Background/Philosophy

My long-standing fascination with fermentation can be traced back to the day I received a homebrew kit from the local homebrew supply shop as a birthday gift in the late 1990s. Everything about that first experience; the aromas, flavours, and kinetic beauty of an active fermentation, proved deeply compelling and set the spark that quickly became first a passion/hobby, then eventually my career for the past 20+ years. And, I am fortunate to say that that magic has never waned in all this time.

It has always been about the yeast and bacteria: mainly, their inherent differences, their strong points and weaknesses. It quickly became clear very early on, the more I was able to experiment with multiple yeast and bacteria strains, that there was incredible power and variation, there. And, more importantly, there wasn't a single strain that brought me everything I could get from the same must or wort. The key was in the combinations of certain strains, both for the yeast and bacteria, that, when artfully done, brought more depth and complexity to the final products than any single strain could ever do. I have been lucky enough to have run yeast and bacteria trials for over two decades, and this fact has never stopped being reinforced each time I taste a trial; the blends are always better in every way. This has also held true for every fermentation base I have worked with: grains, grapes, apples, berries, stone fruits, and honey. 

Good winemaking must be a combination of art and science. As winemakers, it's our understanding of the scientific/theoretical aspects of winemaking that gives us our tools. However, tools alone do not make an artist. And, in the end, great wine will never be consistently produced by solely following recipes and the numbers. I truly believe we must do our homework and develop our technical understanding early on as we try to become better at our craft. However, once we have this foundation, we need to switch gears and then focus more deliberately on developing the artistic side of our winemaking: balance, harmony, structure, character, vibrancy, showing our fruit in the best possible light, expression of place and time, etc, should now be our focus.

 

Every year we have various challenges that are unique to that individual harvest. However, if we have both the art and the science covered, we will always have the greatest chance to be able to successfully translate the fruit to the glass in the way we were hoping. And, that's why we are doing this!

Bio
  • Long-time amateur brewer, mead, and wine maker

  • 2000-2004: Helped start MoreWine! Over these four years did intensive fermentation research on yeast, oak, MLB, tannins and oxygen (up to 40 lots per season), created and taught an amateur winemaking program, educated the company staff and created a series of technical, "how-to" manuals.

  • 2001 to the present: Contract winemaker for Lallemand, creating yeast and MLB trials in wine & cider 

  • 2004-2006: Helped start-up Sterling Albert Winery (5,000 cases) as head winemaker

  • 2007 to 2010: Consultant-Winemaker for Olin Wines

  • 2010 to present: Consultant-Winemaker for Reliez Valley Vineyards

  • 2012 to present: Consultant-Winemaker for Alaska Berries Winery - Soldotna, AK (start-up, product creation).

  • 2013 to 2014: Consultant-Cidermaker for Boonville Cider House (created the original Bite Hard product)

  • 2014 to present: Consultant-Cidermaker for Guthrie Cider Works (start-up)

  • 2015 to 2016: Consultant-Cidermaker for Restoration Cider Co. (start-up)

  • 2016 to present: Consultant-Cidermaker for North Canyon Cider Co (Barsotti juice company) - Camino, CA (start-up, product creation).

  • 2015 to 2018: Consultant-Cidermaker for Ethic Cider - Petaluma, CA (start-up, product creation).

  • 2017 to present: Consultant-Winemaker for Bom Vinho! Vineyard & Winery - Sommerset/Fair Play, CA (start-up, product improvement).

  • 2018 to present: Consultant-Cidermaker for Slyboro & Slate Valley Cider - Granville, NY (product improvement and creation).

  • 2011 to present: Technical Fermentation presenter for Lallemand at technical conferences and meetings throughout the country. Past events/clients have included: the Winemaker Magazine conference, the New Mexico Winemakers meeting, NY Cider Association, USACM's CiderCon, Lodi Amateur Vintners Association, Sacramento Home Winemakers, Contra Costa Home Winemakers, Lallemand Animal Nutrition, and the UC Davis Mead Conference.

  • 2007 to present: Started an independent winemaking consultation business: www.yeastwhisperer.com