Urban Winemaking: Tips from the Pros

Making wine away from winemaking regions is becoming more popular. As these pros will tell you, urban winemaking comes with unique benefits and challenges. Jared Brandt and his wife, Tracey, are the owners and winemakers of Donkey and Goat in Berkeley, California. The Brandts craft their natural wines from Rhône varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grown in the Anderson Valley, Mendocino Ridge and El Dorado appellation in the Sierra Foothills. We lease our vineyards — in some cases managing them directly and in others working with a vineyard manager. The biggest challenge of being an urban winemaker is staying on top of the vineyard. Ours are all a two-hour drive (in opposite directions). How far we are willing to travel for frequent visits dictates where our vineyards are. We check agricultural weather stations daily — these stations have additional data useful for tracking the maturing of grapes. The biggest issue we run into with off-site vineyards is keeping the grapes cool. We pick early in the morning and have the grapes to the winery by noon because I don’t want my grapes