For openers, it's clearly the best winery name in the East Bay, possibly the world. Do they make wine out of goats, or donkeys, or what? And, of the two owners, Tracey and Jared Brandt, which one more resembles what livestock? Sipping their hand-crafted, small-production, vineyard-centric wines takes your mind off these imponderable questions and onto more serious things. The Brandts learned their winemaking in France and approach their California fruit — purchased from topnotch vineyards, mainly in Mendocino and El Dorado counties — with a Gallic sensibility: listening to the grapes, teasing out the terroir, seeking balance in a world of top-heavy wines. From their portion of a Berkeley warehouse, part of the exploding East Bay grassroots urban winemaking scene, they turn out wines with modest alcohol, bright acidity, next to no new oak, and no shortage of intensity. Syrah is the house specialty, but anything under the Rhone sun shows up, too — Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne.
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