Thursday, December 31, 2009

As everyone posts their end of the year

blog, I am going to try and catch up with some photos and video from my trip to Denmark. My new phone, a Droid, doesn't do so well with photos. There is a software bug that they need to fix.

The dinner took place in Haderslev. (My father's family emigrated to America from this area when it was under the rule of Bismark/Germany.) The food was delicious and the service delightful. I hope to return someday and enjoy another meal there -

Anyway, the dinner was great and we made the video directly after we finished eating. Take a look:

And some photos:


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Hej Copenhagen

After Stockholm, I had a great visit to Copenhagen. Our wines have been imported into Denmark for two years now and it was a pleasure to meet our importer, Ole Jensen, in person.

On Wednesday, he suggested we go to Sweden for lunch after I arrived at the airport. I was, of course, confused. (Fly from Sweden to Denmark to go back to Sweden?) After picking me up, we drove across the Oresund bridge to Malmo. We at lunch at a little restaurant called Bloom in the Park. It was by far the best meal I ate in Sweden and reminded how much I love Europe. Open for lunch by reservations only, we were served by the owner and the chef. The highlight was Swedish Truffles. I didn't know they existed - they do and they are great. Ours would found by Robin Hund - if you read Swedish, which I don't, you can read more about Robin Hund on Bloom in the Park's Blog.

After the lovely lunch and an hour exploring Malmo, we returned to Copenhagen.

Wednesday evening, Donkey and Goat was featured at a great wine maker dinner. The dinner for 24 was held at a private residence full of wonderful, contemporary Danish art.

The menu, deliciously home cooked, included:

Winemaker's Dinner





Salame Spianata, Prosciuotto crudo med sorte oliven

Bøffel-mozarella med ovnbagte marinerede sherrytomater

Paté af fasan braisseret I cognac

Syltet and, foie gras-mousse, rødvins-coulis med smørristet rugbrød

Roulade af andebryst serveret på en bund af babyspinat, ristede mandler, tranebær og citronfløde-dressing

Stiltonost med trøffelhonning







The dinner was great and went on late into the night. (I think I left around 3AM.) The guests were passionate about wine and had extensive knowledge of American wines. And our host, Ole, made me feel at home by even including cranberries on the menu in a nod to Thanksgiving.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Success in Sweden

Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of pouring at the Haut Les Vins Tasting at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden.

It is the first time we have poured our wines at an event in Europe and I was a bit nervous. The event focused on terroir driven, European wine makers, many making incredible wine. I was unsure how our wines would be received, how the label would be received and how easy it would be to talk about our wines considering I know not a single word of Swedish. (And, for that matter, how the wines traveled having flown from SFO to Stockholm just 36 hours ahead of the event.)

As the event started, I marveled at the room. Trade wine events are often held in large hotels - but this one had a bit more history than I am used to . The event was extremely well organized - names tags with color codes to understand who you were talking with for example (Importer, Retail or Restaurant ).

And it went well for us. Many people in the trade enjoyed the wines - several restaurants will take the wine as soon as it makes it to Sweden. And, most importantly, I hope to announce a Swedish and Finnish importers soon.

I am just learning about taking photos with my new phone - a Droid. So these didn't turn out great but I think you will get the idea.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Now that you have a taste box, lets taste!

If you have a taste box, now you can taste with us. Just get four glasses and label them with each wine using a dry erase marker. After that, sit down and watch the video.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Peter Liem's recent column about un-grafted vines in Wine and Spirits is worth a read. (Found via Eric Asimov's blog. )

We often make this same comparison between native yeasts and commercial yeasts. The native yeast is not a single species - various yeasts compete. Each vineyard clearly has its own flora. Thinking about the article made me wonder if it was actually even closer to talk about nutrients. Products like Fermaid ensure safe, complete fermentation. They also make sure that any nutrient lacking in the terroir is provided. Thinking in terms of cheese, imagine a Rochefort producer taking her sheep's milk and adding nutrients to make sure it was like velveeta.

At some point, it would be fun to try wines, from the same vineyard, made with ungrafted vs grafted vines, no added yeast, added yeast, no nutrients, added nutrients.

Anyway, if you want to try a bottle of ungrafted Chardonnay, pick up our Brousseau Chardonnay. The vines are ungrafted. And in late 2010, we will release a chardonnay from Anderson Valley which may be called "un-tended". It is from old, un-grafted chardonnay without any of the typical vineyard work. Our first effort (or perhaps lack of effort) at finding what true terroir, following, however inadvertently, the work of Masanobu Fukuoka.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Holiday Sampler and Distinctive Wine (Great Review)

We are starting to take pre-orders for our Holiday Sampler pack - a combination of wine samples, killer chocolate and full bottles. You can learn more about it at

Yesterday, we got another great review. As always, I like the note more than the score. But I can't complain about the 93...

Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar
Donkey & Goat
By Josh Raynolds

Nov/Dec 09

2007 A Donkey and Goat Winery Chardonnay Brosseau Vineyard Chalone

($45) Bright, slightly cloudy gold. Strikingly complex aromas of poached pear, Meyer lemon, iodine, mint and herbs, with hints of grapefruit rind and smoky minerals. Deeply concentrated, sappy and stony citrus and orchard fruit flavors stain the palate and are complemented by notes of anise, herbs and smoky lees. Really wild stuff, with excellent balance, precision and nervy minerality. The extremely long, dusty finish repeats the grapefruit, iodine and anise notes and clings with excellent grip and clarity. This is one of the more distinctive New World chardonnays I've tasted in a long time. 93pts


Friday, November 06, 2009

We are really going to Sweden...


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Tasting our 09 Rhone Whites

With harvest winding down, we have started to spend much more time tasting the wine.

As mentioned early, we made four barrels of Roussanne on their skins. Each wine was made in a different style and now the barrels are each tasting wonderful on their own way. It is popular to classify these wines as "orange" but I don't actually like the name. The reason, orange suggests a color and ours are clear. Skin contact doesn't equate to orange color.

We fermented these is 550 liter open top wood fermentors that have beed used for red wines. One was made 100% whole cluster - we just dumped the sorted grapes in. It is currently tasting the most interesting. There is a wonderful combination of clean fruit (carbonic maceration - not cold) and intense tannins.

One was made with Ver Jus to increase the acidity. We do this we our Chardonnay and wanted to see how it would work with the Roussanne. Tasted last week, the acidity is vivid. It leaps out of the glass - almost like something from the Alps. Crisp - reminds me of a cool fall day since there are undertones of earth.

The other two had variable punch downs and each show aspects of the grape and terroir. All 4 barrels show a bit of grapefruit - which is what we see every year. The grapefruit is less intense then in previous years which leads me to a question - have we lost some of the uniqueness of this site by switching to another winemaking style? One could argue that we are intervening less with this style but is that really the case?

I am thinking of calling this wine Stone-crusher (mining term since this is gold country after all) or maybe after a rapid since you can occasionally hear rafters going for an inadvertent swim when in this vineyard.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Our Manifesto

The other day Tracey copied me on an email dialog about our wines and thoughts on natural, organic and biodynamic. It's a pretty good manifesto so I thought I'd share on our blog. Tracey writes... "We make our wines for the table not the cocktail glass. We make Rhône varietals in both colors plus an unusual Chardonnay. We (my husband and winemaking partner Jared and I) strive to make wine as naturally as possible. We've done so since day one. Of late, natural is fashionable, which we do of course appreciate, but the reality is we've done this from the start because we feel it makes a superior wine while aligning with our environmental objectives.

We pick early, often weeks before anyone else considers it. Our whites are frequently at and under 13 and some of our reds are at/near 13.5 (both directions). Many of our vineyards are cool climate - we grow Syrah in Anderson Valley in order to get profile we want at a low alcohol. That said, we also don't adjust alcohol to meet our goals. We have seen our wines end up higher in alcohol than other wineries in the same vineyard (who picked later) because we let the native yeast do their thing and don't add water or use reverse osmosis. So, yes we would love to make under 12.5 wines but to make wines naturally at that alc in California is impossible. We believe alcohol is a byproduct of our winemaking decisions and we try to live with the repercussions of our decisions rather than cover them up after the fact.

We have vineyards that are organic and even have a new one that was effectively abandoned - closer to the ideas of Masanobu Fukuoka. Biodynamic is very interesting to us but we are hesitant to adopt a management system that is dependent on copper sulfate due to health concerns. We are not alone in these. Alice Feiring blogged about Eric Texier's thoughts around this last Feb here: We have also strived to find vineyard managers who share our overall concern with the environment and desire for growing natural wine grapes. We struggle with doctrine that ignores excess and risks simply because it was determined to be okay for THAT doctrine. The religious analogies are so plentiful that I won't bother but I'm sure you get the idea. When it comes to dogma, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

In the winery, we are extremely careful with our winemaking to ensure we encourage but not manipulate the wines expression of origin (terroir and varietal). We also make decisions to ensure our wines belong on the table with food and not in cocktail glass in advance of anything edible. That means we pick based on flavor and acid. We ignore brix. We picked Syrah this year at 21.5 brix and it is gorgeous. We also picked Syrah at 23 brix and it is equally gorgeous. In both cases we were examining acid structure and flavors.

We ferment all wines (red and white) in wood vats. This is so key and no one is talking about the vast amounts of small lot wine made in plastic in this country. We abandoned plastic in our personal lives when we had our daughter and discovered the extensive research around chemicals like BPA leaching into liquids. We NEVER considered a square plastic bin for fermentation because it's plastic and it's entirely the wrong dimension for vinification and IT IS plastic. But look in most US wineriers and you will find a square plastic vat with fermenting must.

We add nothing at the vat after crush save the occasional miniscule dose of SO2 if we have a rainy year where rot is an issue. That means no enzymes to enhance color and extraction, no tannin, no commercial yeast, no nutrients to feed the super yeast and 95% of the time no SO2 (until after MLF completes). We can control temperature via manipulating ambient temperature with a refrigerated container and warm rooms within the winery. That's it. For the labor it's all manual. Picking. Sorting. Foot stomping. Punch down. Our hands are in the wine each day and we taste each day and the only time we've ever had a problem was in 2004 when we inoculated a few vats as an experiment to prove our wild yeast preference. The inoculated vats had stuck fermentations and we later dumped the wine rather than fall down the slippery slope of additions to correct additions (we dumped the equivalent of 50 cases). That is one of the problems we have with inoculations. Winemakers choose cultured yeast for various attributes that include performance and aromatic profile. But the lab yeast need huge amounts of food. So the regimen becomes, kill the microbial life with SO2 & Lysozyme, add super yeast, add vitamins and nitrogen (DAP or diammonium phosphate being very popular) to feed these hungry microbes. Then hope the yeast don't put off any off aromas like H2S because of the imbalance in their diet. If they do, add Copper. Then rack and filter and add more SO2... it never stops. And don't get me started on the great irony of adding vast amounts of DAP to the vat to feed yeast. Guess which yeast also LOVES DAP and for that matter any additive rich in thiamin. Read the ingredients on most wine additives and you'll see thiamin at the front. That would be brettanomyces, the dark angel.

Back to us, we complete primary with just wild yeast sometime near the end of the year although in warmer years like this one I expect to be done going into December. MLF is also natural or with wild bacteria. This is easy for us because we do not buy ANY new oak barrels. We buy a supply of 1 year old barrels each year from a single source (relevant for cleanliness) and rotate them in. Our lots see from zero to 35% one year old barrels. As a result we have plenty of Lactobacillus in our used barrels so again, no inoculation, no nutrients and no problems. We have one wine (our Brosseau Vineyard Chardonnay) that does not complete and rarely starts MLF. We do not kill the wine with SO2 and we do not filter. The pH on the wine is in the 3.1-3.2 range which is a natural prohibitor of MLF and we've never had a problems with bottle ferm and been making this wine since 2003. We do make it in an unusual manner. Again back to France. Eric taught us a trick he uses in warmer years. Pick the vineyard twice and blend to lift acidity. It's that simple. The first pick happens to be hugely unusual at veraison but still, pretty simple. You can get a better idea of this here: Oh, and that is an organic vineyard.

The rest I'll just list and save you the rationale given my dense email. We stay sur lie until the wines tell us not too (no prophylactic racking or micro oxygenation). We do not clarify or heat/cold stabilize and we almost never fine or filter. On the occasions we have we've labeled accordingly.

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."


Monday, November 02, 2009

You know it is a hard harvest

when we don't post for over a month. Isabel has been helping at the winery this year. She knows how to wrap fermentors for sulfur candles, lower the press tray using the down control on the forklift when we need to place it back on the trolley (it takes two, one to lower, one to move the trolley) and punchdown. Here she is last night wearing pink, working hard.


Saturday, October 03, 2009

A Matter of Taste

"Zeez young American girl...I am surprised. She eez young and thin, but she can drink like a taxi driver!" This is what the French uncle of Eric and Laurence had to say about me last night over magre de canard. I almost choked on the Burgundy pinot noir that Eric had just poured for me. But then he continued, "non, non, it eez a compliment...I am impressed! And it eez important if she wants to be a winemaker."

It's true, one of the most important things I've learned from Jared and Tracey, and again from Eric, is the necessity of tasting, tasting, and more tasting. Both in the cellar and out. It is crucial to learn and recognize the qualities you like in a wine, and that goes for recreational wine enthusiasts as well. Bien sur! In the cellar, tasting is the most reliable way to assess a wine's progress. Are there residual sugars? Does the wine seem to be going through malos yet? Is there a strange nose or taste that might indicate a harmful bacteria? With practice, the tongue can answer these questions and more. And this was always my favorite part of working at A Donkey and Goat. It's amazing the vast differences you can find between various vineyards of the same grape, and even between separate barrels of the same wine! That's the magic of terroir, for you. And thanks for putting my taste buds in training right from the very start, Jared and Tracey. They've got a long way to go, but I think the ride will be very enjoyable...and delicious!

And I guess if being a struggling winemaker fails, I can always make some money as a taxi driver...

For more adventures along the wine route of the Rhone Valley, check out my blog at


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It's true, the grape doesn't fall far from the vine. Following in Jared and Tracey's footsteps, I am now here in the Rhone Valley of France working with their former mentor, Eric Texier. This being my first time in France, I have finally gained exposure to the magic of Old World wine. The intricate world of wine here in France can feel overwhelming at times, but working at A Donkey and Goat last year prepared me well. Through working the vendange (harvest) here, I have realized the important traditions that Jared and Tracey brought back with them to the winery in Berkeley: focus on terroir, natural winemaking methods, striving for complexity, and evaluations based on taste.

With harvest still upon us, we have been hustling and bustling, picking and crushing. This complete immersion in French culture has transported me far away from life back in Berkeley, but a nice quiet Sunday afternoon chez Texier brought a little taste of home...literally. As the rain pitter-pattered down on the roof, I sat down with the family for a leisurely lunch. Pot-au-feu avec du poulet (chicken stew), fromage, and tarte aux figues (fig tart) paired perfectly with A Donkey and Goat's 2004 Vieilles Vignes Syrah. Of course, I had tasted many a D&G wine (it was part of the job, after all), but I had never tasted the first vintage. Robust and peppery but with a hint of vanilla on the finish, I was very impressed with such an early release. If you managed to delay gratification and save the 2004 VV Syrah as well, I can vouch that it is drinking very well at the moment. Sante!


Monday, September 21, 2009

A video about making Ver Jus

Tom Bentley made this great video about our making verjus. I hope you enjoy it.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Can Unicorn's determine when to pick grapes

Isabel and I checked her vineyard on Labor Day. I sampled by the cluster, Isabel sampled by the grape. We jointly determined that a bit more sugar would be good - either for juice or wine.

I expect us to harvest this vineyard in late September or earl October.


Monday, September 07, 2009

More vineyard updates

A short video from the Lightner Vineyard. One of the great things about this vineyard is the view (okay - just kidding, it is great but...).

The vineyard is close enough to the American River that it is always windy. This wine help keep mildew and other bugs at bay naturally. We will first pick this vineyard, the Syrah, either in late September or early October. It should be a great year here.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Update from the foothills

Yesterday morning, I drove up to the foothills to check several vineyards. Most pressing was Ellen Ridge. The grapes are ripe - lots of brown seeds, good sugars and nice acid. (24 Brix, PH of 3.37 and TA of 7.5 G/L)

Ellen Ridge is on the edge of the American River canyon at about 1,800 feet above sea level. The blue label is right where our vines are.

View Ellen Ridge Vineyard in a larger map

This year we are going to try something totally different with our Roussanne. 50% will be fermented on the skins in an open top wood fermentation vessel. The other 50% will be fermented whole cluster. It should be interesting. Not sure what day we are picking but it will be soon.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Chardonnay is slowly fermenting towards greatness. You can watch my update and learn how to measure brix.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Some nice new reviews from Parker

Robert Parker recently reviewed several of our wines. The conventional wisdom is that Parker loves low acid wines. Being fans of high acid wines, one might think he would dismiss ours.

Not the case - he liked both our Prospector and Four Thirteen.

2007 A Donkey and Goat Four Thirteen
RATING: 89 points
FROM: El Dorado, Sierra Foothills, California, USA
VARIETY: Proprietary Blend
SOURCE: WA, #184
Aug 2009

A gorgeous example of an El Dorado-styled Cotes du Rhone, the 2007 Four
Thirteen is a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, and Counoise. This
aromatic red exhibits plenty of sexy, sweet plum, black currant, and
cherry fruit intermixed with notions of loamy soil, pepper, and spice, a
savory, round, lush mouthfeel, and a heady finish. Drink this hedonistic
effort over the next several years.

2007 A Donkey and Goat The Prospector
RATING: 88 points
FROM: El Dorado, Sierra Foothills, California, USA
VARIETY: Mourvedre
DRINK: 2009 - 2013
SOURCE: WA, #184
Aug 2009

The 2007 The Prospector reveals surprising elegance considering it is
nearly 100% Mourvedre along with sweet blueberry and cassis intermixed
with hints of underbrush and forest floor. Medium-bodied and well-made
with silky tannins as well as a very good finish, it should evolve for 3-4

Tel. (510) 868-9174
-Robert Parker


Chardonnay Fermentation and Golds

Early this morning, I went and checked on our Chardonnay barrels. Each year, we try and fill the barrels to just the right height - an impossible task. I find that the native yeast, from Brosseau, are very foamy in there first few days of fermentation.

On a different note, the Journal of Wine Economics just released its newest issue. The lead article analyzes the reliability of Gold medals awarded at 13 California Wine Fairs. “An analysis of over 4000 wines entered in 13 U.S. wine competitions shows little concordance among the venues in awarding Gold medals. Of the 2,440 wines entered in more than three competitions, 47 percent received Gold medals, but 84 percent of these same wines also received no award in another competition. Thus, many wines that are viewed as extraordinarily good at some competitions are viewed as below average at others. See the full PDF here.


Monday, August 31, 2009

Night Harvest Video

We picked Chardonnay a week ago today. It has started to ferment thanks to the native yeast.

I made a few videos with my flip camera - here is one of the better ones.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Happy Harvest!

Harvest season has officially started. Monday our team picked, sorted, stomped and pressed the bright and juicy Chardonnay grapes. Ever since Jared, Justin, and I tasted the fresh grape juice last week, I've been waiting anxiously for harvest to officially begin. Seriously, I would've gulped down a whole glass of the sugary but full-flavored stuff if there was not the threat of a terrible stomach ache to follow.

We met at the winery around noon, and discussed the game plan over fried chicken sandwiches from Bakesale Betty. Or rather, Jared and Tracey attempted to explain the plan over high-pitched yelps from Izzy, who was playing hide-and-seek behind the huge truckload of grapes. Soon our small but mighty group of workers got started. Though I missed some of the floor action while I was holed up in the lab, I did witness some brave efforts. First, there was Linda, with the eyes of a hawk, spotting and plucking numerous earwigs who loved hiding in the clusters. Then I experienced my first black widow encounter as Lisa risked her life (or at least the possibility of getting a very painful bite) by removing it from the sorting table. Also worthy of mention was Alex's foot-stomping skills. He hopped in the huge barrel of green grapes not once but twice, despite the rather unpleasant feeling of perpetually sinking in cold, sticky juice. Meanwhile, I proudly donned the geeky lab goggles and was thrilled to realize that the painful Monday through Friday summer Chemistry class that I just completed was actually making lab work easier! I measured the pH and titratable acidity and based on the numbers and the vibrant taste of the Chardonnay grapes and juice, it looks to be another great year.

I am so glad I had the opportunity to be a part, however small, of Donkey and a Goat's harvest this year. Jared and Tracey have taught me so much in the past year, and I can't wait to learn from their former mentor, Eric Texier, in France. I owe them so much and can't wait to hear how the rest of the harvest season unfolds!


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

If you are wonder why the Chicago Bears

had such a good game last Saturday, we suspect it was because of the wine served before the game...

Thanks Scott and Helen for the photo and your support!


Monday, August 17, 2009

Syrah In The Wildneress

Two of our Syrah Vineyards are off the grid in Mendocino. We spent time at both of them this past weekend.

Perli Vineyards is south of Anderson Valley beyond the end of the pavement on Fish Rock Road. It has been in the Alden Family for several generations. The vineyard has a complete collections of wildlife - rattlesnakes, bears, scorpions, goats, deer, and raccoons just to name a few. In fact legend has it that Steve Alden, the owner, made a living trapping animals many years back.

We grafted a vineyard over a few years back with Steve - Hog Pen. In this video, Steve talks about the clones and the vineyard name. We like 877. He likes 174.

As a family, we camped on the vineyard. Didn't see a bear or a live rattlesnake, but we did see a scorpion. Isabel makes a short appearance in the background. We left the Prius at the cabin/campsite this time - didn't want to have it towed out from the vineyard again.



Broken Leg Vineyard Update

Verasion is just starting for some of our Syrah in the Anderson Valley and Mendocino Ridge area. We spent the weekend in the vineyards checking on status, camping and eating a great dinner thanks to Steve Alden at Perli Vineyards.

More videos are coming.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Quick Video From 2009 Open House

Thinking about our party coming up - take a look at the spring party.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rousseau and South Carolina

Over a wonderful bottle of 2000 Rousseau, I recently spent an evening talking about the embattled Governor of South Carolina. Evidently, he is considered a hero by many in France for following his heart or at least being torn about what to do. This honestly and tension is unusual for an American. (Until I had heard this perspective, I tended to focus solely on his hypocrisy.)

Winemakers often face a similar dilemma. Last year, the LA Times ran an article about a famous winemaker who, according to the writer, had tried to make wines for a very famous critic and himself and got lost in the process. You can read the article here - (N.B. The winemaker claims to have been misquoted.) More recently, Eric Asimov wrote about one of my favorite wineries in Spain, López de Heredia, who has stuck to their tradition and not tried to follow two masters. In the article, Mr. Asimov quotes another wineries sales director:
“Our technical director is very keen to protect the Marqués de Riscal identity, which I understand, but business is business,” the commercial director, Javier Ybañez Creus, told me.

In both cases, a desire for commercial success caused something to be lost.

Being small, we are lucky that our friends support us and we are able to follow our hearts. We do this with our Chardonnay - using Ver Jus and making something unique to us. We also do this with our Syrahs - bucking the trends and doing what we want. I hope we are able to stay true to our hearts and continue our no compromise wine making....


Fall release is out

Our fall release has been posted and the wines are all tasting great. Included in the release is our schedule of events. One that I wish I was attending is another wine dinner in Greenwich CT. Chis, the chef/owner, is a great guy and this looks tasty. Tracey will be there and on the East Coast for a full week. Isabel and I (along with Justin and Lisa) will hold down the fort/winery.





$75.00 a person + tax & gratuity
280 Railroad Ave
Greenwich, CT06830


Friday, August 07, 2009

Getting ready for harvest

If you are reading this blog on our website, you are seeing the new look and feel. We lauched the site on Wednesday evening - it is still not complete but we are getting there. Hopefully, we will get it done over the weekend.

The new look is too match our new label. After 4 (or 5 if you count the rose or 6 if you count the unreleased 2003 wines) harvests with our first label, we decided it was time to change the look. We love our original label but felt we need to the label to match our wines a bit better - refined, elegant and balanced.

The old label will live on for experimental and on the edge wines. in 2010, look for a small release of Isabel's Crazy... with the old label.

On top of our new label, we are getting ready for harvest. We have two delightful new interns starting at the winery for harvest - Justin and Lisa. Justin has already started - picking up our new 1 year old barrels. In the lab, we will have Anna starting to help on weekends as well. Hopefully they will all occasionally post on the blog.

Danielle is leaving us for harvest in Charnay with Eric Texier. We will miss her around the winery and the help her ultimate team provided last year. Of course, having worked harvest with Eric, we are sure she will have a wonderful time and learn an incredible amount.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Hot Young Turk....

It is fun to get noticed. It took some time but our small winery and wines seem to be a little bit of a press roll. Good time to be on a press roll - just read about a famous winery which is 40% off in revenue this year. (We aren't off 40% because of our wonderful customers.)

Anyway, The Tasting Panel magazine recently named me as a winemaker to watch or more precisely as a "Hot Young Turk". One of four rising stars in California making Rhone Wines. It was great to read. You can read the article online at The Tasting Panel. Tracey, of course, deserves as much credit as I do if not more.


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Best Urban Winery - Magazine and TV

We were recently honored by being selected as the best Urban Winery in the East Bay.

No big Cabs. No buttery Chardonnays. No grapes from the wine mecca to our north. Really, the beauty of A Donkey and Goat Winery is the individuality of its owners. In 2001, Tracey and Jared Brandt left high-tech jobs to learn winemaking in France. They make what they like: Rhône wines with a nuanced balance of fruit and acidity—and the occasional stunning grace note of, say, thyme. Their wines are in more and more restaurants and shops, and you can taste at the winery by appointment.
Diablo Magazine - Best of the East Bay 2009 - Editors Pick
They also promoted our wine a spot on ABC 7's View From the Bay today.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Summer Time in Berkeley

Last year, if you remember, a leading "conservative" commentator was promoting that all Americans should not do business with Berkeley since the city supported a group trying to stop Marine recruiting. Melanie Morgan since lost her job and the boycott seems to have disappeared.

We lost an order over it and I started to doubt Mrs. Morgan conservative credentials. A small business should suffer over a parking space? (And of course, I don't think the boycott was thought through. The Mayor is an ex-Marine. Berkeley may be liberal but Cal runs Laurence Livermore Labs which both works to protect us from various attacks and designs the next generation of nuclear bombs. )

Anyway, we just spent a long weekend at Berkeley's Family Camp. It was delightful and I think it is as close to the 1950s I will ever get. The camp, run by Berkeley's Parks and Recreation, is located near Yosemite. We stayed in a small tent cabin within feet of the Tuolumne river. Isabel spent time with other kids in Kiddie Camp, playing on the beach, hiking and having fun. The wonderful staff did everything from feeding us 3 meals a days to singing campfires and even putting on a play.

It was over 100 degrees on the day we arrived. We chilled our 4 13 and drank it cool. Turns out, it drinks well in 1950 or at least 3500 feet above sea level...


Monday, June 15, 2009

Some Interesting Wines and a Fun Time

We enjoyed dinner at Franklin Square Wine Bar this evening. We are big fans and now they have kid night. $10 buys entertainment and dinner for your child. They also have many great wines available by the taste, glass or bottle. The table next to us was enjoying Four Thirteen - great choice of course. We decided to taste some things we hadn't had before....
  • 2007 Esporão Blanco from Alentejo, Portugal. It was made with Antão Vaz. Never heard of this grape and very much enjoyed it.
  • 2007 Berroia, Txakolina de Bizaia, Spain. It was made with 90% Hondarribi Zuri, 6% Folle Blanche, and 4% Riesling. I have had several Txakolina wines before and really like this one. Worth seeking out.
  • 2007 José Palacios from Bierzo. Made with Mencia. We actually have some older bottles of this in the cellar. Very nice.
  • 2005 Castillo de Ulver, vino de la Tierra Castiila y Leon. Also made with Mencia.
If you are in Oakland, have a child and want to join us one Monday night, drop us a line.


Monday, June 08, 2009

NYT Supports The Way We Make Rose...

There was a huge debate on changes to EU rules regarding the making of Rosé. The EU was proposing that Rosé could be made blending red and white wine. The idea was to make wines more competitive. Today, the proposed rule change was rejected. In an interesting twist, the New York Times printed an editorial supporting tradition.
First, a little explanation. Rosés are not, as some people believe, a mix. In Provence, the most frequently used method for producing a true rosé is called maceration, a delicate process in which the skins of crushed red grapes are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for several hours before they are removed and the fermentation proceeds. The grape skins impart the light red color to rosé. Their quick removal reduces the tannins in the final product, making rosés more like a fine dry white.
FRANÇOIS MILLO, New York Times, June 7, 2009 Taking the Bloom Off the Rose
Of course, there are lots of other regulations for making Rosé. If you are interested in the AOC regulations for Tavel for example and you read French, they are published at


Friday, June 05, 2009

A blog with some great photos..

I just had a great trip to New York and Connecticut this past week. I met a ton of our customers - consumers, servers, sommeliers and retail sales people. It is always great to talk to the people who sell and drink our wine. It is even better when they love the wine which they did!

Our friends at Ancona's Wine & Liquor mentioned they had blogged about Isabel's Cuvee on their The Last Great Glass blog. Looking for the post this morning (Donkey...), I ended up reading a ton of beer reviews. If you like beer, you should check out this blog -


Monday, June 01, 2009

Temperature and wine

We celebrated Tracey's birthday for a second time this weekend. We arrived at the beach early, as in 8:00 AM, to ensure we got the best possible spot at Heart's Desire Beach. (If you haven't been, go this summer. I think it is closing with the California budget cuts after Labor Day - When we got there, it was empty. The fog was in and it was cold. Having a beach to yourself (with a friend for Isabel to play with) is about as nice as it gets.

Around 11, as more people arrived, we opened more and more red wines despite our plan to focus on Isabel's Cuvée (our rosé). The reds worked better with weather - especially the Syrah's. Even 4/13 was a bit too bright for the cold beach.

Watching my daughter on the beach and everyone drinking red wine, I thought about how specific times and places are. The last time we were this beach, a white would have been perfect. On Saturday, the Syrahs were perfect.

As the 2008 Roussanne gets closer to bottling, I am struck by how influenced it is by the weather. The 2007 from Fenaughty was dominated by a mineral streak. The 2008 is more like cider with honeysuckle. I can still taste the vineyard but I think the weather plays a bigger influence. 2008 was warmer then 2007 and it was a shorter season. The minerality is there but not as pensive. To compare it to the beach, 2007 was a foggy day at a northern California beach. 2008 is a warm day at the beach in Santa Cruz...

Photo by Mega Leslie.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Upcoming Wine Dinner in Greenwich, CT

Come join me next Wednesday for a great dinner in Greenwich, CT. Details below:


JARED AND TRACEY'S WINERY - otherwise known as the

These two fine people have a winery that is up and coming from California and you really have to taste their handcrafted wines.

The wines are going to be a surprise. The food will be matched perfectly and the evening with Jared (the owner will be exciting).

Please don't miss this; and it would be so wonderful for all of you to come and give Jared support. We have known him for over 20 years - before the wine dream became a reality!!

Call 869-8944 Horseneck for Reservations
Or call Ian at Morello Bistro at 661-3443 for Reservations






Interesting Fining Trial

As many of you know, our grapes from Mendocino came in with smoke 'taint' this year. The vines and grapes were exposed to smoke on and off for about a month. With extra careful handling, we have mitigated the smoke flavor and smell to the point where many tasters now like it.

All of that said, we have also been reading and talking with others about how to handle this and kept some wine untreated for experimenting. A few weeks back we learned of a ancient technique from Eric. He learned it from retired wine maker in the Beaujolais. The natural ingredients took some time to acquire (thanks Lisa and Emmons) and process. Our first trial was a success - amazing. The smoke on the nose is gone outright. The smoke on the palate is barely noticeable.

We will keep experimenting to perfect it...


Sunday, May 24, 2009

A great wine note

Writing wine notes is hard. We always get a group of friends with great palates and even better descriptors for a round table tasting when we are trying to write out notes for our release letters. Tracey, having just returned from VA and DC, brought a note back from the Wine Kitchen - - that I enjoyed and thought I would share it.
Who: The Recluse, A Donkey and Goat
What: Syrah
Where: Anderson Valley, California
When: 2006

What we thought.....
Like an elephant on a tightrope, huge flavors of blueberry and cherry are perfectly balanced with loose black tea and coca notes. The scent of violets and dried fruits round out this full-bodied syrah from a cooler region of California wine country.

Great note - wish I could write them like this.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Isabel's Pink shown on the WSJ

Isabel's Cuvée is shown on a recent video on the WSJ. Too bad they aren't drinking it- it is tasting great.

We have also been getting lots of consumer feedback which we love. From a recent CellerTracker note by MrFroopy
Really really juicy, yet dry and delicious. More body than I usually like in a rose but this pulls it off with nice all around balance..
a tiny bit too much of that grenache sweetness on nose.. but that is my pet peeve.. would like a tiny more minerality, but this wine rocks.. one of the best
california Vin gris ever.

Grenache does have a sweet nose. I always notice it on our 13 series wine for the first two or three years.

I recently bottled the last of Isabel's Crazy Rosé . We made about 15 liters. It was basically unsulfured, unfiltered, aged sur lie (and lots of lees!) rosé. The nose smells of peanuts and sherry - we intentionally let the wine be exposed to the air. The body, pure grenache gris. People who have tasted it either love it or hate it. If you happen to come by the winery, ask for a taste.


Friday, May 08, 2009

We recently got a very nice review from Gary Vaynerchuk and Katie Lee Joel (Billy Joel's wife). Get all the details on Gary V's website - Wine Library TV

Isabel (our daughter) was thrilled with their comments but didn't think they should be spitting her wine...

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Friday, May 01, 2009

A Wonderful Dinner At Coco500

We had a great dinner this past Wednesday at Coco500 - a big thanks to Clay, Betsy and all of the staff that make Coco500 such a great place.

Grilled heart sounded like it might be tough. Turned out, it was great. The meat was perfect and the pollen added a really interesting touch.

The braised shoulder melted in the mouth. And the the buckwheat cavatelli was to die for.

The third course was heaven for a lamb lover. The loin was a perfect pairing for the Fenaughty.

And then, the cheese course. It was simply brilliant to pair the cheese course with our minerally, light Roussanne.

Writing about is making me hungry...


Monday, April 27, 2009

Some Northern California places to try our sold out wines

At the winery, we are now sold out of the 07 El Dorado Roussanne, 08 Isabel's Cuvée Rosé, 07 The Prospector Mourvèdre and 07 Brosseau Chardonnay. (We even sold our stash, except for a few bottles with bad labels and other defects which are perfect for us.)

That doesn't mean you can't try the wine. Here is an incomplete list of places with them in Northern California. Some may have already sold out as well.

East Bay:
  • B Restaurant - Isabel's Cuvée Rosé and The Prospector Mourvèdre (Oakland)
  • Franklin Square Wine Bar - Almost always has something of our - just ask (Oakland)
  • Garibaldi's on College - Isabel's Cuvée Rosé (Oakland)
  • Side Bar - The Prospector Mourvèdre (Oakland)
  • Vine at Bridges - Isabel's Cuvée Rosé (Danville)
  • - Isabel's Cuvée Rosé and The Prospector Mourvèdre (Berkeley - block from the winery)
  • Wines on Piedmont - Isabel's Cuvée Rosé and The Prospector Mourvèdre (Oakland)
  • Wood Tavern - Isabel's Cuvée Rosé (Oakland)

San Francisco:
  • Coco500 - Isabel's Cuvée Rosé, 07 Brosseau Chardonnay, 07 Tamarindo and others for the upcoming wine dinner.
  • Epic - The Recluse 06
  • Netty's Crab Shack - Isabel's Cuvée Rosé
  • Maverick's - Isabel's Cuvée Rosé, Roussanne and The Prospector Mourvèdre
  • Swirl - Isabel's Cuvée Rosé

  • Sausalito Yacht Club - The Prospector Mourvèdre (Sausalito)

Wine Country
  • Bistro des Copains - Isabel's Cuvée Rosé (Occidental)
  • El Dorado Kitchen - Isabel's Cuvée Rosé (Town of Sonoma)
  • Mosaic - Isabel's Cuvée Rosé (Forestville)
  • Valley Wine Shack - Isabel's Cuvée Rosé (Town of Sonoma)

Gold Country
  • The Prospector - The Prospector Mourvèdre (Twain Hart)

If you do try any of these places, tell them we sent you. You can also sign up for the mailing list for next crack at these wines.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Nice mention in the WSJ

Our weekend was kicked off with a nice mention by the Wall Street Journal's
Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher in Tastings "Grenache Enters the Spotlight".
There is also Grenache Gris, which still isn't recognized as a U.S. varietal wine on its own, but which is sometimes made into a rosé in the U.S. (Other Grenache rosés are made from regular Grenache.) A winery called A Donkey and Goat makes a tasty rosé from Grenache Gris, and the one we had in Santa Barbara, Curran Wines 2007, was remarkably focused and intense. The owner and winemaker, Kris Curran, says she made 100 cases of the rosé after tasting the Donkey and Goat version, deciding how she'd make it differently and buying cuttings from their source that were then planted for her.

On Sunday, our winery was featured at B Restaurant's Sunday dinner. We had a great meal with friends, celebrated 2 birthdays and talked to some really wonderful new customers.

What a great weekend!


Friday, March 27, 2009

Off The Vine Loves A Donkey and Goat.

Off The Vine recently posted reviews for both our Roussanne and Rose.
2007 Donkey & Goat Winery - Roussanne, El Dorado - 89
Fresh, and supple this wine offers notes of honeysuckle, citrus and pear. on the palate a creamy texture and nuanced mix of pear, more citrus zest and bread yeast. A long finish with a sort of lime-aid zip. We loved this wine. and wished there was a bit more to go around!

2008 Donkey and Goat - Grenache Rosé - McDowell Valley, Ca 89+
Wonderful salmon “think pink” colorgetsyou in the mood. This wine delivers sweet strawberry and floral aromas with an earthy minerality that reminds one of a fine Bandol from the south of France. With a refreshing acidity and good depth it should pair well with many foods. This is a winner!
Check out their site for great wine and food reviews.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Winemaker Dinner: A Night of Firsts

Last night's Winemaker Dinner at Franklin Square Wine Bar in Oakland was a night of many firsts. It was the first time I'd ever been to the wine bar, but I dare say it will not be the last. What a cool little spot with some of the most energetic staff you'll ever see! Also, it was the first time I'd ever tasted goat. I must admit, after discussing the potentially cannibalisitic element of eating goat while drinking A Donkey and Goat wine, I was somewhat hesitant to dig in. But my tastebuds were so happy that I did, and I can only hope that the Donkey will someday forgive me for savoring his dear little friend.

And the wines, of course! This was the first time I sampled some of the finished and bottled--as opposed to barreled--spring releases. I thought I knew exactly what was in store, but I was quite taken by surprise! Compliments to Jake, the chef, for making such bold but happily-married pairings that really enhanced the individual wines. And the winemakers, of course, couldn't resist the opportunity to impose some experimental side-by-side vintage tasting. Comparing the Tamarindo Rousanne with it's (successful) experimental sibling, the El Dorado Rousanne, proved what a difference the extended lees contact on the latter made. The Tamarindo offered a refreshing citrus, while the Rousanne left long, rich taste of honey on the palate. Similarly, the singular addition of Counoise to make 2007's Three Thirteen into 2008's Four Thirteen transformed it, as one fellow diner vouched, from a 4 pm wine to a 9 pm wine. Indeed, when directly contrasted, the Three Thirteen flirts with fruit and the Four Thirteen shouts of spice. What a night of fabulous firsts for all!

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