Natural wine… don’t ask, don’t tell (@DonkeyandGoat dinner @VinoVinoWine)

best natural wine california

Above: Tracey Brandt of Donkey and Goat (Berkeley, California) was in Austin last night for a dinner at Vino Vino.

You might say that, second only to Produttori del Barbaresco, Donkey and Goat is the “official Parzen family wine.”

We drink it regularly at home (Stone Crusher in fridge? Check!), my parents-in-law Rev. and Mrs. B drink it regularly (hey, Rev. B, did you drink that Helluva Pinot Noir without me?), and it’s been a by-the-glass favorite on our list at Sotto in Los Angeles (where I co-curate the carta dei vini with @CaptainWine) since the restaurant’s inception more than two years ago.

Tracie P and I are thrilled that the wines are finally (legally) available here in Texas and these days we buy them regularly at the Austin Wine Merchant and the Houston Wine Merchant (two of the dwindling number of independent retail operations in our state).

I was geeked to sit down, taste, and chat last night with Donkey and Goat’s better half, Tracey Brandt (above) at the best little wine bar in Austin, Vino Vino, where owner (my client and friend) Jeff Courington had organized a dinner in her honor.

Last year, when I sat down with her husband Jared at Sotto, he told me: “I don’t like labels and I don’t consider myself a Natural winemaker… I think of it more as ‘unmanipulative’ winemaking. But that’s not as fun to say.”

roast beef texas austin

Above: Vino Vino chef Jesse Marco’s rib roast with polenta and kale was as delicious as it looked.

In our conversation over dinner last night, Tracey noted that “we were already making wine in this style before we had even heard the term Natural wine.”

Does she call her wine “Natural”? I asked.

“Here’s what I say to people,” she told me, “our wines are often referred to as ‘Natural’ wines.”

She said that she first hear the term when she and Jared presented at VinNatur in Italy in 2008. By that time, they were already into their fourth vintage.

There are three basic tenets of their winemaking philosophy, she said:

“First, the wine should be food-friendly. Second, the wine should be ‘honest'; it should taste like the place where it was grown. And [lastly] the wine should taste like the varietal. In other words, if it says Pinot [Noir] on the label, it should taste like Pinot.”

There’s been such a fuss about the use and misuse of the term Natural over the course of the last eighteen or so months.

Does it really matter what the winemakers, wine pundits, or wine lovers call it?

My thought is… don’t ask, don’t tell… just drink it (if you like it)…

2 thoughts on “Natural wine… don’t ask, don’t tell (@DonkeyandGoat dinner @VinoVinoWine)

  1. I did try A Donkey and a Goat once and I liked it, thought it was a great value. You’ve inspired me to try it again.

  2. I’m a big fan of Donkey and Goat. I love stopping by their tasting room in Berkeley and I look forward to their releases. Great wine, nice people. That’s a solid combination.

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