Donkey & Goat

Berkeley's first natural winery, crafting wines
from sustainably farmed vineyards since 2004.


A few thoughts on reviews….

When we decided to go commercial with our winemaking Tracey and I vowed to stay true to our vision and passion which meant we would not make the most fashionable styles of wine and therefore it might be more difficult to sell our wine. We also did not expect to score especially high with the critics. It was a hard business decision but an easy winemaking decision because we’ve always promised to only make wines that we will enjoy drinking. And drinking a whole lot of if we can’t sell it!

So we set out on this path with a Chablis inspired Chardonnay with no new oak, zippy acidity and abundant minerality and several Syrah’s made more like classic Burgundian Pinot Noir. That means a lot of little things but in general we are pretty gentle and do not follow the philosophy of beating up Syrah to maximize extraction.

To date we are very pleased with our winemaking results. Sure, there are many things we will change in the future and more desired experiments than the years will allow but all in all we are very proud of our efforts and have certainly lived up to our promise – we drink our wine more often than not since we can’t afford to buy wine anymore! (Tracey says we are “wine poor” these days.) And the reviews have been icing on the cake for us. We did not expect to gain the attention of the critics so early and we certainly did not expect to be so well received. We were thrilled with our reviews from Parker, Tanzer and the Wall Street Journal. The Wine Spectator scores were clearly not as favorable but then we expect to see some variation with the reviewers and based on my experience of following James Laube’s reviews for years I would not have expected him to find our wines particularly appealing (Tracey submitted to WS!). I also want to point out that an 87 is nothing to be ashamed of. There seems to be a mentality that anything less than 90 is not exciting but if you look at the legend for WS 85-89 is a very good wine with special qualities. I would have to agree – our Vidmar and Carson Ridge are very good wines with special qualities! I personally think our Vieilles Vignes is too but hey – different strokes. Now our Chard scoring a 78 is another issue altogether but to be honest – we are quite proud of that 78 b/c it is so low it is cool. Or we do not believe for a second that our Chard is an average wine that is “drinkable” and we just think our winemaking style is very different than what Mr. Laube typically finds appealing in Chardonnay. And you know what – that is okay. We are not making coco-cola here. There is not one formula for Chardonnay and therefore while critics can certainly help consumers make informed buying decisions in the face of so many options the critics are human and their review is subjective. We love our Chardonnay and are very happy to have found many customers that feel the same way. For example, at a tasting last week a customer walked up to our table and enthusiastically said that he loved our Chardonnay. He heard about the wine while buying fresh fish in a grocery store in LA when one of our retailers (The Wine Gallery) insisted he run by their store and grab a bottle of our Chardonnay. He did and said it was the perfect match for his entree and his evening and now he is a loyal fan.

I guess my point (if you’ve lost it by now) is that Tracey and I are very pleased with our winemaking results and truly feel honored to just to be considered at this stage of our business and we could not ask for much better b/c the wines were very well received but with plenty of room to improve (if you get a 100 the only place to go is down!). We are thankful because making wine for a living is our dream and we have been lucky enough to turn our dream into a reality.



  1. Take your own words to heart, and continue to make the wine you wish to make and drink.

    The history of creative endevors is full with people who succeed because thier own vision meshed with enough of their audience at first to start and eventually flourish. There are too many examples of people who comprimise to eventual mediocrity and disappeared.

    I have read enough blogs and bb to know there is a growing number of people who are growing discontent with consistantly not sharing a great wine tasting experience with a mega-critic, and are finding satisfaction with sharing a great wine experience with other wine-appreciative peers by word of mouth (blog, etc) who’s specific tastes differ from the critic’s.

    With your passion and vision to guide you, critics or no, you will find an appreciative audience who will support your wine-making vision.

    Stay true.

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