Kitchen in Season caught up with Donkey and Goat winery’s Jared Brandt as they were celebrating their 10th Anniversary in Berkeley, California.
KIS Donkey and Goat was at the forefront of the East Bay’s urban winery up-spring, what were the advantages to opening up with this format?
JB We opened up in the bay area since I kept my day job for several years. It is nice to live in the urban environment and we find that we benefit from better relationships with our customers. We often have restaurant staff, who sell the wine at night, come and help make the wine in the day.
KIS Why the choice of Rhone varietals; was it because of vineyard sites or personal preference, or both?!
JB We choose Rhone varietals since we both loved drinking them, felt they fit the climate of California and it is what we learned to make. El Dorado, near rivers, is very similar to the Rhone Valley. Hot days, cool nights, granitic soils, loess etc.
KIS Donkey and Goat employs a very natural approach to wine making, do you find that more care and time is needed in the overall process?
JB We have been making wines in the same fashion since we started in 2004 with a focus on care. Our goal is to make great wine without touching it – we spend time making sure we don’t have to. Little things like not letting tools touch the ground and big things like no SO2 until near bottling all add up to make a wine we want to drink. Our ingredients are simple – hand harvested, hand sorted grapes and SO2.
KIS Are there any grapes that you are working with that haven’t made it to the public yet, or is there a wishlist of grapes that you would like to work with?
JB We have Clariette planted which we are super excited about. It will come on line next year. Tracey started a bio-dynamic pinot gris project this year which so far is lovely.
KIS Do you and your wife Tracey take on different roles in the wine making process?
JB Yes and no. Some wines we jointly own – e.g. we make all the decisions together. Some wines are predominately made by one of us. Many people wrongly assume it is reds verse whites. For us, it is vineyard and varietal based.
KIS What is next? I heard a rumor of a second label, any truth there?
JB We have started a second project called Cineres. The name comes from an inscription on a fireplace in Sicily – “Ignis Exardescit Et Exstinguitur, Cineres Manent, Haec Veritsa Vitae Est”. The wines are Napa fruit – Cab and Chardonnay. Made very naturally – so similar in that sense to Donkey and Goat. Different in that they will be racked a bit more often (once before the bottling racking verse only the bottling racking for Donkey and Goat) and with a bit newer of oak. Our interpretation of Napa.
KIS Is there anything else that is unique to Donkey and Goat that our viewers absolutely should know?
JB A very hard question to answer – maybe just that we hope they try the wines!