Filed under: Vineyards, Winemaking | Tags: 2013 harvest, 2013 vintage, Anderson Valley, Nash Mill Vineyard, Oppenlander Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Wentzel Vineyard
Just when 2013 seemed like it would be an uneventful, dare we say, “normal” growing season, we were tossed a few interesting twists. It got me wondering if there really is such a thing as a normal year. Certainly 2013 is less stressful than some other years in which we had atypically cold summers. Rather than waiting and waiting for fruit to ripen this year, we ended up harvesting 2 weeks earlier than last year in some cases. But some of the odd twists include bringing in fruit from our coolest vineyard (always last to pick) prior to fruit from one of our warmer sites.
Our first Waits-Mast harvest of the year was from Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley. In a nice bit of serendipity, we were up in Mendocino County to participate in WineSong and the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir kick-off tasting the weekend of September 7-8. In the course of our vineyard checks that weekend, we learned that we’d be in the area on the day of the Wentzel pick. Continue reading
Filed under: Tasting notes | Tags: acidity, Lettie Teague, minerality, minerally, oceanic, Pinot Noir
In today’s Wall Street Journal, wine writer Lettie Teague dissects the words “mineral” and “minerality” as they apply to wine. Her piece hints at a larger, industry-wide discussion about the terms, as there have been several other articles and panels in the past few months dealing with this topic. Chemist and wine educator Roy Williams writes in Daily Press that, “I have reviewed the information in the literature regarding the possible explanation for what many wine lovers refer to as minerality and I can find nothing that would offer any real scientific evidence that such a phenomenon exists.” A similar sentiment was expressed during a technical session at Pinot Paradise in May and at another conference way back in 2009 (which the New York Times even reported on).
So, even if there aren’t minerals, per se in wines, what does the mention of minerality by wine tasters really mean? In her piece, Teague interviews numerous wine shop owners, viticulture experts, and winemakers in order to get a sense of a common understanding of this terminology. One conclusion that she comes to is that minerality is often equated with acidity. She writes, “I can’t think of a minerally wine that doesn’t have lots of acidity too. That may be one of the key factors to minerality, even if the two aren’t fully synonymous…”
As I was reading this article, I couldn’t help but think about one of our wines (the 2009 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Oppenlander Vineyard) that our former winemaker Chris Nelson described as having “oceanic acidity” – a probable descriptor due to the vineyard’s proximity to the Pacific. In my mind I had conflated this descriptor with “oceanic minerality.” A quick web search reveals that “oceanic minerality” has been bandied about in reference to several wines. The phrase has also been used to describe the aroma of a single malt scotch, the taste of a shrimp dish, and the characteristics of a marine clay spa treatment (the oceanic minerality purportedly aids in cellulite reduction). The term that we’ve linked to one of our Pinot Noir releases, oceanic acidity, hasn’t really picked up momentum as a wine descriptor (although it appears in the tasting notes for a few other wines crafted by our former winemaker), but it does crop up in articles and websites that discuss the effects of climate change (which creates a more acidic ocean).
A big range of wines have been described as having oceanic minerality, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscadet, and Malbec. Whereas with the white wines, I would tend to think that oceanic could imply a briny, salty flavor, with the reds my mind plays back memories of sea breezes, acidity, and wet stone (perhaps sea creature-infused limestone, even though we may not technically be tasting minerals from the soil).
What do you think? Is minerality a term that you use when tasting and describing wine? How does it relate to acidity? And where does the term “oceanic” work into the equation for you?
Filed under: Events, Tasting notes | Tags: Pinot Days San Francisco, Waits-Mast Pinot Noir
In the midst of a warm San Francisco weekend, Pinot Days took place on the edge of the San Francisco Bay on Sunday, June 30, 2013. While crowds swarmed into the city for a particularly celebratory Pride Parade following marriage equality rulings this week, others migrated to Ft. Mason in order to sample Pinot Noir. In the large warehouse space, we were nestled between Wait Cellars (no relation to Waits-Mast, although we are friendly with owner Bob Wait, as we’ve all been making wine in San Francisco since 2005) and Walt Wines in the alphabetical arrangement of wineries at the event. After getting our table in order, we trotted out a rotating selection of samples of Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir throughout the day.
We figured that our iced 2012 Waits-Mast Rose of Pinot Noir from Mendocino would be a welcome first sip for many tasters, especially if they trekked into the city from the hotter outskirts. Although some people skipped it (when offered the rose, there are people who give us the “are you kidding?” look), others seemed to be excited to try it. One fellow told us that he didn’t normally like rose. He agreed to try it and liked it, saying that it was “not the typical rose.” Brian was pleased by that and even snapped a picture of the taster while we were changing his mind about rose. A lot of people commented that it was “nice and dry,” and others said that it had “nice, upfront fruit,” was a “nice summer wine,” that it had a “gorgeous nose,” and was “fun.” Continue reading
Filed under: conferences, Events | Tags: direct to consumer shipping, Direct2013, I-502, legalized marijuana, ShipCompliant, wine compliance, wine shipping
Wine making has its glamorous moments, especially when doing “research” at tasting events or in fine dining establishments; but there are also countless mundane tasks associated with the wine business. There are the logistics of bottling (including ordering glass, foil, and labels), the challenges of an unpredictable harvest (and the associated scheduling of transportation for the fruit), and the endless amounts of paperwork.
Much of the red tape related to wine making is associated with compliance. Every state in the United States has its own rules regarding selling and shipping wine to consumers and trade. For each state that we hope to sell our wines in, we have to apply for various permits. Upon being licensed to sell/ship to a particular state, we also become responsible for taxes and reports. Rules can be incredibly complex and vary tremendously from state to state. For that reason, we are only gradually adding states to our repertoire of places that Waits-Mast can sell and ship wines to. It’s a time-consuming process that we are just barely beginning to wrap our heads around. One service, ShipCompliant, attempts to simplify the reporting process for wineries. Through its software, wineries are able to track and complete forms for all 50 states. Although we don’t currently use the ShipCompliant software, I’ve attended a few of their user conferences in order to stay on top of the latest news in the world of winery compliance and shipping. Continue reading
Filed under: Events, Tasting notes | Tags: anderson valley pinot noir, Presidio of San Francisco, Taste of Mendocino, Waits-Mast Pinot Noir
Last Tuesday, Brian and I poured Waits-Mast wines at the Taste of Mendocino event at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio of San Francisco. Featuring an array of producers and purveyors from Mendocino County, the event gave consumers, trade, and media the opportunity to sample tastes of wine, beer, cheese, coffee, chocolate, pie, and more. Representatives from other Mendocino companies and services talked about the range of attractions and lodgings in the county as well.
The day was divided into a trade/media event from 2-5pm and a consumer event from 5-7pm. Additionally, several panel discussions during the trade portion gave wine buyers and journalists an in-depth look at Coro Mendocino wines, food from Mendocino county, and the 2011 vintage of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Brian participated in the Pinot Noir panel, during which all of the wineries provided preview samples of the 2011 vintage. Since I was holding down the fort at our table while Brian spoke, I sadly missed the discussion. Luckily, Fred Swan did a thorough write-up for his NorCalWine blog, giving his take on the vintage and his tasting notes on the wines poured by Waits-Mast, Elke, Husch, Baxter, Harmonique, Bink, Balo, and Witching Stick.
This was the first winemaker panel that either of us had sat on, so Brian was excited/nervous. It was pretty cool for Brian to be on the same panel as other esteemed winemakers from Anderson Valley, especially with someone like Mary Elke, whose wines we’ve admired for many years. Each winemaker got up and did a five minute presentation on their winery and the specific wine they were pouring for the audience.
Brian got up and talked about the yet-to-be-released 2011 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley. Everyone on the panel discussed the late-harvest rains and how they handled mold or Botrytis. Brian described how they handled the dampness at Wentzel, where the vineyard staff waited for the clusters to dry after the rains on October 10, did extra leafing to promote airflow and then used leaf-blowers to dry out the clusters further. The fruit from this vineyard was picked a full week after that rain, on October 17, and was the cleanest pick we had that year.
The 2011 Wentzel still needs time in the bottle to age and develop further, but in Fred Swan’s overview of the panel, he rated this wine “highly recommended.” This bodes well for when the wine is ready for release later this year!
As had been the case when we poured at the 2012 Taste of Mendocino, this was a really fun and productive event, especially since so many of the attendees were from restaurants and retail shops. We don’t have the time to reach out to as many restaurants and shops as we’d like, so it is fantastic to pour samples of our wines at event where wine buyers are coming to us. We ran into some folks who we’d seen at last year’s event, made some new connections, and even crossed paths with people who I know from the San Francisco music and radio scene (it’s amazing how often the music, radio, and wine worlds collide). People were well-behaved and we didn’t hear or see any signs of broken glass (although someone did accidentally knock over our dump bucket, spilling icky leftover wine on our table).
We got some nice feedback on the wines that we poured. Whereas some attendees were adamant about not tasting our rose (they’d say, “no, I’ll start with the pinots”), those who did said that the 2012 Waits-Mast Rose of Pinot Noir from Mendocino County was “delicious,” “real dry,” “nicely balanced,” with “great acid.”
When we poured the 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Londer Vineyard in Anderson Valley, we got many questions about the status of Londer Winery. Friends and fans of Londer expressed their sadness that the vineyard was sold and the winery closed. We worked with the vineyard when Larry and Shirlee Londer owned it and hope that the resulting wine does them proud. Tasters said that our wine was “aromatic” and “juicy” and one attendee said it would be “great with chocolate.”
Our 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley was described as “earthy,” “a little chewier,” and “complex,” with an “exuberant nose.” As far as the 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Oppenlander Vineyard in Mendocino County, tasters said that it had a “great tangy-ness,” was “sandy” and “bright,” with “an explosion of flavor on the palate.”
After wrapping up our day in the Presidio, we headed out to dinner with friends from Frati Horn Winery. We hadn’t been able to catch up with them much at the event, as their tasting table was located in the big room with the view at the Golden Gate Club. We swapped stories, shared winery gossip, and enjoyed a great meal before retiring for the evening.
Filed under: Events | Tags: Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival 2013, Boonville Hotel, Pinot Noir, Waits-Mast Family Cellars
We wrapped up the 16th Annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival weekend with perhaps our favorite event, the Sunday winery open houses on May 19. Every year wineries pull out special wines, prepare incredible food pairings, and open their doors to eager tasters. Many wineries that aren’t typically open will welcome customers to their properties for a rare opportunity to visit.
Since Boonville Hotel now has a wine room/shop, we relished the opportunity to pour at our very own winery open house for the first time. Boonville Hotel’s wine buyer Mark Mendenhall graciously offered to host the event and even arranged for some delicious bites from their fabulous restaurant Table 128.
At the open houses wineries can pour a variety of wines, so we decided to open up some selections that we couldn’t pour at the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival the day before. We started with our 2012 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Rose of Pinot Noir from Mendocino County and then poured three Waits-Mast Pinot Noirs from 2010 (from Londer Vineyard, Wentzel Vineyard, and Oppenlander Vineyard).
It was a festive late afternoon tasting (so that we could visit a few wineries ourselves in the morning) and we saw many friends and a few fellow winemakers. A number of hotel guests also made their way into the wine room in order to enjoy the event. It was gratifying to hear that tasters were enjoying our chilled rose on the warm May afternoon, with people describing it as “delicious” and “fantastic” with a “fresh strawberry” taste. A taster said that the 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Londer Vineyard had “nice Anderson Valley black cherry” notes and another called the 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Wentzel Vineyard “nice, dark, and beautiful.” The 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Oppenlander Vineyard may have been the crowd favorite, with people calling it “over the top good,” “well-balanced,” and “fruit forward,” with a “tobacco nose.”
After the event drew to a close at 5pm, we packed up our remaining bottles and headed back to San Francisco. As another Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival concluded, we were left with some great memories of a tasty wine-filled weekend.
Filed under: Events, Tasting notes | Tags: 2010 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, Waits-Mast Pinot Noir
Looking back on the 10+ years that we’ve been attending the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, it’s hard to believe that we skipped the grand tasting event for so many years. In fact, we’ve never attended the grand tasting as consumers and only started to go when we began pouring our wines at the festival back in 2009. We’d imagined it to be a crazed swarm of wine drinkers, when in fact it’s a lovely, small event featuring some incredible producers.
This year’s 16th annual grand tasting took place on Saturday, May 18 in a tent in the vineyard behind Goldeneye Winery in Philo, California. We poured two wines, our 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Wentzel Vineyard and our 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Londer Vineyard. Both wines have special significance for us. Our very first commercial release was a 2007 Pinot Noir from Wentzel Vineyard. It’s a delicious wine and we couldn’t be happier to be sourcing from the vineyard again.
As far as Londer Vineyard goes, we were excited to get fruit from this vineyard that we’ve had a long relationship with as fans. Brian and I got acquainted with Larry and Shirlee Londer soon after they moved to Anderson Valley and we have fond memories of attending their very first winemaker dinner in the barn on their property. Sadly, they’ve now moved away and are in the process of shutting down their winery. They poured at their final Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival this year and it was great to see them and to showcase a wine that we made from their fruit.
Only wines from Anderson Valley can be poured at the grand tasting event, so we kept it simple by pouring two of our Pinot Noirs from 2010. Here’s some of the feedback that we heard from tasters:
2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Wentzel Vineyard, Anderson Valley:
“love the smell”
“a lot of structure”
2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Londer Vineyard, Anderson Valley:
“great fruit, great spice, my kind of wine”
“it’s a wow”
“spiciness on the finish”
“love the nose”
Interestingly, we overheard someone critique one of our wines (we’re not sure which), saying, “I don’t like it, it’s too Burgundian.” This immediately prompted someone else to come to our table because she said that she’s a fan of that style of wine. It’s always fun to hear comments like this, as it makes it quite clear that taste is subjective.