ValleyFogBlog


2014 Harvest Begins by Jennifer
September 15, 2014, 12:01 am
Filed under: Events, Winemaking | Tags: , , , , , ,
Wentzel Vineyards Pinot Noir arrives

Wentzel Vineyard fruit arrives

It’s only mid-September and we are more than halfway through harvest at Waits-Mast Family Cellars. In addition to being in constant communication with our growers and our wine making facility about pick logistics, we’ve also been out doing tasting appointments, pouring at events, and scrambling to buy more barrels to hold our increasingly growing production (we plan to surpass 500 cases this year!). Our first harvest of 2014 was at Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley on September 4. We greeted grower Roland Wentzel when he delivered the fruit to the winery in San Francisco that evening (after braving city traffic jams) and then raced home to pack for a trip up to Anderson Valley and Mendocino the following day.

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Counting Down the Days to Harvest 2014 by Jennifer

It’s the calm before the storm, as harvest is imminently approaching for Waits-Mast Family Cellars. It’s looking like our first pick of the year will happen in just a few days, with other picks soon after. This will all be unusually early for Mendocino Pinot Noir. But because of the drought and a warm winter, budbreak was early. This, along with a moderate growing season is driving an earlier harvest.

A week ago we went up to Anderson Valley and Mendocino Ridge in order to check in on the vineyards from which we source our Pinot Noir grapes and things were looking and tasting great already. Here’s a quick glimpse of what’s happening at four (of our five) vineyard sources:

Wentzel Vineyard, Anderson Valley: Our first visit on the weekend of August 23, 2014 was to Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley. We initially starting working with this vineyard in 2007 (the wine was our first commercial release) and after a short break, have been making wine from Wentzel every year since 2010. Pictured below is the section, dubbed Le Clos, from which we have primarily been getting our grapes. It features a field blend of Dijon clones of Pinot Noir and is located in a lovely, enclosed sloping section of the Wentzel property. It looks like this will be our first pick of 2014, with fruit coming in any day now.

Wentzel Vineyard

Wentzel Vineyard, Anderson Valley

 

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2013 Harvest is On… by Jennifer
Wentzel Vineyard Harvest 2013

Harvest 2013 at Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley (photo: J. Waits)

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



Of Wines and Minerality by Jennifer
July 27, 2013, 3:55 pm
Filed under: Tasting notes | Tags: , , , , ,

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).

Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County, 2012

Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County (photo: B. Mast)

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?



Beating the Heat at 2013 Pinot Days San Francisco by Jennifer
July 5, 2013, 11:06 am
Filed under: Events, Tasting notes | Tags: ,
2013 Pinot Days San Francisco

Entrance to Festival Pavilion at Ft. Mason During 2013 Pinot Days San Francisco (photo: J. Waits)

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.

Waits-Mast Rose of Pinot Noir

Chilling the Rose (photo: J. Waits)

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



Rules and Regulations at Direct2013 Conference: From Autograph Events to Pot Sales by Jennifer
Jason Eckenroth of ShipCompliant

ShipCompliant CEO Jason Eckenroth (photo: J. Waits)

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



Sampling Sips and Bites at Taste of Mendocino by Jennifer
Taste of Mendocino banner

Taste of Mendocino 2013 (photo: J. Waits)

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.

Taste of Mendocino Workshops

Taste of Mendocino Workshop Line-up (Photo: J. waits)

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.

Tasting Panels at Taste of Mendocino

Workshop Room at Taste of Mendocino (photo: J. Waits)

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 crowd awaiting the beginning of the AV panel.

The eager crowd before the AV panel (photo: B. Mast).

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.”

Golden Gate Club for Taste of Mendocino

Golden Gate Club during the Taste of Mendocino (photo: J. Waits)

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.”

View of Golden Gate Bridge from Presidio

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Presidio (photo: J. Waits)

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.




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