Wine Worlds ~ makers, distributors, retailers ~ sharing the love of wine…

“It is a curious fact that no man likes to call himself a glutton, and yet each of us has in him a trace of gluttony, potential or actual. I cannot believe that there exists a single coherent human being who will not confess, at least to himself, that once or twice he has stuffed himself to the bursting point, on anything from quail financiere to flapjacks, for no other reason than the beastlike satisfaction of his belly. In fact I pity anyone who has not permitted himself this sensual experience, if only to determine what his own private limitations are, and where, for himself alone, gourmandism ends and gluttony begins.”
 ~ M.F.K. Fisher, Alphabet for Gourmets, “G is for Gluttony”


1I love the phrase “more is never enough” ~ and though I take that exact moment, memory and quote from the trailer of Heath Ledger’s Candy ~ we all know that it can pertain to a number of things ~ wine, drugs, sex, clothes, love ~ all that we become consumed with and can’t seem to live without. In the wine world, wine is exactly that ~ an endless field of knowledge, that once you open up and attempt to crack you realize there is always so much more to learn, to taste, to understand, and to drink…I’ve written about my relation to wine and its worlds in various posts over the past few months, but one thing that I think is so important about wine as an object is how it brings us together, introduces us to people we might never meet ~ and whether it’s through a store, a job, or a merging of interests, this interaction can lead to friendships, collaborations. One such relationship is with my dear friend Rajat Parr. I contacted Raj over 3 years ago to help me with a “wine-inspired” collection of clothes for a Chez Panisse installation at The Gardener in Berkeley during Chez’s 40th anniversary, which most recently led to a “Chef’s Night Out” episode with Raj for Vice TV, and with chef’s Adam Sobel of RN74 and Robbie Wilson of Mattei’s Tavern. As goofy as I come off as the giggly gal pal, what I think this quick look into Raj’s world shows ~ and is actually embodied in his wine SANDHI which means “collaboration” ~ is how it brings people together in constant connections that continually transform and inspire, for the possibilities in the wine and food worlds are endless…

482084_10151165506505815_418508933_n   5c   28

Above ~ Raj and I at my studio wine dinner #4 (april 2012); Raj’s 40th at Scribe Winery, with Daniel Patterson, Jasmine Hirsch and Lloyd and the rocket he made Raj; Wine dinner #35 (Dec 2013), co-hosted with Raj, here with guests Evan Goldstein and Sideways’ Alexander Payne.

10577096_10152675866545815_3975072096766553400_n  IMG_8720  1391619_10152825950095815_2356276896232024908_n

Above ~ at Couchon 555’s Heritage Fire with RN74’s chef Adam Sobel, 2 days after shooting “Chef’s Night Out.” Center ~ When I asked Adam to tell me the thing he makes that is the perfect balance of weight and lightness, he said “Mille Feuille.” Right ~ my interpretation of “Mille Feuille” for my Kundera-inspired Unbearable Lightness of Being mini collection for Deb Durant’s group exhibition 50/50 Light on display the month of October 2014, in the old Black Oak Book space, 1491 Shattuck, a block from Chez Panisse, Berkeley.


Below are 3 couples who interact, overlap and share a similar passion for wine ~ where each one takes a different form. Interestingly, they are all connected and inter-related, where at one point at this year’s Bastille Day at Donkey and Goat’d Bottles & Boules we were all there. So I begin here ~ at Donkey and Goat with wine-makers Tracey and Jared, and then to distributors Collin and Tess, and finally to the retail shop Bay Grape, where Stevie and Josiah work their magic in bringing people together, sharing their knowledge about New and Old World wines, and ultimately their excitement with those who want to learn more…

Jared and Tracey of Donkey and Goat, are in my hood of Berkeley, only blocks away from studio where I have my monthly salon dinners. They had come to a wine dinner that I co-hosted with Winemonger’s Emily Schindler, then we met up for an interview in their space, and since then have been to a couple of their Bottles & Boules gatherings, the first on Bastille Day. This is where for me, it all came together ~ the gathering, the sharing, the connections made, and the essential act of bringing people together through wine…

1972325_10152319551175815_1076584283_n   photo 15a   1904240_10152311114815815_1768605484_n

Above, left ~ Tracey with forager Connie Green at wine dinner #42, co-hosted with Emily Schindler, and with guests Stephan Schindler, Cathy Corison, Heike Liss, Jared Brandt, Eric and Ali Smith-Story, Kristin and Luke Sykora, John Raytek and Phoebe Bass, Richard and Sara Hylton, Adam Mariani and Kezia, Jonno Waters, Collin Peter-Casey and Tess Bryant Casey.


Tracey and Jared Brandt, Donkey and Goat Winery, Excerpts from Interview #31, May 9th 2014

photo 29

On your first transformative experience around wine ~ TRACEY ~”I was in North Carolina and my parents drank chianti jug wines, so i didn’t think about vineyard to glass until I went to Australia and New Zealand backpacking ~ Adelaide, Melbourne and the wine regions. I was 22 years old. But then when I was in NC working at the ad agency McKinley Silver which had just gotten the Audi account I had these Ally McBeal dinner and wine nights with my girlfriends. We would bring a bottle, taste, and we had our wine notebooks. This was 94’, 95’ and it was the first time contemplating what was in the bottle.” JARED ~ “Mine was almost an anti-transformation… i was living with a family in a castle in Hereford, Germany, so i tasted the ’45 and ’47 Grand Cru’s when i was 17… but my first wine memory was BV. I was in 4th grade, and we were in the tasting room.”

On vineyards and the “art of pruning” ~ TRACEY ~  “I believe pruning…takes years to master. You’r eloping to the vine and reading the vine and making decisions right now and for the next growing season; but plants are different and so it really is an art. In the winery it’s more direct, and you are more involved in directing the wine but you try to let the plants speak to you and speak the truth about the place they’re from. There is a set of vineyards that we fell in love with back in 2005 and we’ve slowly been building since 2009 in Anderson Valley. When we started looking we were interested in finding syrah where it would struggle..” JARED ~ “I love the vineyard side of it, that’s more interesting for me. at the end of february we started pruning, and cutting it back.. what if you do it wrong? it’s just like kids. you have an idea of where it’s going to go, but that’s it…”

On naming DONKEY & GOAT ~  “When we began we wanted a name that conveyed our partnership, was referential to sustainable farming tracey_berkrepand was not simply our name. When sharing our objectives with our artist friends Jane Fisher and Colin Frangos who designed out initial label, they recalled a story we had told them about the 2002 harvest and how the 7 Frenchmen we lived with in Orange teased me for not working as hard as Jared. In France and other countries donkeys are employed in the vineyard to eat the weeds around the vine. Their companion animal is a goat. The goat keeps the donkey happier, calmer and ultimately a better worker. I was the goat in the joke…”

On Bottles & Boules ~ “In 2012 after having built out our winery with a new born in my arms (Lily) and having the bocce court put in I realized I’d never played a full game and that Jared and I had never just hung out for fun at the winery. Having always been a party planner and social being I thought let’s do both and to make it more interesting have everyone bring a bottle to share. Community ~ wine, food, old and new friends…”



                                              Tracey                      Jared 

      DRINK:                                 wine                            now
      EAT:                                       sushi                           kale
      BE:                                          patient                       original
      LIVE:                                     free                              die
      LISTEN:                               carefully                     actively
     WATCH:                               mountain tops         sunsets
     WEAR:                                  flannel                       nothing
      WHERE:                              lost                             beach
     REMEMBER:                     everything                the first time I met my wife
      FOREGT:                             hard                           awkwardness
      LOVE:                                    often                          Tracey

      SWEAR:                               Fuck                           figga / pussy in italian





Collin Peter-Casey, Interview #12, March 6th 2014 Boot and Shoe, Oakland
Tess Bryant Casey, Interview #47, September 30th 2014, at Grand Fare, Oakland


David Lebovitz’s Book Party at Camino, Oakland ~ with Azadeh Fakouri, Collin & Tess, and Chris Kronner & Ashley Hildreth.

Collin and Tess are another couple, both involved in the wine world but through its distribution. Collin’s more recent history in wine includes working at Baker & Banker and Namu Gaji in SF, and currently at Weygandt Selections.  Tess’s history includes internships at 826 Valencia and  Ichi Sushi before working harvest at Hirsch Vineyards and most recently T. Edward Wines.  Although I originally met them in my studio as guests of Emily for dinner #42, our paths intersect and merge at events and restaurants in the East Bay ~ from Chez Panisse and Cafe Rouge to David Leibovitz’s book party at Camino…

On coming to WINE ~ COLLIN ~ “I wanted to be a chef from the age of 8. I was actually cooking for my whole family then. My family is Italian and my mom and grandmother taught me to cook. Food was everything. My mom and I used to go out to fancy restaurants around that time and we’d just sit there and talk about food for hours. I thought for a while I’d be a chef, and even got into CIA Hyde Park at 17… and then I met some chefs and realized that it was a terrible idea. Wine was always around when I was growing up, but it was like, cloudy, homemade wine from grapes grown in Ohio. Versus my son Asher, who was lulled to sleep as a baby by stories about the wines in my cellar. His third word was “Chateauneuf” by the way. He is so cool. Anyway, the first wine I remember loving, was in 1997 in Oregon. A 1994 or 95 T-Vine, old vine Napa Zinfandel. I was 19 years old and had bought a plane ticket there, knowing just one person. I started off my wine collection that year, with Oregon Pinots, California Zinfandels, Australian Shiraz. I read everything and got to start working wine jobs that year at a winery. Never thought I’d be a good taster, but the whole palate thing came later, when I was working as a sommelier under this great guy in Portland, Ken Collura. Then it was just a bunch of sommelier gigs leading to all of the import/wholesale stuff now. It’s been 17 years, as of August.”

TESS~ “I met Jasmine (Hirsch) for the first time when I was 22. She told me about the allure of working in the wine business ~ the wine, theCIMG3052 restaurants, the people… and I moved back home to Cazadero to work for her and her father. I didn’t want to just sell wine but learn about the whole process, so during my first week David sent me out onto the vineyard with clippers and a bucket to sample fruit. And so began my first harvest. Jasmine and David were incredible mentors to me. Ross Cobb, the winemaker, would bring me tastes from different barrels to the office, so I could watch the evolution of the wines over time, and there were always open bottles of the final wine to learn from. After the 2010 harvest, I moved back to San Francisco with the vague goal of learning about European wine. I didn’t have a job, many friends, or any plan. When Collin asked me if I wanted to share a bottle in Alamo Square Park (Dard&Ribo St Joseph 2007 out of a Kleen Kanteen) during my first week living in the city, I thought it was a good beginning. We bounced around the city that day, drinking Lopez de Heredia white at Nopa, then Dettori Vermentino at La Ciccia with octopus stew, and finishing the night at Heirloom Café with a bottle of 1999 Foreau Sec. Turns out Collin had left his job as well that same week, so we just kept going. For two months we spent all our savings Arlequin Wine Merchant and other wine destinations around the city, which I justified by thinking of it as a graduate education. We would buy a case of wine, drink, and talk about each bottle together. I had never even tasted Muscadet before, and Collin helped me build a base knowledge for how to taste, evaluate, and love drinking all these new bottles. Eventually we moved in together, and I started working at Arlequin, becoming the manager down the line. I love working with wine, there’s always something more to learn. More bottles, vintages, or producers, of course. But also the “wine business” can mean almost anything: both small and large business, farming, winemaking, travel, restaurants, writing. I love the collision of them all. And I love the way my husband interacts with wine. He is so engaged and engaging that it’s impossible to not be excited. We buoy each other when learning, drinking and working.”

photo 4On tasting ~ Collin ~ “We don’t start out visually literate… you need to develop that sense, and so it is with wine. Tasting with intention, particularly blind tasting, is helpful in developing the senses. Hospitality professionals disappear into the role and exist for the guest. The same thing happens when you’re really tasting wine. You sort of cease to exist, while you’re tasting, and the wine kind of takes over. It’s like playing music ~ you just disappear and it’s great. It’s my favorite part.”

On story-telling ~ TESS ~  “There’s a story behind the wine – the producer or region – then you create your own story and your own memory. The St Joseph for me is a memory indelibly linked to meeting my husband. I’ll always remember the Foillard 2007 Fleurie bottle that introduced me to the magic of gamay Christmas eve 2010. The most interesting bottles are linked to a place and a story, and then drinking each bottle becomes a combination of your own story and someone else’s. Ultimately when opening a bottle you get to interact with a stranger (and their world)… Traveling in France last year with my husband was an amazing opportunity for us to meet some of our wine heroes and hear their stories. And we are lucky here in California to have wine legends in our backyard as well. We get to open bottles with some of our favorite winemakers, chefs, importers, sommeliers and enthusiastic drinkers every week. Drinking wine together, or even just pouring a bottle of wine for someone, has afforded me the opportunity to meet so many amazing people and learn their stories.”

COLLIN, On traveling the Mosel with Bill Mayer ~ “I went with Bill for a month, tasting…It’s pretty amazing. When you’re in Mosel and1619258_10152319550930815_1787308201_n smell the slate with a little rain on it. It’s a smell that’s completely familiar because you’ve been tasting and smelling it in the wines for so long. It’s a sacred terroir. Just being there among the vines… Walking the slopes of the Urziger Wurtzgarten or Graacher Domprobst… it’s thrilling. My favorite moment of this trip was when we were looking for somewhere in Graach to have a glass of wine. Everything is closed and we were bummed. As we get back into the car we hear someone shouting “Bill!” and that someone was Andrea Schaeffer, of Willi Schaefer. She had us in to the kitchen and opened a 1976 Schaefer Domprobst Auslese. The kids were trading off tasting the wine and little Jonathan takes his taste, furrowed his brow and says “Schmekt!” which means he dug it. I couldn’t help but think of the fact that Bill had seen Christophe (current winemaker) at this very same table when he was that young and that maybe I’d one day bring someone to come see Jonathan and taste his wines. It was a reminder of how amazing this work is.”

On WINE LISTS ~ COLLIN ~ “The list should be primarily about the menu, but the most important thing a wine list should have is BALANCE. Having a geeky wine list or a trophy wine list is okay, but it’s a little too boring/easy to do and very exclusive in its appeal, which isn’t what restaurants are really about. I like a list that has an identity and personality, and also scratches all of the itches that a restaurant’s wine list should. Like… if you don’t want buttery Chardonnay on the list, have something that fits your concept that my mom will still drink in lieu of that buttery Chard she ordered. Sommeliers and wine buyers are hospitality professional first, and that should apply to the wine selections as much as the rest of it.


“Portrait” ~ Leaving Camino, days before getting married….



                                             Collin                                           Tess

     EAT:                               here                                                  drink
     DRINK:                        always                                               smile
     WEAR:                          yourself                                           hats
     LISTEN:                       always                                              thoughtfully
     WATCH                        also                                                   often
     REMEMBER:             sure                                                  to be gentle
     LIVE:                             as one does                                     well
     WHERE:                      wherever                                         Cazadero
     LOVE:                            yes                                                    hard
     BE:                                   be                                                    aware
     WHAT:                          whatever                                        work
     WHY:                             because                                           fulfillment
     HOW:                             however possible                          daily
     WHEN:                          there’s only ever been right now     now

favorite curse word ~ Collin ~ “in a way fuck is the king. and the term motherfucker cracks me up to no end. it’s a post ironic thing for me. late at night… with a big smile, and say mother…fucker.” Tess ~ “Fuck!”

TESS, on her future in WINE ~  “I have been searching for the right corner of the wine business for myself for some time. I worked for a winery and in retail, and was never very interested in working in a restaurant, so wasn’t sure what would be next. And this job came along to work for T. Edward Wines in California. In New York, the company is well known and has been importing wine for 20 years, but here we are brand new. I have the opportunity to build something, to travel, to make decisions freely. I feel very lucky to have found them.”

On PLACES they love in the Bay Area ~ TESS ~ “Bay Grape, Ordinaire, Camino. I’m really excited about eating and drinking in Oakland. Ordinaire reminds me of a Parisian wine bar. The space is lovely, and they always have great events. And Bradford happens to have great taste in wine. Bay Grape is brand new, but Stevie and Josiah have already in a few weeks created a warm and welcoming environment, also with an amazing wine selection. At Camino the list is small and well curated. It’s a place we will take a risk on ordering a bottle we might not know because we trust Caleb and his tastes. Russ’ food has become some of our favorite in the Bay Area.”


10625074_10152474842093402_4602212518256821849_n 2

photo: Daniel Morris

Stevie Stacionis and Josiah Baldivino, Interview #46, September 18th 2014, at Bay Grape, Oakland

Lloyd and I met Stevie at Donkey and Goat on Bastille Day 2014. I was excited for her and Josiah’s vision ~ the idea of a store, community oriented, around bottles of wine, shared, on Grand Avenue in Oakland. Like my favorite clothing boutiques in the Bay Area that I go to for their taste, vision and curation, to me Bay Grape is this, but also a place to go during the day to write and share a bottle of wine with a friend. The space is full of light, the music inspiring, energy and aesthetic warm and inviting. Perfect for me, for both conversation or work (they have Wifi) ~ alone or with friends. It’s like a room of one’s own ~ you can make it into what you want, depending on your mood…

  photo 3   photo 9   photo

   photo 6   photo 7   photo 2

Above ~ my memories of the evening ~ wonderfully blurred by the end (above left, after-hours with Stevie, Josiah and Lloyd)…


Josiah, on the vision behind BAY GRAPE ~ “We wanted to create a cool shop that you could go to to find a really great wine and where you could feel super comfortable. No matter what price-point you’re looking for or what style of wine you like, we hope we have something for you. We’re never “too cool” for any taste. I wanted to recreate the feeling of being in my mom’s kitchen because that’s where I felt the most comfortable and at ease.” STEVIE ~ “Our place is about building community and helping people learn about wine in a relaxed, non-douchey manner, at your own pace.”

On the record player (my new obsession) ~ JOSIAH ~“I love vinyl. I DJ’ed when I was 16 ~ I was DJ Wildcat in LA, and I made my own CDs and also worked for Power 106. My mom was really into music, and I think she got me to appreciate some older, amazing stuff–Rolling Stones, Al Green, Joni Mitchell, Creedence Clearwater Revival“…And what you’re likely to hear at the shop ~ Future Islands Spirit, Gerry Rafferty’s Right Down the Line, Mayer Hawthornes’s Allie Jones, Deltron 3030’s 3030, and George Michael’s Father Figure.

On coming to wine ~ STEVIE ~  “I guess I first fell in love with wine around 10 years ago. Josiah and I actually met working at Il Fornaio Cucina photo 8Italiana in Pasadena. I was a senior at USC working to pay off my loans. Our boss set up a trip for the staff to go up to wine country in Santa Barbara, and on the day of the trip everyone flaked out except the two of us. So we went, and had the most amazing time–Josiah held the door open for me at Fess Parker, and I think that was the moment I fell–and on the drive home, 90 miles from LA, his car broke down. We had to spend the night in a motel… … … and, well, the rest is history! We fell in love with each other and with wine. We started studying wine ardently and went to NYC, where ultimately I worked in wine retail and wrote about wine while Josiah was a sommelier.”

On wine bringing people together ~ STEVIE ~ “Throughout history wine has been bottled in generally the same size container, which if you think about it, is too big for one person to drink alone (on a normal occasion) ~ so wine has always been a product inherently designed for sharing. Realizing that was an a-ha moment for me. I think particularly in this day and age, this necessity of sharing a physical experience is rare. In this shop I want to foster a sense of community and a sense of sharing where you meet neighbors, share stories and laughter and bottles. We’re also about low-key, non-stuffy education through classes and guided tastings.”

On the Bay Grape  SPACE ~ Stevie ~  “Daylight is really important to me. I thrive on it. We found this space, which was actually vacant for two years, and we fell in love with its awesome natural light and calm energy. We signed the lease in February and then worked our way through 5 long months of permitting. Sarah E. Owen was our amazing, thoughtful designer, and I first met her as a friend through Vinny (from Bar Tartine) having drinks at the Punchdown (RIP).

On favorite places ~ Josiah and Stevie ~ “We LOVE Ramen Shop. Ramen hits the spot late-night, and they make it so well with such pure and pristine ingredients, yet it’s never fussy. Pizza may, however, be our favorite thing, and A16 in Rockridge is a knockout… We also love 1,2,3,4 Go! records near Homeroom on 40th St. And the Chilequiles at Grand Lake Kitchen. Oh, and Oaktown Spice rocks, as does Authentic Bagel in Jack London Square and the Linden Street record swap!”


sipper stevie josiah

                                   Stevie                                                           Josiah

     EAT                      pizza forever                                                    ramen
     DRINK                 Schloss Schonborn                                        well
     WEAR                  blue jeans and flip flops                                what you want
     WHERE               front porch                                                     front porch
     LISTEN                carefully                                                          hip-hop
     WATCH            what you wish for…dreams come true         less TV
     REMEMBER     where you came from                         where you came from
     LIVE                      here, now                                                       to have fun
     LOVE                     above all                                                         thy neighbor
     BE                           quirky                                                             fresh
     WHAT                   now?                                                       makes you happy
     WHY                      cause you can                                               who cares
     HOW                      start now                                                        just do it
     WHEN                   after dinner                                                   now


When we left Bay Grape the other evening I was excited. I love new things that make sense in my world, especially ones that inspire me, and this place does. I left thinking about the record player and how I want one for my birthday but also for August and Royal to see what it was like back then when I spun my  33’s and 45s and had a collection of them that I would put on and play over and over again ~ Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors, Madonna’s Crazy For You, A-ha’s Take On Me or the GREASE and Saturday Night Fever LP’s are a few of my faves that conjure junior high, where Royal is now… I also left thinking about what it means for two people to have something in common, its importance to constantly be teaching one another, especially if you’re in a relationship, married. Wine was and is important in my relationship with Lloyd. I forget at times how much he has taught me, and how my excitement about wine is because of him; how my first experience of an Henri Germaine Meursault at Willi’s Wine Bar in Paris in the late 90s was absolutely transformative.  I appreciate now the many people I have met related to this passion that he passed on to me, and that ultimately led to bringing people together around my cutting table in my atelier ~ to drink wine, eat food and tell our stories. No matter who the people are ~ what cultural worlds interact in my studio wine is always present. The evening begins with it, a toast is made with it, and the bottles and memories are what is left of the evening.  Whether making, distributing, or selling it, or creating a space to bring people together around it ~ this is the power of this Proustian madeleine that never ceases to bring forth the past, in the present, creating new memories and the desire for more.. 


  “Wine comes in at the mouth And love comes in at the eye; That’s all we shall know for truth Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth, I look at you, and sigh.”  – William Butler Yeats

“In the end all collaborations are love stories…” ~ Twyla Tharp


Donkey and Goat Winery ~ 1340 5th street, berkeley, ca  94710. Phone ~ 510.868.9174
Bay Grape ~ 376 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA  94610. Phone ~ 510.686.3615

Other wine stories ~

Paul Draper, Rajat Parr, Josh Jensen, Chad Arnold, Bill Mayer and Ian Burrowes, Angelo Garro, Sarah Scott

Vice TV’s Munchies “Chef Night’s Out” with Raj Parr (Mattei’s Tavern, Les Marchands, The Lark)

Be first to comment