Wonderwerk

House of Fermentation

 

Quick Facts

Location: Gilroy, California

Owner & winemaker: Andrew Lardy & Issamu Kamide

Vineyard area: urban winery working with a variable selection of vineyards all over California

Vineyard management: mostly practicing organics and pursuing certification, some sustainable

Soils: depending on the source vineyard, mostly sandy and alluvial soils

Main varietals: Mission, Petit Sirah, Carignan, Riesling

Winemaking: low-intervention exploration – co-ferments, field blends, piquette-style beverage with added fruit. Spontaneous fermentation, neutral barrels and tanks, no fining, no filtration, minimal sulfur additions at bottling.

Annual production (approx.): 1000 cases

 

Fun Facts:

  • Andrew and Issamu are two high school friends from Virginia that made their way to California and started a label playing with wine and other fermented beverages like piquette
  • The guys both currently work full-time, fermentation-related gigs – Andrew is the Head Distiller at the Spirit Guild Distillery in downtown Los Angeles and Issamu does marketing and product innovation for a major kombucha brand
  • The label started after a long, intense and inspiring time the guys spent at Despacio, a unique disco pioneered by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and the Soulwax brothers
  • The name “Wonderwerk” actually originates from a cave in South Africa that is believed to have the earliest sign of human cooking – a million-year-old hearth – where humans manipulated nature for enjoyment as much as sustenance.

 

Jump to wines | Wonderwerk Website

 

Wonderwerk is Andrew Lardy and Issamu Kamide, two high school friends from Virginia that made their way to California and started a wine label that they hope will morph into “The Wonderwerk House of Fermentation”. Andrew was originally working on a graduate degree in neuropsychology when he realized the science and experiments he was working on were too far removed and less tangible than he’d like – too clinical if you will. He’s always had a passion for culinary exploration and wine and would often find himself bootlegging cider or moonlighting as a bartender in college. Making wine felt like that perfect mix of science and art he was after so he up and moved to California and enrolled in the Fresno State Enology program. After Fresno State, he cut his teeth working in several different wineries on California’s Central Coast – around the same time that Issamu came back from a stint in Brazil to go back to school in Virginia for brand management which led him to LA to work in CPG food & bev.

While in LA, Issamu would regularly visit Andrew in San Luis Obispo and they’d go through all the wines Andrew had been drinking and making. “I started to familiarize myself with the world of wine, eventually studying through to WSET 3. But we both knew eventually we’d have to stop working on other people’s ideas because we had so many of our own,” Issamu says.  After a fateful day when the guys attended “Despacio”, a roving, high-end discotheque pioneered by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and the Soulwax brothers, they emerged from a disco daydream to ask themselves “how could we make a wine that tastes like that?” And thus was born Wonderwerk’s first wine, Discovino Donna Rosé.

The grapes come from different vineyards around California, selected by Issamu and Andrew based on their respectful cultivation: “We seek responsibly farmed fruit that provides us with unique character in the winery. Sometimes we go looking for a particular profile or varietal, sometimes the site finds us. Most of our vineyards use organic practices and are pursuing certification, sustainable farming is a minimum requirement,” they assert. In the cellar, Wonderwerk is about inclusivity and the freedom to explore new directions in fermentation – “bringing our desire to twist, turn, and tweak flavors and ideas into something enjoyable for everyone”, Issamu describes the philosophy behind their co-fermented wines and piquette, all made without fining or filtration, with just a bit of sulfur at bottling.

The name “Wonderwerk” actually reflects on this experimental, avant-garde spirit as well – it originates from a cave in South Africa that is believed to have the earliest sign of human cooking – a million-year-old hearth – where humans manipulated nature for enjoyment as much as sustenance. The guys both currently still work full-time, fermentation-related gigs while running Wonderwerk: Andrew is the Head Distiller at the Spirit Guild Distillery in downtown Los Angeles, immersed in botanicals and aromatics day and night, and Issamu does marketing and product innovation for a major kombucha brand.

Wonderwerk stands out also for their colorful, eye-catching labels: “We wouldn’t be anywhere without our friends Anton Goddard and Lana Shahmoradian who design all of our branding and label artwork, as well as the slew of other friends who lend their creative energy to making some of our more absurd and visual ideas come true,” Issamu acknowledges. “It’s true that you “drink with your eyes first” and so we’ve always wanted to create wines that jump out at you, grab your attention and make you go “what is this all about…?” Well, New York, thanks to this hot addition in the Jenny & Francois book, you can now wonder about Wonderwerk’s work as well!

 

 Wines

 

Free Your Mind

Andrew and Issamu on this wine: “Free Your Mind is a novel co-fermentation of skin-fermented Riesling and old vine carbonic Carignan. The idea is to be more than the sum of the parts. At its core, Free Your Mind is an aromatic skin-fermented Riesling. When the Riesling begins to ferment, pressed carbonic Carignan is gradually blended in via pump-overs. Our goal was to conduct a layered extraction of Riesling skins; first in a water matrix (Riesling must, with little to no alcohol), followed by an alcohol matrix (mid-ferment Riesling, with pressed late-ferment carbonic Carignan).”

Grapes: 50% Carignan, 50% Riesling

Vineyard: Sandy Lane Vineyard (120-140 yo head-trained vines of Carignan on sand, Contra Costa County AVA, Antioch, CA; sustainable), Zabala Vineyard (old riverbed in Arroyo Seco AVA, Soledad, CA; certified organic in 2010 (MCCO, CDFA).

Making of: in 2021, Carignan was picked at 21.4* Brix on August 6, Riesling was picked at 20.7* Brix on September 22. Riesling was de-stemmed and fermented on skins with twice-daily punch-downs. At 1/2 Brix depletion, punch-downs were replaced with twice daily pump-overs of pressed carbonic Carignan. Once the two cuvees were fully blended and fermented to dryness (14-day maceration), the lot was pressed to stainless steel tanks, where it underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged on lees.
This wine was produced without fining or filtration, with 30 ppm sulfur (KMBS) added at bottling.

Personality: an extraordinary chillable orange-red wine hybrid!


 

Free Your Mind Lite (Piquette)

Andrew & Issamu on this wine: “Piquette! An old school wine cooler of sorts, this is a low alcohol wine made from re-hydrating pressed grape pomace. Piquette was traditionally enjoyed as a mid-day thirst quencher on the farm. In order to take piquette from the farm to the market in a shelf-stable form, we had to bring some natural sources of acidity to the cuvee. Enter ume – which is technically an unripe apricot – and hibiscus, two of our favorite sources of sour. Our friends at Tsubaki (Echo Park, Los Angeles, CA) introduced us to Nicholas Family Farms, who grow ume in the Central Valley. Our friends at Masienda (Los Angeles, CA) turned us on to the incredible heirloom hibiscus they source from several farms on the Oaxacan coast. Born of collaborative sourcing, recycled grape
pomace, and our home kitchen experimentation, Free Your Mind Lite is a product of the spirit of Los Angeles.”

Grape: Carignan and Riesling pomace from Free Your Mind wine, Ume, Hibiscus

Vineyard: Contra Costa County, Arroyo Seco (see Free Your Mind for details)

Making of: Ume was harvested the week of April 24, 2021 and preserved with rock candy sugar. Carignan and Riesling pomace were vinified separately and hydrated with sterile, carbon-filtered winery water. Ume preserves were blended evenly into the fermentors. Pomace fermentations were punched-down twice daily and pressed to tank (blended together) after 7 days. Hibiscus was brewed to a maximum concentration with boiled distilled water, cooled, and blended into the piquette tank along with 30 ppm sulfur (KMBS). On October 23, the piquette was racked, blended with a small amount of frozen Riesling juice, and bottled under crown cap. No additional sulfur was added at bottling and the bottles were cellar conditioned for 5 months.

Personality: Wonderwerk’s take on Piquette – inspired by Los Angeles and just as colorful and intriguing.


Free Your Soul

Andrew and Issamu on this wine: “Forgive us for saying so, but the Mission grape has a lot of shortcomings! Next-door neighbor-grape Petite Sirah is a bit of a hoarder, well-stocked with wine attributes. A small blending fraction of Petite can lend a lot of structure, extract, and yeast nutrients to an anemic Mission Cuveé. Our goal was to update a classic wine- California’s first wine, born of religious ceremony. We much prefer a strategic co-fermentation to the yeast nutrient and acid additions that are often employed to address the shortcomings of Mission grapes.”

Grape: 67% Mission, 33% Petite Sirah

Vineyard: Somer’s Vineyard (organic, dry-farmed 100yo head-trained Mission vines on sand, Mokelumne River AVA, Lodi, CA), Jag’s Vineyard (15-30yo vines on sand in Mokelumne River AVA, Lodi, CA, practicing organics)

Making of: Petite Sirah was fermented as whole clusters in an open-top fermentor. Mission was de-stemmed and dumped into the fermentor on top of the Petite Sirah. Vigorous foot-treading and soft punch-downs were employed to best mimic classic winemaking techniques. The wine was pressed to neutral French Oak barriques as soon as the tannin pickup (from Petite Sirah) gained traction. Aged 6 months in barrel and bottled unfined and unfiltered, with 15 ppm sulfur added at bottling.

Personality: “a natural solution to the limitations of the Mission grape and evolution of California’s first wine”


Free Your Body

Winemakers’ note: “Orange wine! In 2021, we dialed up the acidity and captured more texture this year as Free Your Body took a float down the Sacramento River and unlocked a new level in the Wonderwerk portfolio: the Clarksburg AVA.

This corner of California exudes a vibe unlike any other part of the state, with
rich alluvial soils, drawbridges, old country stores, and riverboat zoomers. The delta
breeze provides a cooling effect to temper the warm summer days, creating the diurnal
temperature shift that is critical to produce high-quality wine grapes.

Here we found a chalky Chenin blanc to lay the structural foundation, mellowing the loud fruit tones of Sauvignon blanc and harmonizing with the elegance of Pinot Gris. After a 21 day maceration (26 days for the Pinot), the grape skins were exhausted and the body was free to begin a new life as wine.”

Grapes: 35% Chenin blanc, 33% Sauvignon blanc, 32% Pinot gris

Vineyard: Heringer Estates Vineyard (Clarksburg AVA / Clarksburg, CA), rich alluvial soils on the banks of the Sacramento
River. A seventh-generation family enterprise, farmed with organic practices and is Lodi Rules certified. No herbicides, instead opting for mechanical weed management and cover crop. Deficit irrigation is maintained with detailed evapotranspiration modeling. The farm is home to an owl sanctuary for rehabilitated owls.

Making of: Pinot Gris was picked at 19.4* Brix on August 12, 2021 and fermented whole cluster in picking bins with twice daily punchdowns. Sauvignon blanc and Chenin blanc were picked at 19.1* Brix on August 17, de-stemmed, and pumped to tank along with the mid-ferment Pinot Gris. Long twice daily pump-overs were employed for a 21-day maceration. The lot was pressed to tank, briefly settled, and racked to neutral oak barrels where the wine underwent malolactic fermentation and aged 7 months in barrel. This wine was produced without fining or filtration, with 30 ppm sulfur (KMBS) added at bottling.

Personality: light, bright, chalky-textured orange wine


Above & Below

Andrew and Issamu on this wine: “Portuguese and Italian immigrants settled Contra Costa County in the late 1800s, drawn to the offshore whaling industry and the prolific salmon fishery of the Sacramento River. Vineyards were planted to field blends of Carignan, Mataro, and Zinfandel and harvested together for the production of a single cuvée with simple, low-intervention winemaking. This wine has been made by many generations before us and it’s an honor to continue to share this story. We strive to intervene as little as possible and present the same wine experience. As Above, so Below.” Only 98 cases produced.

Grapes: equal parts Carignan, Mataro, Zinfandel

Vineyard: Sandy Lane Vineyard (120-140 yo head-trained complanted vines on sand, Contra Costa County AVA, Antioch, CA; sustainable)

Making of: The fruit was hand-harvested on the same day. Zinfandel was de-stemmed and co-fermented with whole cluster Carignan and Mataro in a 2-ton open-top fermenter. The fruit was gently foot-treaded to liberate juice and macerated at cellar temperature. Fermentation was managed with a generous initial pump-over, followed by 1-2 daily punch downs. The wine was pressed to neutral French oak barrique after an 11-day maceration and aged in barrel for 13 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered, with 30ppm of sulfur.

Personality: a tribute to old vines and old days, this is a sunny and balanced field blend red.


Bustin’ Loose

Andrew and Issamu on this wine: “Mission is the first wave of California winemaking, the true origin of California wine and aka “the los angeles grape”, among other aliases. The grape was introduced to Spanish missions in California in the 18th century as fodder for sacramental wine – we are certainly not talking about your Run-of-the-mill wine grape! Mission is more akin to a table grape with sass than it is reminiscent of a “noble” wine grape. Strap in, we’re taking a funky stroll down our ancestral memory lane.” The name is a tribute to the funk icon Chuck Brown and his eponymous hit.

Grapes: Mission

Vineyard: Somer’s Vineyard. Organic, dry-farmed 100yo head-trained Mission vines on sand, Mokelumne River AVA, Lodi, CA

Making of: Whole clusters were loaded into tank and flooded with carbon dioxide for two weeks of carbonic maceration. 

Personality: “low-key glowing gusher made from wild style vines and funk”. Or “glowsé”, as the guys like to call it with a term of their own!


Giorgio Pet-Nat

Issamu and Andrew on this wine: “Riesling is our darling grape, it can do almost anything. Sparkling Riesling has been on our to-do list since before we started making wine. This is an aromatic white wine with 24 hours of skin contact, made more aromatic by tiny bubbles that propel the wine’s perfume out of the glass and into your world.”

Grapes: Riesling

Vineyard: Zabala Vineyard (Arroyo Seco AVA, Soledad, CA). Rocky dried-up riverbed.

Luis Zabala is a 10th generation California farmer who tends to over 1,000 acres of various grapes. The vineyard is a Lodi Rules certified sustainable site – it was certified organic in 2010 until 2017, when it lost the organic certification upon performing a post-emergent vine mealybug treatment in 2017. All other farming practices have remained organic and the vineyard is approaching re-certification. Mildew pressure is extreme in this region of coastal California, and vigilant sulfur application is
absolutely mandatory. Botrytis formation is common at this site, with a very high rate of desirable botrytis development.

Making of: Whole clusters were foot treaded and macerated on skins for 24 hours before pressing and cold settling. The wine was spontaneously fermented to dryness in stainless steel tank over 2 weeks. A small amount of frozen Riesling juice reserved from pressing was blended in, and the wine was bottled under crown cap. No fining, filtration, sulfur addition or disgorgement.

Personality: just like the eponymous icon & pioneer of electronic music (listen here), this wine will make you dance!


Enzo Pet-Nat

Issamu and Andrew call this wine “Ferrari water”, as it is inspired by Lambrusco and fast cars and named after the one and only Enzo Ferrari. “A shared love for traditional and obscure Italian varieties brought us to the Siletto Family Vineyards in San Benito County. We weren’t familiar with Freisa, but its elongated, almost XL-mulberry cluster morphology made quite an impression from afar. We pulled an early-season vineyard sample that yielded the most electric, watermelon-colored, strawberry-scented juice. It was an instant indicator that we had a strong candidate for the sparkling red wine we set out to create,” they recall.

Grape: Freisa (traditional Italian red variety of Piedmont area; more info here)

Vineyard: Siletto Family Vineyard (San Benito County AVA, Tres Pinos, CA). A collection of 3 sites and a veritable treasure trove of mostly traditional and obscure Italian varieties in addition to some cosmopolitan classics. Most varieties have been farmed with organic practices for years, and in 2021, all vineyards are undergoing organic certification. Agricultural veteran John Siletto has taken over the reigns from his father Ron Siletto, who passed away in 2020.

Making of: Whole clusters underwent 2 weeks of carbonic maceration before being pressed to tank and fermented dry by native yeast and bacteria. Racked off early of primary lees to maintain as much viable microflora as possible prior to bottle re-fermentation. A small amount of frozen Freisa juice reserved from pressing was added, the wine was then bottled under crown cap. No fining, filtration, sulfur addition or disgorgement.

Personality: with fruit and pleasure going at more than 100mph in this compelling fizz, it will be gone before you even had the time to whisper Enzo.


It’s a Fine Day

Winemakers’ note: “Riesling! Riesling can do anything. Riesling has been the core of our portfolio for years as the backbone of Free Your Mind and the single varietal focus of Giorgio and Toot Toot, Beep Beep. It’s a Fine Day provides a more direct approach, this time featuring Zabala Vineyard Riesling in a simple, direct-to-press and neutral oak-aged still wine paradigm. It was a record year for acidity at this site and the resulting
wine is delightfully thirst-quenching.”

Grape: Riesling

Vineyard: Zabala Vineyard. Alluvial soils with pale round river stones. Lodi Rules certified sustainable vineyard that was certified organic in 2010 by the Monterey County Certified Organic Program (MCCO) and California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Luis Zabala, a 10th generation California farmer (!) tends to over 1,000 acres first planted in the 1970s in the dry riverbed of Arroyo Seco (Monterey County). The vineyard is famously windy and cool, which helps retain acidity and temper sugar accumulation.

Making of: the grapes were picked at 20.7* Brix on September 22 – 2021 was an impressively cool growing season in Monterey County, with longer hang times and extremely high acidity. The fruit was loaded direct to press and pressed to tank, fermented to dryness, then racked to neutral oak barrels. The wine was aged on lees for 6 months in barrel. This wine was produced without fining or filtration, with 20 ppm sulfur (KMBS) added at bottling.

Personality: crushable, dry California Riesling