Natural Winemaker, A Donkey and Goat Winery, Uses Ancient Technique for Chardonnay Acidification

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Committed to natural winemaking, A Donkey and Goat picks vineyard twice. Blends July's "green harvest" verjus--a highly acidic juice--with September's ripe grapes to naturally achieve desired acidity and delicious Chardonnay.

A Donkey and Goat

The amount of verjus we blend in varies from year to year

A Donkey and Goat winery, (adonkeyandgoat.com), a wife and husband-owned winery producing sustainably crafted artisanal wines, recently completed the first of two harvests for its Brosseau Chardonnay. The "green harvest," completed on July 26 at Brosseau Vineyard in Monterrey, CA, demonstrates A Donkey and Goat's commitment to natural winemaking -- making wines without heavy manipulation or chemical additions.

"We look for vineyards that can produce grapes that result in balanced wine without much monkeying around from year to year," explained Tracey Brandt, A Donkey and Goat co-owner and co-winemaker. "We love the distinctive characteristics found in our vineyard partner Brosseau's Chalone Appellation chardonnay, but the weather is a tad too warm to produce grapes with the amount of acid we require for our wines. This posed a dilemma given our natural approach."

In order to work with the Brosseau Vineyard and achieve the wine's desired acidity levels, A Donkey and Goat perfected an ancient winemaking technique that utilizes the highly acidic juice -- verjus -- from an early "green harvest." The verjus is used as a natural acidifier when the vineyard is picked again in September and the final wine is blended.

"We learned this ancient technique when we lived in France and studied with up and coming Rhone winemaker Eric Texier," continued Tracey. "It's time consuming and expensive, but we feel strongly about making our wines as naturally as possible."

500 pounds of organic chardonnay grapes were harvested from Brosseau Vineyard on July 26. The green berries will be fully processed at A Donkey and Goat's Berkeley, CA winemaking facility. After the grapes are destemmed, crushed, and pressed, the juice is taken to an offsite location where it is stored at 32° F to prevent fermentation. After September's harvest, the verjus will be blended into the juice from the ripe berries to naturally achieve the perfect balance for the 2008 vintage Brosseau Chardonnay to be released Spring 2010.

"The amount of verjus we blend in varies from year to year," explained Tracey. "Typically, the verjus represents roughly 6-10% of the final blend."

The leftover verjus can be used to cook with as a replacement for white wine vinegar. The Brandts' favorite verjus recipes include Hazelnut Verjus Dressing and Verjus Cucumber salad.

About A Donkey and Goat Winery:
A Donkey and Goat (adonkeyandgoat.com) is a Berkeley, California based urban winery that specializes in natural winemaking for their Chardonnay and Rhone varietal wines. These distinctive, soulful wines are produced using France's classic, labor intensive techniques, such as adding "verjus" (unripe grapes) to acidify their Chardonnay, and never using cultivated yeasts, enzymes, nutrients, or color enhancers. Current fall releases include the 2007 Tamarindo Roussanne, the 2006 Fenaughty Vineyard Syrah, the 2006 Vieilles Vignes Vineyard Syrah, and the 2005 Brosseau Vineyard Reserve Syrah. The winery was founded in 2001 by husband and wife team Tracey and Jared Brandt who are the "donkey and goat" behind these sustainably farmed and artfully produced wines. Learn more about A Donkey and Goat on their blog at http://www.adonkeyandgoat.com/Blog_2008.html. A Donkey and Goat is on Twitter at http://twitter.com/donkeyandgoat (@donkeyandgoat).

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Dana Smith