Winemaker Heidi Bridenhagen was featured in Peg Melnik’s article, “For these Sonoma County winemakers, experimenting is part of the process,” on The Press Democrat website.
“For these Sonoma County winemakers, experimenting is part of the process”
The Press Democrat
May 30, 2023
“Winemakers, by nature, are inquisitive scientists. For many, their world is a laboratory, from the bubbling fermentations in their cellars to the mazes of experimental vines in their vineyards. They’re on an endless quest to bottle wine that aspires to Greek mythology’s nectar of the gods.
For three Sonoma County winemakers — Pete Soergel of Lynmar Estate, Heidi Bridenhagen of MacRostie Winery, and David Ramey of Ramey Wine Cellars — tinkering and experimenting are part of their process. While they don’t have Albert Einstein’s mane of frantic white hair, they share his outlook. They are intent on questioning everything about a grape’s journey from the vineyard to the bottle.”
The Explorer: Heidi Bridenhagen
Growing up on a couple of acres fronting a lake in Wisconsin, Heidi Bridenhagen of Healdsburg’s MacRostie Winery was constantly exploring nature, mixing up berries and leaves, seaweed, and lake water to make potions.
“Play has definitely contributed to my personality of challenging conventional thinking and pulling things apart to put them back together better,” she said.
Bridenhagen, now 39, was named head winemaker at MacRostie in 2013. Experiments have been part of her regimen from the beginning.
“Each harvest, I always do five to 10 focused experiments,” she said. “They can span from things we’re doing in the vineyard with pruning trials to different fermentation techniques, using different equipment.”
In addition to those experiments, the winemaker said, if she hesitates when making a big decision in winemaking, she asks herself if she can work her quandary into an experiment.
“I have always enjoyed tinkering and challenging the status quo,” Bridenhagen said. “I have always been curious and a problem solver. I love ‘aha’ moments, revelations, connecting the dots.”
Currently, she’s experimenting with variables in the process of pressing juice from chardonnay grapes. The press cycle is a series of pressure and time intervals that have a big impact on juice quality and the volume of the yield.
“What’s really cool about experiments with wine is that you can make the wines differently and keep them separate to taste throughout the year before you bottle,” Bridenhagen said. “Setting up blind tastings to challenge your assumptions is really fun.”