Cooking

Improbable Cause

Donkey and Goat's new ungrafted Chardonnay
A Donkey and Goat

The tale of A Donkey & Goat Winery's 2010 Improbable Chardonnay is an unlikely one.

For its newest wine, the Northern California winery harvested a cool-weather grape in a warm-growing region in which the vines were fed by their own disease-prone roots. Still, this singular wine shines in the face of adverse conditions.

We'll chalk up the eccentricities of Improbable Chardonnay ($24 for 750 ml) to the growing methods that winemaker Jared Brandt employs. Most grapevines are new growths that have been spliced onto old roots, a process called grafting, which was put into use at the turn of 20th century to avoid phyllorexa, a disease that attacked grapevines.

But Brandt and his wife, Tracey, tracked down several rare ungrafted plants, meaning that the vines grow from original rootstalk. From these vines come the distinctive grapes that make up Improbable.

The extra trouble is worth it, since the vines impart something unique to the finished product. And the Brandts' hands-off farming techniques allow the nuances of this genre-bending wine to bloom. In the glass, we found flinty minerality, a stoniness accompanied by flavors of lemon zest, green pear and noted herbaceousness.

It's a delicious drinking lesson in improbability, and we're liking the odds.

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