Now this is an orange wine I can get behind. A gulpable blend of Roussanne, Vermentino, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul from California’s El Dorado AVA, Donkey & Goat’s Sluice Box is a perfect example of the kind of fun being had by the “new” California set. This producer has been on my radar for years as part of the “new California” movement, but I had yet to sample them until recently. So far I have been impressed with the integrity of the wines, which balance charm, sustainability, and healthful, non-additive, wine-making.
Tracey and Jared Brandt founded Donkey & Goat in Berkeley in 2004 after working with Eric Texier in France. From the beginning this was a “natural wine” project, but unlike many producers, the Brandts have a very empirical approach, focusing on certain data points rather than a particular philosophy. As such, they question the dogma of biodynamic farming not because it is ‘hokey’ but because it is “ a management system that is dependent on copper sulfate” and copper sulfate has negative health consequences. At the same time, they seek vineyards grown as organically as possible with the least use of chemicals as possible.
Along those lines, decisions are made to maximize natural processes and reduce laboratory processes because laboratory processes bear what the Brandts view as significant risks for the final quality of the product: e.g. innoculation and commercial yeasts lead to the requirement to add yeast nutrients and those yeast nutrients are also often favoured by brettanomyces, which is a yeast they would like to avoid. The natural ferments that do not require such nutrients do not have this issue.
The ‘Sluice Box’ white is from 14 year old vines grown in two vineyards in El Dorado. It is fermented naturally in neutral FO and wood vats, and then aged 7 months in wood barrel. This wine doesn’t need a whole lot of analysis. It’s delicious, easy to drink, very textural, and mid-weight, with mid-level acidity and a nice combination of weight and freshness. It will work well with a wide variety of lighter or mid-weight non-spicy foods or on its own. I highly recommend it.
~$45 at Kits Wine (imported by AmoVino)