Fall in California means wine harvest season; and the last grapes are rolling into the cellars in the next week or so. I recently caught up with Jared Brandt of Donkey and Goat, and he shared some photos of this year's crush.
I asked Brandt how he felt about this year's harvest, and he said that besides exhaustion, "In many ways, it was very easy....Harvest for us was a return to a more normal year. No real hot spells. No rain so far. Yields were up except on Grenache and some of our whites. I think it will be a good year—with winemakers able to make their own choices on the wine. Last year," he said, "the vintage dictated many wines."
Donkey and Goat started their harvest with their Improbable Chardonnay from ungrafted vines on Augugst 17th. "The wine finished its slow fermentation sometime in late September and now the barrels are topped up, waiting for malos to start. Since we leave this up to the wine, malos will start sometime next spring if not sooner." (The start of malolactic fermentation depends on weather and cellar temperature, Brandt notes.) As of Monday, Brandt said many of the reds are fermenting in wood vats. They punch down 3 times a day, "and when they are ready, pressing and then barrel aging."
But they aren't quite done with harvest yet—there are still grapes in two more vineyards that they have yet to pick.
There are quite a few things to be excited about during this harvest—including, potentially, a sparkling wine from Donkey and Goat. "We are trying another pet nat this year," said Brandt. "Third vintage which will hopefully be the charm. Untended chardonnay (another ungrafted vineyard) finally produced some fruit—10 barrels worth versus 2 last year, which is very exciting. Harvest is also the time when we get ready to bottle the remaining wines from last year—I am very excited about the Syrahs from last year."