I had the pleasure of getting out to California wine country this past November with my husband, Torrey, and I wanted to share a bit of that experience with you for this months’ club. One of our favorite visits was actually not even at a traditional vineyard- it was with the urban winery Donkey & Goat in Berkeley. Their warehouse-style winery and tasting room is more reminiscent of a brewery because of its industrial location. We met and tasted with owner Jared Brandt, who has quickly made a name for himself (along with his wife Tracey) as a trend-setter in the “New California” wine movement. Being often mentioned in this New California and natural wine conversation is not necessarily what they set out to do. They were fortunate (and fearless) to have learned from one of the best winemakers in France, Eric Texier, and started Donkey & Goat with the goal of making wines they enjoyed drinking with minimal intervention. The story goes that they quit their jobs in the corporate world and contacted Eric to ask if they could come intern with him for a year. He said yes, and the rest is history. At their Berkeley location, they source fruit from vineyards in various parts of the state, working on long-term, mostly verbal contracts with the growers. Their wines are unfined and unfiltered, and as you will see have a cloudiness to them because of that. There is a certain ‘somethingness’ I taste in all of their reds – the best way I can describe it is a ‘deliciousness’, a sense of needing to take another sip. It could be that mysterious fifth taste component called umami (after sweet, sour, biter, salty) which roughly explained as ‘savory’. The wine we have from Jared & Tracey this month is their Five Thirteen blend, which is an homage to their experience in the Rhone with Eric Texier, named for the five grapes used of the thirteen allowed in Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre, Cinsault, Counoise). The wine is medium bodied, with both red and black fruits on the nose – raspberry, wild strawberry, blueberry, black cherry…it also has a dusty/earth component and also a dried meat note (like salami), and finishes with such balance (dare we say umami?) that keeps you coming back for more! I even get a balsamic note in this wine on the finish. This is truly a favorite, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
To pair with this great red, I hope you enjoy the Chateau de Villelongue sparkling wine in honor of the holidays and New Year! This bubbly is from the Limoux region in Southern France (not from Champagne, which is Northeast of Paris). Locals claim that sparkling wine was actually being made here intentionally (as early as the 1500’s!) long before they accidently discovered it in Champagne. The grape traditionally grown here and used for bubbly here is called Mauzac, but increasingly we see more international grapes grown here and used for the sparkling blends. This Crémant has Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. Notes of white flowers and lemon zest – light and precise.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from the Cru Crew!
Wines: Chateau de Villelongue Cremant de Limoux – 17.99
Donkey & Goat Five Thirteen – 34.99