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16 Important Names To Know In Natural Wine (Plus An Entire Country)

# 1 Tracey and Jared Brandt of Donkey & Goat….American husband and wife Jared and Tracey Brandt went to Europe to follow their passion: wine.  Their homage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape called 513 is dense, like great old-world Grenache-based wines, it still shows an exuberance of fruit and acidity that is decidedly new.

Nice write up on StoneCrusher.

The Chef immediately declared it an excellent wine for pairing with vegetables, especially the Kaboucha squash and mild Thai red chili soup she had made that afternoon. As we slowly tasted our way through the bottle—finishing the last glass with Blue Lupine, a blue cow and goat cheese from Weirauche Farm and Creamery in Sonoma.



Donkey and Goat “Broken Leg Vineyard” Syrah “The Recluse” (Anderson Valley)
Donkey and Goat is the brainchild of Tracey and Jared Brandt, who spent a year working with red Rhône maven Eric Texier in 2002, before moving to Berkeley and getting started with their own winery. Their facilities are in Berkeley, and they source fruit primarily in cooler vineyard sites in Mendocino and El Dorado counties. The couple seeks to make wines as naturally as possible, using indigenous yeasts and eschewing extraction enzymes and new oak. 2004 was their first vintage of Donkey and Goat. The 2011 bottling of “The Recluse”, from this
cool Anderson Valley vineyard came in at 13.1 percent alcohol and includes three percent viognier, with the wine including sixty percent whole clusters and being raised in a range of one to three year-old barrels. The wine is superb, jumping from the glass in a vibrant blend of cassis, black raspberries, woodsmoke, venison, black pepper, some medicinal syrah overtones, a bit of mustard seed and a lovely signature of soil. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and wide open in personality, with a great core of fruit, suave tannins and a very long, focused and complex finish. As the Brandts also practice a low SO2 regimen for their wines, the projected window of drinkability is conjectural, as this is the first vintage I have had the pleasure to taste their wines and do not have any experience with how their low sulfur wines will evolve with extended bottle age. Excellent wine. 2014-2025+?

2011 Donkey and Goat “Fenaughty Vineyard” Syrah (El Dorado)
Tracey and Jared Brandt also purchase fruit from the Fenaughty Vineyard in El Dorado, that I first became familiar with from tasting some of Steve Edmunds superb syrahs from this source. Their 2011 Fenaughty syrah is a bit cooler in profile than “The Recluse” coming in at 12.2 percent and offering up a more structured wine out of the blocks, but with even more potential for down the road. The excellent and youthful bouquet is a blend of black raspberries, cassis, grilled venison, espresso, stony soil tones, black pepper, woodsmoke and medicinal syrah
aromas. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, pure and sappy at the core, with a tightlyknit personality, superb focus and grip, moderate tannins and excellent length and grip on the still quite primary finish. Give this excellent bottle of syrah a couple of years in the cellar to blossom. 2016-2025+?


July August 2014, Issue 52
John Gilman


77 Cult Americans
Thanks to dynamic booze shippers Brooks & Amos and Pacetti Imports, some of the most innovative and exciting new-wave wines from the US are now available in Australia. Look for The Scholium Project, Channing Daughters, Donkey & Goat and Dirty & Rowdy on hipster wine lists near you.

Gourmet Traveler, Australia

Hot 100 2014


Three of our wines were reviewed in the November issue of Wine Enthusiast and awarded very high scores and even better words.

97 Donkey & Goat 2010 Fenaughty Vineyard Syrah (El Dorado). A seriously top of the heap California Syrah. This complex, interesting wine sings of black pepper and garrigue, fleshy in just-ripe cherry, leather and dark plum. From the mountainous Fenaughty Vineyard, always a good source, it finishes long and will age gorgeously if you can possibly wait to drink it; that pepper will mellow

This wine is highly allocated and only available in our HOLIDAY SAMPLER. It was also #8 on their top 100 cellar wines for the year.

95 Donkey & Goat 2010 Perli Vineyard Syrah (Mendocino Ridge). This Perli is a gem, a gorgeous reminder that California Syrah can be a liquified representation of beauty. Carrying violet overtones, the wine offers just-picked raspberry and a pronounced entry of peppery spice. Soft it has a long finish and complex subtleties approaching magic. Sit this wine in your cellar if you dare—it’s so good to drink now. —V.B.

This wine is  sold out.  We will be tasting on November 29th at the winery.

96 Donkey & Goat 2012 Grenache Noir Grenache (El Dorado). Spicy in aroma and mouthfeel, this is a wondrous wine, gorgeous in lovely ripe cherry and strawberry and completely enveloped in thrills of white pepper. Those who love cooler climate Rhônes will find much to ponder and celebrate here. Racy, it is fragrant and lean, made without fining or filtering. Seek this one out. —V.B.

This wine will be available in a holiday gift pack starting November 27th.

92 Donkey & Goat 2012 Improbable Chardonnay (El Dorado). Intense in minerality, Improbable imparts a subtle oak influence lurking behind its essential freshness of apple, lime and is silky in texture. Energetic, it’s clean and expressive, a vibrant showcase of California-meets-Burgundy in El Dorado, a region not always thought of for Chardonnay. —V.B.

This wine is  sold out.  We will be tasting on November 29th at the winery.

Popcorn with Donkey and Goat’s Lily’s Cuvee

These pairings of movies and wines are all, more or less, exercises in abstraction. The reality is you’ll probably be pairing your wine more often with popcorn than with whatever’s on the screen. To go with that, Vann suggests an American petillant-naturel: Lily’s Cuvee, made in Berkeley, CA, from grapes grown in the nearby Anderson Valley. Pet-Nat, as devotees call it, is, says Vann, “a naturally sparkling wine. Basically, it’s bottled with live yeasts and sugar. It gets drier and more pressurized as it ages. The Donkey and Goat’s Lily’s Cuvee is amazing. It’s really yeasty and mineral, but it has a lot of fruit. It’s 100 percent Chardonnay, and it’s weird because it’s, like, I’ve been shunning big fruity Chardonnays for years now. And this is not exactly a fruit bomb, but the hint of residual sugar is really cool, and useful with savory food. Drink it out of the bottle, after sneaking it into the theater.”

Matthew Kronsberg, Bon Appetit
Fall Movie Wine Pairings with Justin Vann
August 15, 2013

Lily’s is number 5


5. Lily’s Cuvée 2012 Chardonnay, Donkey and Goat 
Buoyant and unfiltered, made from Anderson Valley grapes by a Berkeley urban winery ($29.95 at Vine Wine).

Robin Raisfeld and Rob Patronite, New York Magazine
Pét-Nat, Champagne’s Hip Younger Sister, Hits Its Peak Season
July 22, 2013

Nice mention in the Wall Street Journal.   So far, Stu Smith of Smith-Madrone Winery  has not responded to my offer to taste.

That sounded all well and good. But would a vintner agree? I called Jared Brandt, a well-regarded natural winemaker and proprietor of Donkey & Goat Winery in Berkeley, Calif., and asked for his definition. “Natural wine is open to interpretation,” said Mr. Brandt. “People have their own concepts of what it means.” (Mr. Brandt, and his wife, Tracey, offer their full thoughts on the subject on the “Manifesto” page of their website,

Mr. Brandt said that he thinks the one thing that “people can seem to agree on” is that natural wines cannot be made with commercial yeast. Winemakers use different types of yeasts—some are “wild,” i.e., occurring naturally, while others are cultured for the specific qualities they impart.

Lettie Teague, Wall Street Journal
The Facts Behind the Rise of Natural Wine
July 5, 2013

Do the best rosés come from overseas?

Contrary to popular belief, some of the finest rosés are produced domestically. “It’s surprising, but in America there are some really delicious rosés,” says Joe Campanale. “Robert Sinskey in Napa is a standout, and it’s completely biodynamic. Donkey & Goat‘s rosé in Berkeley is also really excellent, as well as Lieb Cellars in Long Island.’

Lindsay Silberman, July 2013

We are humbled and proud to be on this short list complied by Eric Asimov of inspiring vintners leading the California wine renaissance. And that is the Broken Leg Vineyard Syrah (The Recluse) block behind us!

….”A new wave of energetic California winemakers has helped to push stylistic boundaries while bringing more attention to older producers who had been considered behind the times or out of fashion. These newer producers have been shaped by the same worldwide diversity of wines as their audience. They have been inspired not just by Bordeaux and Burgundy, Napa Valley and a neighboring producer whose wines received 100-point scores. Instead, they’ve looked to the traditions of northeastern Italy and the Jura, of Galicia and Sicily, of the Rhône Valley, Slovenia and many other lesser-known regions that make this moment so exciting for wine lovers.Their aim is not to slavishly copy these wines, but to be loyal to their inspirations while reflecting their California origins.  Read the article here

Eric Asimov June 19, 2013
The Pour,  New York Times

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar Annual Coverage of California’s North Coast came out yesterday and there was a lot of praise and accolades but my favorite by far was what Josh Raynolds says about our 2011 Coupe d’ Or.  You can read all of our reviews on this pdf.

Donkey & Goat 2011 Roussanne/Marsanne Coupe D’Or El Dorado Hazy gold. Ripe peach and quince aromas  and flavors are complemented by notes of ginger, honey and white pepper, with a lime zest nuance adding lift. A wild, expansive and deeply flavored, unfiltered wine that shows impressive intensity and chewy texture, with serious weight on the finish. Highly intriguing, but it’s bound to freak out those used to squeaky clean, polite wines. 90pts

Josh Raynolds, May 2012
International Wine Cellar,