Yeast Trials

There were two keys to setting up the discovery of this yeast strain. One was the location of the vineyard – it’s so isolated that there was a good chance there weren’t any introduced yeasts there. The second was that once a strong fermentation started in one of the bins of the Campbell Ranch fruit, it meant that there was at least something in there that wanted to be a fermentor.

My mom and I sampling prior to harvest. This is also how we got samples with the yeast on them. Simply dropping a few clusters into a sterile bag.


2014 Cambpell Ranch fruit on the morning of Harvest. There was an abundance of our native yeast on the clusters.

5 Microns

This is our yeast under the microscope. It spent a year at the lab undergoing some trials – they’re always trialing yeasts with the goal of having more options to keep winemaking diverse.

Yeast Arrival

It came back in a dry form for the 2015 harvest. This is a photo of the yeast being rehydrated prior to innoculation.

Pouring yeast

Nothing scientific about this! Pour it on and give it some time to acclimate.

Yeast Growing

Twelve hours later the yeast is acclimating to it’s new environment and ready to be punched into the must

Cap Forms

Fermentation is underway and a cap has formed. Now we start watching how the new “Annapolis” yeast performs alongside some other strains. In each trial we had four or five fermentation bins, each inoculated with a seperate yeast.

Punch Down Yeast

Punching down three times a day at the height of fermentation…

Hot Fermentation

Close to peak fermentation, there’s a lot of heat and CO2 being produced – the byproducts of our yeast metabolizing sugar into alcohol. What you see here is the heat pushing through the cap.

Going to Press

Fermentation complete. shoveling out the last of the skins into the press. As my mom gives orders!


This is a lineup of samples from one of the trials we ran as part of our harvest. These are from Wildcat Vineyard – each bottle an individual yeast and fermentation. Right after fermentation and pressing we’re looking at basic data. Down the road we’ll be able to taste the differences because each batch will be in it’s own barrels.

In her years of operating Vinquiry, a wine laboratory and consulting firm, Marty had a keen interest in wine yeast and malolactic bacteria for winemaking. Early on there were only a handful of commercially available yeast, which led to her isolating specific yeasts that clients found in the course of winemaking. Often the winemakers wanted to keep their yeast proprietary so the lab maintained a culture and grew up a population for them to use for inoculation each harvest. In other instances, efforts were made to find isolates that could be used by the industry at large.

The first significant isolate was a malolactic strain that was cold and alcohol tolerant found by Merry Edwards at Matanzas Creek Winery. Marty isolated the strain and tested it under varying conditions. It was so robust that it was offered to the entire wine industry. The strain became widely popular, and its use quickly outpaced the only other strain available at the time. It is still widely used and distributed, currently around the world.

Another important isolate, came from Williams Selyem Winery when the winemakers had a native yeast appear that became a primary fermentor for the winery. Marty isolated this yeast, and the winery kindly encouraged that it become available to the industry at large. They also wanted to provide a benefit for the local Wine Library, so a yearly royalty is paid to the Sonoma County Wine Library. In 2015, Enartis had this isolate produced as an “active dry yeast”. This allowed more wineries to use the strain and for it to be available worldwide as well. This greatly increased our ability to contribute to the Wine Library.

NOW: our newest and most exciting discovery: In 2014 we had a fermentation start at the end of the cold soak on a part of our pinot noir from Cambell Ranch that produced great aromatics. Could it be from the vineyard? In 2015, Brook pulled a portion of grapes that never entered the winery to assure that what grew came from the vineyard. We did a fermentation in a sterile container and delivered the final sample to Enartis-Vinquiry. They used their European resources to identify and test the sample. They found a unique yeast and an unusual occurrence: all isolates recovered were the same strain – perhaps due to the isolation of the Cambell Ranch. A small amount of yeast was produced for commercial testing. We conducted comparative fermentations and found this isolate to be a robust and high-quality fermentor (in other words, it made delicious wine).

This yeast, now named Annapolis for the little nearby town will be made available to the winemaking community with royalties contributed to the Alliance Medical Center which provides care for low-income residents. It’s exciting to have been part of the entire process of discovery and trials of a product that will add to diversity to wine production worldwide.