Donkey & Goat Winery
2011 Donkey and Goat Improbable Chardonnay Wine Review
Donkey & Goat is a wife and husband owned and operated winery. Tracey & Jared Brandt produce small amounts of natural wines at their Berkeley winery. They focus on Rhone wines (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Roussanne, Marsanne and more) working with vineyards in El Dorado and Mendocino regions. We make our wines for the table not the cocktail glass. We make Rhône varietals in both colors plus an atypical Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir true to the varietals nature. We strive to make wine as naturally as possible. We’ve done so since day one. Of late, natural is fashionable, which we appreciate, but we’ve always made wines this way because we feel it makes a superior wine while aligning with our philosophies.
Located in the heart of Berkeley, California.
- Tracey & Jared trained in France, and their maverick winemaking has helped pave the way for the natural wine movement.
- Meeting / Conference Facilities:
- Wedding Facilities:
- Picnic Facilities:
- Dog Friendly:
- Winery Tours:
- Wine Tasting:
- Art or Architecture:
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- Lodging / Bed & Breakfast:
Practices & Techniques
Many wineries ferment white wines in wood. For reasons that we speculate are first driven by operational concerns, many small lot producers ferment in square plastic bins. We are skeptical of this practice in general and know through experimentation that wood is a far superior material for our fermentations. Today we use 500L puncheons which will hold roughly a ½ ton of grapes which makes roughly 1 barrel. During the weeks leading up to harvest Jared spends many weekends preparing the puncheons. We find our wood vats to be superior for insulation, dimensions for cap formation and permeability of oxygen. And we feel good about the fact this metabolic process, which interacts with the vat, is happening in a vessel of natural origin with no potentially nasty chemicals leaching into the wines.
We do not use cultured yeasts for our primary fermentation or secondary or malo-lactic fermentation. We have found that by letting the native or ambient yeasts do what they’ve been doing for thousands of years our fermentations go dry, we have little to no problems during fermentation and most important, the flavor profile is superior. We also generally like to follow the guideline that if we can not ingest it then we don’t put it in the wine which means we do not add enzymes to enhance color, tannins, or any other characteristic. Our wines include what Mother Nature gave them.
Every grape that goes into our wine goes down the sorting table where at least four and often six people examine the grapes and remove MOG (material other than grapes) like leaves, twigs, frogs, lizards, spiders and occasionally buttons?!?! This is actually the second sort because one of the benefits of our yellow bins is their efficiency for an effective field sort. And if we do have any issues on the sorting table (like rot, bird damage, diseased plants, etc) the whole cluster of questionable grapes is placed in a bin destined for the triage table. After the primary sort is completed we sort back through the triage bin at a much slower pace.
Depending on the lignifications of our stems, we will often keep a fair amount whole cluster. However, even if the grapes go through the crusher de-stemmer we ONLY remove the stems. We do not use the rollers to crush our berries. We often like to have 50+% whole berry and have found the tried and true method of pigeage à pied (foot stomping) to achieve the perfect amount of crushing. We like the results better than that of the crusher and our helpers have a huge amount of fun each year channeling Lucy.
We are extreme in our limited uses of sulfur, often getting an earful from lab technicians about the risks we face with such low levels. They are correct but we think we can mitigate our risk with extreme care and cleanliness and to date have been rewarded with superior wines.
We use gravity for most of our wine transfers. Because it was not feasible (yet!) for us to build a gravity based facility we use the forklift. There are a few situations where this won’t work but by and large we are either using the gentle bull dog with argon or gravity to move the wine. In both cases, the result is minimal intrusion to the wine.
We try to never say never because while we pontificate with the best of them the reality is we are trying to build a small business built on making the best wine possible and that invariably saying “never” may come back to haunt us. However I think we can safely say we never have and never will cold or heat stabilize our wine. Not that it is a terrible thing. We just think prioritizing clarity above flavor and aroma is the wrong thing to do. As a result our cloudy Chardonnay will always loose a clarity contest but boy does it taste good! We do not say “never’ when it comes to fining or filtering. We do operate on the assumption that we are not going to fine or filter but occasionally there are good reasons to do so in order to make the best wine possible. You can always tell what we’ve done because those wines that were not filtered advertise that fact on the front label.