The natural wine movement keeps growing, and Donkey & Goat winery has been in its forefront in California. This intense, honeysuckle-and-orange-peel scented 2011 Donkey & Goat Stone Crusher with spicy flavors is its tasty version of an “orange wine,” a white made the way a red is. The crushed grapes sit on the skins for a couple of weeks before pressing so they pick up color, structure, tannin and weight, yet still keep plenty of lively acidity.
Elin McCoy’s Wine of the Week
Region: El Dorado, Sierra Foothills, California
Grape: 100% Roussanne
Serve with: Chicken curry, roasted winter vegetables, rich fish stew
I sampled this wine at a Martin Scott portfolio tasting in New York where it was displayed on a table labeled “The Road Less Traveled.” That was probably the best place for it, considering it’s a cloudy brownish-gold colored wine that is definitely not mainstream. Yet the fact an important New York distributor, who handles expensive classics such as Burgundy superstar Domaine de la Romanée Conti, is pouring this wine shows just how much buzz unusual wines like this are beginning to get.
Donkey & Goat founders
Tracey and Jared Brandt, the couple behind Donkey & Goat, make their wines in a large warehouse in Berkeley, Calif., that has a courtyard with picnic tables and a bocce ball court. Both left the tech job world to get into wine, they interned with minimalist winemaker Éric Texier, one of the Rhone Valley’s most exciting producers, before venturing out on their own in 2003.
From the very beginning, the Brandts were determined to produce wine in as non-interventionist a way as possible. The manifesto on their website is a long list of no’s. Rather than always crushing grapes with machines, they like to employ feet. They ferment with wild, not commercial yeasts, and eschew enzymes, filtration and new oak. They do use sulfur, but way less than many wineries.
Stone Crusher is made from Roussanne, a white grape whose home is the Rhône wine region in France. The grapes come from a vineyard at 2,400 feet in El Dorado County in the Sierra Foothills. Grapes were first planted there during the Gold Rush.
This isn’t a simple, fruity, crowd-pleaser kind of wine. But it will give you some idea of California’s current cutting edge. And, by the way, it’s delicious.