A Crunchy, Low-Alcohol Wine for Thanksgiving from California Naturally

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

Of the California winemakers who thrill me the most, three of them are bottling fruit grown in California's El Dorado AVA in the Sierra Foothills -- the heart of historic Gold Rush country.

They've been attracted to the area, they tell me, in part because they've found older vines (some in vineyards established during the Gold Rush) and in part because the growing zone's relative anonymity has helped it to maintain its pristine state. The growers there have been shifting from the usual suspects -- Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon -- to Rhône varieties that seem to perform better in Californian terroir (namely, Syrah and Grenache).

While La Clarine Farm and Edmunds St. John are not currently available in Texas (although there are legal methods of obtaining the wine here), the Donkey and Goat winery (based in Berkeley) has broken the iron curtain of "big wine distribution" in our state thanks to one of the handful of quixotic indy distributors who have set up shop over the last eighteen months.

I didn't include their 2011 Grenache Blanc in my Top 5 Thanksgiving Wines Under $25 because it retails for around $30 (at the Houston Wine Merchant). But I'm thrilled that it's here (and you can rest assured that my family will be drinking Donkey and Goat for Thanksgiving in Orange, Texas).

The wine is a "natural" wine: The growers employ chemical-free farming and winemaker Jared Brandt doesn't add anything but a little bit of sulfur dioxide to the wine; he manipulates it as little as possible in the winery.

The wine is an "orange" wine: Skin-contact during fermentation gives the wine its slightly orange color (as you can see in the photo above).

The wine is unfiltered: Don't be alarmed by cloudy color of the wine; the opacity is intended by the winemaker.

I love the Technicolor fruit flavors of this wine (think stone fruit). I love the crunchy mouthfeel of the wine and the way it coats my mouth and interacts with the textures of food. And I love the low alcohol: At just 12.6 percent, the wine is going to work well for memaw and for me.

At my in-laws' house in Orange, "natural," "orange," "crunchy," "unfiltered," and "low-alcohol" are old news. But if you happen to be joining with family still unhip to the new wine revolution, this wine is sure to be a conversation starter...

I have one more recommendation for an over-$25 but still reasonably priced Thanksgiving wine that I'll share on Friday.

Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.