The “Rhone” to El Dorado: The Donkey and Goat Winery

Jared and Tracey Brandt, the dynamic duo behind Donkey & Goat, trained with natural wine superstar Eric Texier absorbing everything they possibly could about viticulture, vinification, and elevage of Rhone varieties. Once back in California they tried to put those lessons into action from scratch: starting with finding the right terroir, one that would allow them to make wines like the traditional producers that inspired them.

Both Napa and Sonoma were out: they lacked the right combination of cool climate and soils and besides, were too expensive for a couple of enthusiasts just getting started. A bit discouraged, they looked to Steve Edmunds (Edmunds St. John) for council. Steve led them to cast their eyes in the direction of El Dorado County.

As the story goes, they got right in their car and headed east towards the mountains, looking for vineyards and growers. Eureka! By the end of trip, they were sure that they had hit the jackpot. El Dorado’s higher altitude vineyard, cooler and longer season, and predominantly rocky soils made it the perfect place to produce the classically styled Rhone wines they were after. It was clear from their first vintage, the 2004, that Jared and Tracey had hit their mark.

How do they do it? Spend a few minutes with Jared and Tracey, and you’ll see that what makes them great winemakers is how comfortably they go about doing as little as possible to “make” their wines. Passionately about making wines as naturally as possible, their noninterventionist approach and commitment to the adage that “wines are made in the vineyard” have caused them to be labeled by some as up-to- no-good mavericks and by others as the veritable leaders of the New California wine movement. Mavericks or not, their approach to winemaking has produced simply astounding results, and we, as drinkers of wine, are its direct beneficiaries with a range of balanced, expressive and terroir driven wines to simply drink and enjoy.

We’ve sold the wines now for several vintages, the winery is one of our very favorites in California, and in our opinion, like Arnot-Roberts, should be considered amongst the absolute best in terms of their contribution to this new movement and on the basis of the pure deliciousness of the wines.

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