottling to destroy yeast, bacteria, and mold. Velcorin is also used in fruit drinks, sports drinks, and ready to drink tea. Break down products are water and methanol.
  • Concentrates. Grape concentrates like mega purple are 2000:1 are concentrated red grape juice that adds color and sugar to red wines. Other wine concentrates are 100:1 wine concentrate to increase color and mouth feel.

Reverse osmosis (RO) is widely used in the wine industry to remove very small molecules and dramatically change a wine. With RO a winemaker can reduce alcohol, volatile acidity, smoke character, and remove water.

Minimalist Winemaking

Minimalist Winemaking is a philosophy of only light intervention in the natural process of winemaking. The following is what we do and products we use in winemaking.

Hand Harvested

Vineyard workers physically clip the clusters from the vines, collecting each cluster and move down the row picking grapes into buckets or shoulder suspended baskets. This is hard, intensive work. Vineyard workers are in high demand and paid well.

Pellenc Harvested

A Pellenc is a very gentle “over the row” mechanical harvester. Today farm workers are paid very well and in high demand. Some vineyards have opted to use a Pellenc to harvest more grapes at a lower cost. The Pellenc harvester can pick at night when the fruit is at a lower temperature which decreases the electricity the winery uses to control the temperature of the fermentation.

Crossflow Filtration

Crossflow filtration works by introducing wine across a membrane surface. During filtration, any material smaller than the cross flow membrane pore passes through the membrane, while larger suspended particulates remain in the wine. The wine comes out clear and free of wine spoilage bacteria and yeasts. Crossflow does not use diatomaceous earth or other physical filters. Crossflow requires minimal movement of wine, requires less physical labor, and generates very little waste water. The wine retains its aromas, flavors, and color versus physical filtration.

Sustainable, Conventional Farmed Grapes

Our farmers use very gentle antifungal sprays to prevent the growth of powdery mildew and other grape funguses. Most farmers use mechanical weed removal to rather than weed sprays. The farmers are using foliar nutrition sprays to feed exactly what the vine needs and not over fertilize. The sustainable, conventional farming is safe for vineyard employees and delivers excellent grapes to Isenhower Cellars while decreasing costs to our vineyard farmers.


We have experimented with native and inoculated fermentations. Washington grapes tend to be so low in nitrogen that native yeasts cannot grow well enough to complete the fermentation. Beginning in 2018 we are using freeze-dried yeasts that ferment well and release flavors that fit the nature of our wines.

Malolactic Bacteria

Bacteria that convert malic acid to lactic acid. Makes the resulting wine softer and stable. Happens at Isenhower Cellars naturally, without having to add exogenous bacteria to the wine.

Yeast Nutrients

Organic or inorganic nitrogen and yeast specific vitamins that supplement the nitrogen naturally in grapes. Washington grapes are naturally low in nitrogen. Nutrients help yeast grow and complete fermentation.

Oak and Acacia barrels

Oak or Acacia extracted from the barrels during fermentation and aging. We use a small percentage of lightly toasted new French Oak barrels every year to support the fruit flavors in the wine but not dominate the wine. Our new barrels are in larger formats (300 and 500 liters). Acacia is the French term for wood from the Black Locust tree. We only use Acacia for white wine barrels.

Minimum Effective SO2

Smallest SO2 addition needed to maintain freshness.

Calcium Carbonate

Small additions after fermentation rarely used to moderate unusually high natural acidity in some grapes.


Immediately after destemming the grapes, we will remove a small percentage of grape juice and replace with a smaller portion of water to lower the resulting alcohol level and concentrate the wine. Because of our warm summer and fall Washington wine grapes can have elevated sugar levels compared to the maturation of grape skin tannins and acidity level.

Tartaric Acid

Acidity in some Washington grapes can be deficient due to our warm summer and fall. Tartaric acid is a natural grape acid and is added to balance the crushed grapes and improve the freshness and stability of the resulting wine.


A clay from Wyoming that is made into a slurry and added to white and rose wine to bind to excessive proteins. These proteins can fall out of the wine while in the bottle unless removed. There is no trace of bentonite in the bottled wine.