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. (more…)
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.” (more…)
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. (more…)
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.
Filed under: Events | Tags: anderson valley pinot noir, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival 2013, Faux 828, Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir Blanc, technical conference
We had a wonderful time at the 16th Annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival last week in Boonville. The event took place between May 17th and May 19th and featured a technical conference, BBQ, grand tasting event, winemaker dinners and winery open houses. We arrived on Thursday evening in time to attend the press welcome dinner. Typically only open to press and volunteers, this year the organizers made some additional tickets available to participating winemakers. It was fun getting to mix and mingle at the casual dinner on the grounds of Foursight Winery. We sampled delicious wines from a number of wineries (including the first of many pinot noir blancs of the weekend), had scrumptious food from the newish Anderson valley eatery Aquarelle, and met some interesting folks. We turned in soon after the sun set in order to reserve our energy for the technical conference the following day.
We arrived at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds on Friday morning for the technical conference held in the Apple Hall. It was early and we were hungry, so we dived into the breakfast spread. Featuring Navarro‘s fantastic Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer grape juices, coffee cake, and a hearty savory egg custard, it was certainly not the typical conference fare. After hearing presentations about the state of viticulture in Mendocino County and about agricultural water use in Anderson Valley, we launched into the first tasting panel of the day just after 10am.
I was anticipating the Pinot Noir Blanc session, as we’d been intrigued by this wine after trying a fantastic one at Domaine Carneros. During the panel we learned that white Pinot Noir is certainly not a new concept, as it’s been made historically in Italy, France, and Germany. Balo Vineyards‘ Assistant Winemaker Alex Crangle was interested in making some Pinot Noir Blanc and started the process by sampling some of the wines available in the marketplace, including a few from Oregon.
Balo ended up making three barrels of Pinot Noir Blanc from various vineyards, largely because of a surplus of fruit in 2012. Balo pressed whole clusters of Pinot Noir for its wine. John Keyes from Angel Camp Vineyard shared another Pinot Noir Blanc. Angel Camp’s wine came from whole cluster pressed Pinot Noir grapes, with a total production of 18 cases of wine. Winemaker Jessica Tomei from Alta Wines also did a barrel this year and we were able to taste a barrel sample of the wine which was still finishing malolactic fermentation. The wines were all quite different, but were interesting examples of Pinot Noir Blanc. (more…)
Filed under: Events, New releases, Tasting notes | Tags: Luke, pinot days, Pinot Days Chicago, Pinot Days Chicago 2013, Rose, tasting events, Waits-Mast Pinot Noir
It’s been a year and a half since the last Pinot Days Chicago, so we were looking forward to the opportunity to pour Waits-Mast wines for our Chicago fans once again. During a particularly crazy weather week, we headed to the Navy Pier for yesterday’s event. Luckily the rains/snow/flooding of the previous few days had subsided, although we were alarmed to see black smoke emanating from a fire at the O’Hare airport (apparently just an emergency training exercise) as we drove to the tasting. After safely arriving at our destination (a gorgeous room at the Navy Pier with a lake view), we set up our signage, bottles, and literature for the expected crowds of Pinot Noir consumers and industry folks.
Although this is the 5th time that we’ve poured our wines at Pinot Days Chicago, it had been a year and a half since the last event in November, 2011. Traveling to Chicago had become a fall tradition for us, so it was strange to not be there last November. Thankfully the event still took place, moving to April this year.
During this year’s Pinot Days Chicago we poured three of our more recent releases, including our recently bottled 2012 Waits-Mast Rosé of Pinot Noir from Mendocino County as well as our 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Londer Vineyard and our 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Wentzel Vineyard.
It was exciting to launch our brand new rosé at Pinot Days. Bottled on March 30, this is our very first rosé. Crafted from fruit from some of our favorite vineyards in Anderson Valley and Mendocino, we think it’s pretty delicious and were looking forward to hearing what others thought of this wine. We only made 24 cases of our 100% Pinot Noir rosé, so we only brought a few bottles to the tasting for the rosé’s public debut. Despite the chilly spring weather in Chicago, tasters were quite complimentary about the rosé (although some inevitably declined to taste it, preferring to stick to full-on Pinot Noir). In addition to the rosé, we also poured two other wines from Mendocino County – our 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Londer Vineyard and our 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Wentzel Vineyard. Here are some tasting notes from some of the attendees who stopped by our table:
2012 Waits-Mast Rosé of Pinot Noir, Mendocino County:
“fine mineral quality” (from a non-rosé fan)
“I wouldn’t send this back”
would be “great with Chilean sea bass – best of both worlds, taste of red, refreshing [quality of a] white”
“nice and refreshing”
“my favorite of the day”
“this is the best thing here”
2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Londer Vineyard, Anderson Valley:
“love the smell, can’t place it”
“smokiness on the nose”
there’s a “very feminine grace to this”
“dances across your tongue”
“violets on the nose”
“almost like tangerine” (on the tongue as a top note)
“red fruit in nose”
2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Wentzel Vineyard, Anderson Valley:
“dryer finish” (than Londer)
“rich, nice structure”
“fruitier smell” (compared with Londer)
“good with salmon, it would stand up to the fat”
“such a great expression of Pinot”
All in all, Pinot Days Chicago was great fun for us. We saw many old friends (fans, family, industry folks, and fellow winemakers) and were also happy to introduce our wines to many people who had never tried our wines before. We did miss seeing our #1 fan, Luke – we waited patiently for him to arrive at our table, hoping for some poetic pronouncements about our wine. Alas, we hope to see him next year. But, perhaps one of my favorite moments was when renowned winemaker Brian Loring of Loring Wine Company complimented us on our wines and applauded us for our small production, saying, “dare to be small.”
Filed under: Winemaking | Tags: Anderson Valley, harvest 2012, Mendocino County, Waits-Mast Pinot Noir
We love making wine in the city, but sometimes there are challenges inherent to being several hours away from the vineyards. People might think we’re kind of crazy, choosing to make wine in San Francisco, from some of the furthest Pinot Noir vineyards from the city. Clearly, our love for Anderson Valley and Mendocino County fruit drives us to extremes. But we love it nonetheless.
This time of year, though, logistics are incredibly tricky. With long, windy roads and last-minute picks being juggled with busy work and life schedules, it takes a village to get our fruit into the winery and processed. Luckily we work with incredible vineyard owners who typically deliver their fruit to us, even though it can be a 3-hour drive from Mendocino County to San Francisco.
Our appreciation for this generosity has skyrocketed after this weekend. We had a few pick bins that we needed to take back to Anderson Valley and we figured it would be pretty straight-forward to rent a truck for this purpose. After extensive research, Brian found the ideal truck from U-Haul and reserved it online. We arrived at a San Francisco U-Haul location at 9am on Saturday, waited in line for 20 minutes, and then learned that the reserved truck would have to be returned by 1pm, even though Brian had reserved a 24-hour rental.
Exasperated, we returned home and hit the phones in order to procure another truck. Brian was elated when he found an even cheaper rental with no mileage restrictions. After booking it, we drove 45 minutes south to Palo Alto to pick up the truck. Ironically, as we traveled along Arastradero Road in Palo Alto en route to the car rental place, we spotted vineyards that I’d never seen before. I felt like they were taunting us.
As we pulled into the lot at Alamo in Palo Alto, Brian got a call on his cell phone telling him that they didn’t have trucks at that location. At this point I started getting flashbacks to a bad Ikea parking lot incident that brought out the dark side of mild-manner Brian. Sensing his frustration, the folks at Alamo suggested that Brian rent a large cargo van instead. After taking some measurements, Brian opted for the van.
By 2pm he was nearly on his way, but determined that he could only fit 2 bins in the van, even though we had 4 bins total to return. Guess those other 2 bins will have to wait….Brian finally made it up to Anderson Valley before sundown. Because of his late arrival, he accepted a kind offer from a vineyard owner to spend the night. Our daughter’s depiction of that happy arrival is pictured below.
Spending the night proved to be a good thing, as it meant that Brian could do vineyard checks on Sunday. Anderson Valley (and the entire Bay Area) experienced a heat spike both Sunday and today, so it was an excellent chance to see how imminent harvest would be.It looks like our next round of fruit will arrive tomorrow, with more to follow this week.