On a visit to Martian Ranch and Vineyard to learn more about their farming methods, I tasted the syrah grapes still hanging on the vine, sweet, ripe, and ready to pick. Winemaker Michael Roth let me bring a cluster home to make a wild yeast starter.
Wild yeast cells cling to the waxy coating on the outside of the grapes at this time of year. These particular grapes are grown in Los Alamos, so this yeast is a variety that grows in that orchard on that variety of grape. Yeast on the nearby Mouvedre grapes might produce a starter with different characteristics.
At home I rinsed the grapes lightly and put them into a thin mixture of flour and water. I covered the container with plastic wrap and let it sit until the yeast began to bubble up in the flour mixture. This took less than 24 hours.
I strained the starter, purple with grape juice, and added more flour and water. I repeated that process until my starter was bubbling up within a couple of hours after being fed.
Last night I mixed up a batch of bread to rest overnight and then baked my bread in the morning.
Here's my first loaf.
I'll be making more of this!