Darkness falls across the land on the longest day of year. An astronomical phenomenon in the Northern Hemisphere where the earth’s tilt on its axis is at the farthest point from the sun and the sun’s daily maximum elevation is at its lowest is known as the Winter or December Solstice. In truth the solstice is really a moment in time; however, it is observed as an entire day; the darkest day of the year. Celebrations have waned over the years as this pagan day no longer holds much significance in modern times of endless electricity. However, some believe Stonehenge was built in observance of the Winter Solstice. I don’t fancy myself a pagan but I do enjoy any opportunity for a celebration.
For more years than I can remember we have broken away from the hustle and bustle of Christmas to enjoy a delightful evening of great friendship, food and wine with dear friends of ours for a Winter Solstice meal. The day itself holds no real significance for any of us other than an opportunity to enjoy a warm winter meal and to catch up on our busy lives. We take turn hosting our Winter Solstice dinner, last year you will recall I hosted the dinner and shared it in my article “Winter Solstice Italian Style.” This year was our friend’s turn to host with one request of us….bring the wine! It was a fair request. I don’t usually bring wine samples to a friend’s dinner party; however, I received three bottles of wine from Donkey and Goat, who I already knew by my own dime was an excellent wine producer, which I believed would pair beautifully with the meal my friend was preparing for us. As expected the Donkey and Goat wines were perfect for the occasion. I will first share my wine tasting notes than share the food pairing.
Donkey and Goat Filigreen Farm 2014 Pinot Gris Anderson Valley: This was the most fascinating Pinot Gris I think I have ever had. It poured a salmon pink with orange highlights into the glass; the color was due to five days of skin contact with 33% off after day 2 and another 33% coming off after day 4. The wine was crafted in a Romato style, not exactly a Rosé but definitely unique and fun. It offered a bouquet of fresh scents including sour cherry, cranberry, pomegranate, white pepper and citrus zest; these aromas followed through on the palate in a light and lively wine with a slight effervescence that was smooth and silky with round acidity, a well-balanced wine that was full of flavor, delicious and fun! The Pinot Gris grapes were grown in the biodynamic Filigreen Farm in Anderson Valley; the wine was aged for 7 months in neutral French oak barrels and contained 13% alcohol. SRP $26
Donkey and Goat Sluice Box El Dorado 2014 White Wine Blend: This wine was crafted to honor El Dorado’s gold rush history; a blend of 29% Vermentino, 20% Grenache Blanc, 17% Marsanne, 20% Picpoul and 14% Roussanne; it poured a haystack yellow into the glass; complex aromas of yellow apples, pears, white flowers, baking spices, stone fruit, citrus zest and a touch of cedar permeate the nostrils; bright and crisp on the palate with mouth-watering acidity, rich textural wine with finesse that is lively with nice depth and a long finish. Donkey and Goat sought to create a white wine with the structure of a red wine with the Sluice Box, they succeeded! Aged 7 months in French oak; 13.2% alcohol. SRP $28
Donkey and Goat Five Thirteen El Dorado 2013 Red Wine Blend: This wine was crafted of 40% Grenache, 18% Syrah, 18% Mouvedre, 14% Cinsault, and 10% Counoise; it poured a light ruby with purple highlights into the glass; fresh and lively notes of cherries, strawberries, raspberries, and cranberries, were joined by rose petals, spice, savory herbal notes, a touch of toasted cedar and white pepper filled the glass; soft yet stern this was a wine of elegance and finesse, light in body yet layered in flavors; beautifully balanced with tart acidity and well integrated tannins for a long finish; a real essence of a wine and a beautiful blend of Rhône grapes as Donkey and Goat tips their hat to Châteuneuf-du-Pape. SRP $35, a far cry from CdP prices.
A few key facts about how Donkey and Goat crafts each of their wines:
- All wines are crafted by hand with wild yeast fermentations
- The wines are bottles without stabilization, fining or filtration
- Since their beginning in 2004 their objective has remained constant: to craft wines boasting with savory notes (earth driven, minerality, zippy acidity) that are best enjoyed with a good meal and better company.
- This is why I chose Donkey and Goat for our Winter Solstice meal!
Making our wines requires an artful approach, a gentle hand, and nerves of steel that allow us to follow our gut, even when the science might suggest less risky approaches.
Donkey and Goat is owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Jared and Tracey Brandt. In my opinion they are doing something really special. If you like giant smack you in the face wines Donkey and Goat is not for you. But if you appreciate the essence of wine, the art of great wine making and the philosophy of less is more than you will LOVE Donkey and Goat as much as I do….and my husband and now our friends (who adored all three wines and want more!) They have a great manifesto on their web site I encourage you to read it and while you are their take a moment to view their entire portfolio of wine and order some for yourself!
Our food pairing:
We began our Winter Solstice evening with a delicious warm artichoke dip with crackers and sliced red, orange and green bell peppers. Our meal consisted of Quick Savory Cranberry Glazed Pork Roast, roasted asparagus and mashed potatoes. It was a perfect Winter Solstice meal. In fact, the pork was so good and easy to prepare that I made it for my family on Christmas day. I highly recommend you add it to your 2016 recipe repertoire. As you can imagine the wine/food pairings were a winner! Though the wines are earthy, savory and tart they are not rustic in quality but rather elegantly refined so the pairing with the pork with the cranberries, mustard, balsamic vinegar (we added that), thyme and a little zip of horseradish was perfect. And not just the red but all three wines were an absolute score with the food! Furthermore, the Pinot Gris is a nice conversation wine as well. Great meal, great wine, better friends what more could one want in a pause to observe Winter Solstice!
My Song Selection: As I have said I think Donkey and Goat wines have a real essence to them. They are mellow yet lively, full of flavor, well crafted, deep and meaningful. When I think Donkey and Goat I think mellow rock of the 70’s and 80’s. Therefore I chose to pair these wines with one of my all-time favorite songs to express the many layers of these outstanding wines. Turn it up!
Get your own Donkey and Goat wines and let me know what song you pair them with. Cheers!