Donkey and Goat
French Joie de Vivre in Urban Berkeley
Location: Berkeley, California, USA
Owner & winemaker: Jared and Tracey Brandt
Vineyard area: variable – the grapes are sourced from carefully selected growers in the Sierra Nevada, El Dorado, Mendocino, Napa, and Anderson Valley
Vineyard management: practicing organics, biodynamic, or sustainable, depending on the source vineyard
Soils: Sandstone and Loam
Main varieties: Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Marsanne, Roussanne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and selected others
Annual production (approx.): 96,000 bottles
Winemaking: Low intervention with a lot of hand- and footwork. Natural yeasts only, no fining, no stabilization, no filtering, no plastic fermentation vessels used. The range encompasses all styles and colors, including sparkling wines made (mostly) as pet-nats and a “nouveau” style wine.
- Tracey and Jared both worked in the tech sector in the Bay Area, until deciding to take a sabbatical and finally pursue their chosen new career in winemaking, at the turn of the millennium
- They traveled to France to spend a year as interns of the legendary natural winemaker Eric Texier, where they learned the basics of the trade
- This French adventure is responsible also for the winery’s name, referring to an animal synergy they witnessed there
- Jared and Tracey are meticulous in their winemaking, including the use of sorting table and eschewing plastic bins – there’s a whole manifesto explaining what they do and why
Having turned their backs on working in the technology sector at the start of the new millennium, Jared and Tracey took the plunge and followed their strong desire to dedicate themselves to making wine. Instead of learning the secrets of winemaking at home, they decided to make a pilgrimage to France, where they spent their sabbatical year interning under the legendary Rhone Valley vigneron Eric Texier. Eric’s reputation for his strong opinions in all matters wine appealed strongly to them and despite some challenging moments (including some heavy flooding over several days), they learned what they needed by following the grape from vine to table.
Their French adventure also brought the winery its name: recalling how one of Eric’s neighbors in France had trained a donkey to help keep unwanted vegetation at bay, Jared had been intrigued to know why he also had a goat. It was explained that goats, due to their calm temperament, help placate other animals. Similar to this synergy, Tracey was the calming “goat” to Jared’s stubborn “donkey”.
They returned back home in 2003 and started to work on founding a winery of their own. With Donkey and Goat being established as an urban winery in Berkeley in 2004, they quickly came to the fore of the natural wine movement in California. Keen to continue with the Rhone varieties that also thrive in the warm California climate, they carefully select growers working with as little environmental impact as possible, such as Filigreen Farm in Anderson Valley who use no copper sulfate in the vineyard. “If it can’t be ingested it doesn’t go into the wine,” states Jared, firmly.
Another thing they’re extremely careful of is the picking date since keeping acidity can be quite a challenge in the hot California climate: “We believe the only way to call a pick date is by examining the plant and its fruit in the vineyard, tasting the berries, evaluating the skins and seeds, and ultimately going with our gut,” Jared explains. And they also use the old trick of picking twice – first for acidity, the second time a bit later for aromatic richness, as passed on by Monsieur Texier.
Once harvested, the sorting table ensures that each grape is screened for problems and no small creatures make their way beyond it, even if organic and biodiverse habitats of the carefully selected vineyards make for especially attractive places to live. In line with their environmental values, no plastic bins are allowed within the fermentation process. Instead, the fermentation and aging take place in bigger oak vats and barrels (500L puncheons and 3000L French oak foudres), clay, or concrete where necessary, for both reds and whites, whilst the sparkling wines (Donkey&Goat make several highly popular pet-nats) start their life in stainless steel. When there’s a need for more juice in the vat, the grapes are foot-stomped: “It has worked since the Romans and still works just fine today. We like the results better than that of the crusher and our helpers have a huge amount of fun,” Tracey smiles.
The wines are obviously born with nothing but their native yeasts, a practice that they believe to bring on a superior flavor profile. This is also why they “add nothing at the vat after crush save the occasional minuscule dose of SO2 if we have a rainy year where rot is an issue. No enzymes to enhance color and extraction, no tannin, no commercial yeast, no nutrients to feed the super yeast.”
All these convictions sound less unusual nowadays with natural wine firmly in position, but holding them more than a decade ago wasn’t so commonplace then. This fact actually gave birth to the Donkey & Goat manifesto, arising out of Tracey’s fierce email to a wine buyer, back in 2009: “We make our wines for the table, not the cocktail glass…”, Tracey starts the impassioned midnight rant (you can read it in total on their website, it does a great job explaining their approach) ending on “I do hope if nothing else I’ve managed to convey we are hugely passionate about what we are doing and why we are doing it.” One hundred percent, we’d say. And if you’re still not sure, try tasting their aromatic skin-contact Ramato Pinot Gris or chuggable New Glou, next time you’re looking for a new side to California, that should do it…
- The Gadabout
- Sluce Box El Dorado White
- The Gallivanter
- Untended Chardonnay
- Linda Vista Chardonnay
- Lily’s Pet Nat
- Perli Vineyards Syrah
- The Bear
- Five Thirteen Red
- Fenaughty Syrah
- Old Vine Carignane
- Isabel’s Cuvée Rosé
- Stone Crusher Skin Fermented Roussanne
- Ramato Pinot Gris
- Filigreen Farm Pinot Noir
- Barsotti Gamay
- The New Glou
The Gadabout — Back to the top
GADABOUT means a habitual pleasure seeker. A person who travels often, or to many different places, especially for pleasure. This wine will always be white, delicious, and very well priced.
Grapes: Chardonnay-based blend with varying proportions of different Rhone-Valley white grapes like eg. Picpoul, Marsanne, etc.
Vineyards: a blend of different vineyards and appellations that the winery works with
Making of: a blend of vineyards and appellations chosen for their crowd-pleasing thirst-quenching qualities. The wines are fermented in different vessels, blended and bottled unfined unfiltered, and with little addition of sulfur.
Personality: zippy and fresh, this is an ode to stone fruits and citrus of all kinds. As Mediterranean as California can get!
Sluce Box El Dorado White— Back to the top
Age of Vines: up to 14 years old
Yields: 2-3 tons per acre
Elevation: 2800 feet
Soil: Hotow, Aiken & Argonaut loam
Varieties: 29% Vermentino, 20% Picpoul, 20% Grenache Blanc, 17% Marsanne & 14% Roussanne
Vinification Method: Fermented in wood vats with indigenous yeast, with just a touch of skin contact. The wine ages in barrel for about 7 months.
Tasting Note: Reminiscent of stones warmed by the bright sun on a cold day in the Northern Rhone, this wine combines dried white flowers and citrus rind aromas with a balanced, yet taut body composed of minerality and fleshy weight from the skin contact.
The Gallivanter — Back to the top
“To Gallivant” means to roam about for pleasure without any definite plan; yes, this is the red version of Gadabout. A red blend that will always be delicious and well-priced and changing each year
Grapes: Merlot-based blend with varying proportions of different Rhone-Valley red grapes like eg. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, etc.
Vineyards: a blend of different vineyards and appellations that the winery works with
Making of: a blend of vineyards and appellations chosen for their crowd-pleasing and thirst-quenching qualities. The wines are fermented in different vessels, blended and bottled unfined unfiltered, and with little addition of sulfur.
Personality: fresh, fruity, spicy, and unpretentious. A great food wine thanks to its friendly style and pleasant acidic kick.
Untended Chardonnay — Back to the top
This dry-farmed, low-yield, old vine vineyard produces less than 1 ton of fruit per acre. The 2014 vintage was the apex of the drought, so the struggle was real for this site and the resulting wine exhibits an intensity of flavor and bright acidity that reflects the challenges posed by years of drought.
Total Production: 179 Cases
Elevation: 950 feet
Age of Vines: 41 years
Yields: 1.5 tons/acre
Soil: Ornbaun-Zeni and Casabonne-Wohly soils
Vinification Method: Fermented with wild yeast in once used and neutral French oak, aged in barrel for 10 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with a small addition of sulfur.
Linda Vista Chardonnay — Back to the top
The Linda Vista Vineyard is planted in alluvial soils from the nearby Dry Creek in the West Oak Knoll area which is one of the more prestigious and classic spots for Chardonnay. The vineyard that won the famous Paris tasting in 1976 is just behind Linda Vista. There is a beautiful tension in this wine resulting from the interaction of the cooling influence of the Bay and the generous Napa Valley sunshine.
Total Production: 154 cases
Appellation: Napa Valley: Linda Vista
Age of Vines: 20 years old
Soil: Predominantly Cole silt loam
Vinification Method: Fermented in French Oak barrels and aged for 8.5 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with a small addition of sulfur.
Lily’s Pet Nat — Back to the top
Total Production: 350 cases
Appellation: Anderson Valley
Elevation: 250 feet
Age of Vines: 36 years old
Soil: Ornbaun-Zeni loam w/ clay base
Varieties: 98% Chardonnay, 2% Roussanne
Vinification Method: Spontaneous fermentation in stainless steel tank, bottled to finish fermentation and disgorged with zero additions.
Eliza — Back to the top
Total Production: 123 cases
Elevation: 2700 feet
Soil: Musick sandy loam
Varieties: Clairette, Picpoul, Vermentino, Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc
Vinification Method: Wild yeast fermented in once-used French Oak barrels. Aged in barrel for 10 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with a small addition of sulfur.
Twinkle— Back to the top
D&G on this wine: “In 2015 we made a Mourvèdre lot that was unusually light, in body and color. Tasting it throughout the year we often referred to it as our little Twinkle and talked about how lovely it would taste chilled. For the final blend, we added Grenache and a light-bodied Syrah to round it out while allowing its charm to still shine through. Serve it as white wine chilled closer to 55 degrees and you will be quite pleased!”
Production: 351 cases
Varieties: Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah
Tasting Note: Bright red fruit aromas jump out of the glass and surprise those expecting a gamey Mourvèdre. This is a very pretty nose of mulberry and strawberry laced with herbs like sage, spiced apple and rose petal. This is a nervy, light bodied red wine that finishes with black currants, cherries, and a subtle sweet and spicy background of nasturtium.
Perli Vineyards Syrah — Back to the top
Total Production: 190 cases
Appellation: Mendocino Ridge
Age of Vines: 13 years
Soil: Clay loam over sandstone bedrock
Varieties: 98% Syrah, 2% Viognier
Vinification Method: Vinified 45 % whole cluster with stems for abot 16 days in open top wood vats. Aged for 1-3 years in 1-3 year old French barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with a small addition of sulfur.
The Bear — Back to the top
Total Production: 264 cases
Appellation: El Dorado
Vineyards: Fenaughty and Lightner
Soil: Decomposed granite with red clay loam
Varieties: Counoise, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah, Roussanne
Vinification Method: Vinified in concrete and wood vats.
Five Thirteen Red — Back to the top
Varieties: 44% Grenache, 22% Syrah, 21% Mourvèdre, 4% Cinsault, 8% Counoise
Vinification Method: Fermented with wild yeast in neutral oak vats. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with a small addition of sulfur.
Tasting Note: The wine offers notes of herbs and game with a brambly spicy mix of crushed fresh strawberries, thyme, lavender (from the Syrah), roasted meats, cola, nutmeg, leather and floral hints. The palate shows off the wine’s stuffing with chewy yet delicate tannins, great acidity and lingering flavors of cranberry, black currants and cassis.
Fenaughty Syrah — Back to the top
Age of Vines: 33 year old vines
Yields: 2.8 tons per acre
Soil: Decomposed granite w/ red clay loam
Varieties: 97% Syrah + 3% Viognier
Vinification Method: Fermented with wild yeasts for about 12 days on the skins in an open top wood vat. 15 months in used French barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with a small addition of sulfur.
Tasting Note: Tobacco and earth notes intermingled with violets and lavender grab the olfactory immediately. With a moment to breathe, mineral, fresh meat and spice box come to the fore. Red fruits like cherry, plum and raspberry tickle the palate. Long, firmly structured yet smooth tannins coat the mouth and linger for minutes while you ponder what this wine is and what it will become.
Old Vine Carignane — Back to the top
Total Production: 391 cases
Age of Vines: 80 year old vines
Elevation: 1300 feet
Soil: Decomposed sandstone & Pinnobie loam
Vinification Method: Fermented with wild yeasts in a 5 ton Taransaud tank. Aged for 10 months in the same tanks.
Isabel’s Cuvée Rosé — Back to the top
Age of Vines: 99+ years old
Yields: Under 2 tons per acre
Soil: Talmage gravelly sand loam
Varieties: Field blend of Grenache Gris
Vinification Method: Fermented with wild yeast in neutral oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered in 1-liter bottles with a small addition of sulfur.
Tasting Note: There is a heady perfumed nose of fresh, crushed strawberries with floral and juicy tangerine notes. This wine dances across the palate like a prima ballerina. Like her, there is a quiet power to this wine in its delicate and perfect balance.
Stone Crusher Skin Fermented Roussanne — Back to the top
Age of Vines: 16 years
Yields: 2.7 tons per acre
Elevation: 2400 feet
Soil: Fine-grained loam, acidic residuum weathered from igneous rock (granite)
Varieties: 100% roussanne
Vinification Method: Fermented with wild yeast in open top wood vat. The wine spends about 12 days on the skins, and is pressed off the skins to complete fermentation in neutral oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with a small addition of sulfur.
Tasting Note: Grilled peach, cinnamon, whiffs of clove and a fleeting hint of freshly inhaled honeysuckle reminds us of warm summer nights during childhood. Floating like a butterfly on your tongue, Stone Crusher builds slowly with beautiful freshness, acidity and round tannins tingling your mouth.
Pairing: With chewy tannins and the structure of a red wine, this wine goes in many directions. With pork, Vietnamese cuisine, winter vegetables and raw and cooked seafood to name a few. If you have the patience to wait, this wine will age slowly and beautifully. Tannins will integrate, revealing a depth and concentration with endless freshness.
Ramato Pinot Gris— Back to the top
Breaking preconceived notions has long been a rewarding result with our wines. The Ramato (skin ferment) Pinot Gris from the Biodynamic Filligreen Farm is no exception. With up to five days on the skins this wine boasts a dimensionality and depth that may surprise, with attributes that Tracey describes as “Funkytown” that will delight those who enjoy a more adventurous palate.
Age of Vines: up to 14 years old
Yields: 2.5 tons per acre
Total Production: 211 cases
Elevation: 400 feet
Soil: Alluvial with gravel & clay loam
Varieties: 100% Pinot Gris
Vinification Method: Macerated on its skins for about 5 days in concrete tanks, then fermented in french oak barrels. Aged in barrel for about 7 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with a small addition of sulfur.
Our winemaking philosophy and cellar practices have not changed since we made our first wine in 2003. Our vineyards are farmed sustainably/organic/biodynamic and in our cellar our list of ingredients has never ventured beyond minimal effective Sulphur. We have occasionally skipped the Sulphur and have always done so on our Pet Nat wines. But here we have Syrah, picked at the optimum balance and crushed to concrete, with minimal punch down by hand. We pressed off to a mix of neutral and 1-3 year old French Oak barrels. No need for extended barrel or bottle aging as this wine is a natural beauty.” We added zero Sulphur (sans soufre). She is just fermented grape juice from vines grown in healthy soil at 2600 feet in the Sierra Foothills. So we call her Glou-Glou or “GG” for short for her delicious gulpability (expressed GiGi in honor of Jared’s mother).
Production: 180 cases
Elevation: 2800 feet
Soil: Decomposed granite w/ red clay loam
Varieties: 100% Syrah
Filigreen Farm Pinot Noir— Back to the top
Anderson Valley Pinot Noir can be magical. Filigreen Farm is a biodynamic land trust lovingly cared for by Chris and Steph Tebbuts. A visit to the farm is always nourishing for both the bountiful fruits available for snacking (mulberries, blueberries, apples, pears, cherries and more!) and the fascinating and stimulating conversations. The Pinot Noir block is adjacent to the block of Pinot Gris we have made since 2014 and the resulting wine boasts a savory vein that would make the varietals Burgundian ancestry proud.
Elevation: 400 feet
Soil:Alluvial with gravel & clay loam
Varieties: 100% Pinot Noir
Barsotti Gamay— Back to the top
Tracey & Jared on this wine: “In 2010, when we were planting the white varietals for our Eliza Blend with Ron Mansfield at the Barsotti Vineyard, others (Steve Edmunds, Nathan & Duncan at Arnot Roberts) were planting Gamay. In the Beaujolais region of France Gamay thrives on granite, so it made perfect sense to explore [the soils of] El Dorado. Both producers inspired us to plant Gamay at the Fenaughty Vineyard in 2018, which will result in our first wine in about 2023-24. In the meantime, the Barsotti Vineyard is now in full swing with a little extra fruit each year, so Tracey started making Gamay!”
Vineyard: Barsotti Vineyard in El Dorado. Musick decomposed granite, 2800ft above sea level. Planted in 2010. Sustainably farmed.
Making of: the grapes were fermented with wild yeast in concrete for 13 days. The wine then aged for 6 months in neutral French oak barrels. Bottled unfiltered in the following spring.
Personality: versatile red for summer! “If you chill it down, you’ll notice more high tone profile of tart berries and a touch of citrus with a strong acidic profile. Let that glass warm up and you are greeted with aromatics of your favorite baking spices, dried cherry, brambly blackberries, potpourri… Your mouth finds flavors of kumquat, blueberry and acai hold the wine together while it finishes with some grippy tannins and mushroom, sweet herbs and a hint of pepper. Pair this with some grilled tri-tip and a fresh Mediterranean salad,” Tracey recommends.
New Glou 2021— Back to the top
Tracey on this wine: “94 tons crushed here at 1340 5th Street and now it’s time to party & celebrate with a wine that was on the vine only 3 months ago! That about sums up the spirit of our New Glou. Beaujolais may have been first to go global with the idea of bottling up a first taste of the new vintage after the long and demanding harvest, but California Nouveau is now firmly established and shows no signs of slowing down.
“Our 2021 New Glou is chuggable, delicious and vibrant with exactly the right amount of big girl funk. It may not appear to be a white wine, but she should be served fully chilled, preferably while celebrating!”
Grapes: 63% Syrah, 10% Vermentino & 27% Merlot
Vineyards: Fenaughty (Decomposed granite w/ red clay loam, 2600 feet ASL) & Testa (Decomposed sandstone & Pinnobie loam, 1300 feet ASL), both practicing organic (not certified)
Making of: the grapes are crushed, shortly macerated on skins and then pressed and spontaneously fermented in stainless & French oak. Bottled in November 2021, zero sulfur added.
Personality: in Tracey’s words, “The milky magenta color lends proof to this zero-zero infant of a wine that is full of life and promise but too delicious to keep around long! All that you would expect from a glou-glou wine, zingy, tropical, juicy hard candy with a little spritz to tickle your palate and ensure one glass will not possibly be enough. This is a celebration of the new vintage and the harvest.”