Laura Brennan Bissell

Laura Brennan Bissell

INCONNU Wine (Winemaker & Owner)

Laura Brennan Bissell, a native of Washington D.C., did not set out to be a winemaker and has no formal schooling in the subject. In fact, her only college-level education involved a brief flirtation with the field of neuroscience.

In 2006 and in her early 20s, Laura headed for the Bay Area of California with the goal of becoming a tattoo artist. However, she spent the majority of her time in other pursuits, such as bike riding, collecting records, reading books, drinking beer, and touring around the US with bands. In her own words, “I was in the punk and rock metal scene here [San Francisco] and I met this orthodox rabbinical winemaker.” It was inevitable that her friendship with him would spark her interest in wine.

Laura moved to Barcelona in her mid-20s, where she was very involved with performance poetry, experimental music, and developed a love for simple food and low intervention wine. She returned to the U.S. in 2011 to undertake an internship at Unti Vineyards in Dry Creek Valley and produced her first vintage in 2013. That same year, Laura completed a second internship, this one at Matthiasson in Napa Valley, with the goal of learning more about vineyards and created INCONNU WINE, her own label, as well.

Concerning the challenge of starting her own brand, she says, “Winemaking is a lot of work, and I knew that if I was ever going to do this, I’d do it for myself.” The philosophy underlying her winemaking is that “I wanted to have wines that people could get their hands on,” and to meet that goal, her wines currently cost less than $30. She crafts Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, among other varietals, and also produces Rosé and a red blend.

A visit in 2018 to Underwood, WA, located by the Columbia River Gorge, prompted Laura’s move to the area in 2019. She purchased a vineyard and makes wine under the Lorelei Vineyards label.

Laura’s wines result from spontaneous fermentations, are low sulfur, involve low intervention, and are produced from ethically farmed grapes. She is inspired by the French tradition of vin de soif, or "wine of thirst." Consequently, her wines are made to be pleasurable and light, but still to express great care and devotion to craft. To quote her, “What I love about wine is the hard decision-making, solving a problem, going with your gut.”

In recognition of her winemaking talent, she was included in the San Francisco Chronicle’s 2017 class of “Winemakers to Watch.”