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Gallivanting for Donkey & Goat

Kevin Peterson

California is still cool. After declaring our love for the Golden State this spring – for the New California – we’re riding the euphoric high throughout the summer. Matthiasson is here. Clarine Farm is here. Arnot-Roberts is here. And now Donkey & Goat have arrived to join the party.

Located half a block away from Broc Cellars in downtown Berkeley, Jared and Tracey Brandt opened the doors at Donkey & Goat in 2004. They make righteous wine from mostly Rhône varieties, sourcing from sustainably farmed vineyards in the Sierra Nevada, Mendocino, and Napa. The power couple is enthusiastic about natural winemaking – from the farm to the cellar.

From working closely with growers who share their passion to using only the minimal amount of sulfites, Jared and Tracey pride themselves on producing wine as true to terroir and grape variety as possible. They don’t use commercial yeasts, they don’t fine or filter, and they add such a small dose of SO2 that their lab technicians give them an earful for the risk they run by not further preserving their wine.

Tracey Brandt of Donkey & Goat

Tracey Brandt of Donkey & Goat

Donkey & Goat

The Brandt's philosophy states that simple is more pure and ultimately better than producing with the complications that arise when using additives. They side with natural farming crackerjack Masanobu Fukuoka, who famously wrote, "When it is understood that one loses joy and happiness in the attempt to posses them, the essence of natural farming will be realized. The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” Translate to winemaking, and the Brandts don’t want to “own” their wine by manipulating it. Instead they prefer to let the juice run its natural course. Tracey posted a manifesto on the website’s blog that’s worth checking out if you’d like to read more about their philosophy and approach.

We brought in a red and a white from these rad cats. The Gadabout (defined as a habitual pleasure seeker) is a blend of vermentino, roussanne, marsanne, and grenache blanc. Clean, crisp texture harmonizes with richer notes of flowers and toast. A pleasure giver, if there ever was. The Gallivanter is a smokey red blend of pinot noir, syrah, and grenache gris. Dark fruit is raised with bright acidity and notes of rosemary and pepper. Although gallivant is a legit word, they took some license with gallivanter. I like to think of it as someone who flutters about in search of livestock.