ValleyFogBlog


Harvest 2011: Cold Summer, Late Rains and Bears, Oh My! by valleyfog

Russian River Valley pinot noir arriving at the winery

It’s October 15 and we still are waiting for more pinot noir fruit to get picked and sorted in this 2011 vintage. Today, we sorted our Russian River Valley pinot noir fruit from the vineyard formerly know as Archer Family Vineyard (it was recently sold and new vineyard name is TBD). Usually RRV fruit comes in sometime in mid-late September.

The fact that you have Sonoma fruit getting picked in mid-October tells you what a crazy growing season this has been. Not only did the cool summer push back the phenolic development of the grapes, but the rains in early October caused ripening to stall momentarily. In some cases, it pushed back the ripeness, with sugars going down.

And then, when you get a region like Anderson Valley, where our grapes have come in normally in late September to early October, things are getting pushed back even further. We are still awaiting another lot of Anderson Valley pinot noir, with our Wentzel fruit scheduled for pick on Monday the 17th.

Evidence of a hungry bear at Wentzel Vineyard

And did we say bears? Yes, bears. A little visitor has consumed a few pinot noir clusters at Wentzel Vineyard, further challenging the final yield of the vineyard. Suffice it to say, we are lucky to get our little ton of pinot with all the challenges the year has brought.

Despite all the challenges or idiosyncrasies of the 2011 vintage, the fruit looks *and* tastes good. For growers overall, yields are down due to shatter, dropped fruit because of mold or lack of ripeness and general damage from the rains, but what remains after this close attention to quality are excellent grapes that hopefully are benefiting from an additional two to three weeks of hang time. As Bonne notes in his own 2011 harvest update, more hang time (and cooler growing conditions) means more complexity and more balance.

We’ll see – as Tom Petty growls in his hit from the 80′s, “the waiting is the hardest part.”



New Holiday Special: Waits-Mast 08 Appellation 3-Pack by valleyfog

Waits-Mast Pinot Noir Holiday Appellation 3-Pack

To keep things festive during this holiday season, Waits-Mast Family Cellars has put together a specially-priced three pack for California pinot noir fans, an appellation three pack. The three pack features a bottle of 2008 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from three different regions: Anderson Valley, Russian River Valley and Sta. Rita Hills.

Purchased separately, these three wines would total $135, but this special holiday pack is priced at $115 for all three bottles. Here’s the lineup of our 2008 pinot noirs included in the three pack:

2008 Hein Vineyard, Anderson Valley: from Mendocino County. Gold Medal, 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

2008 Amber Ridge Vineyard, Russian River Valley: from Sonoma County. Silver Medal, 2010 San Francisco International Wine Competition; 87 points, Wine Enthusiast.

2008 La Encantada Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills: from Santa Barbara County. Silver Medal, 2010 San Francisco International Wine Competition; 92 points, Wine Enthusiast.

Read more about each wine here. The Appellation Three Pack is available through December 31, 2010. This three pack also qualifies for our holiday shipping special, too. So order today, using the coupon code HALF, and you’ll get 50% off ground shipping. To order, go to our purchase page here. Cheers!



2009 vintage almost there: August barrel tasting by valleyfog

Trying to keep track of all the wine during barrel sampling

One thing about being in the wine business and dealing with so many vintages is you start to forget what year it is. We’re in the middle of releasing and selling our 2008 vintage of pinot noir, the 2009s are still in barrel, and we’re finalizing our plans for 2010. All exciting stuff for us here at Waits-Mast and each vintage has its own story and requires its own focus.

We’ve written much about our 2009 vintage and its five different vineyards and we are really pumped about this wine. We recently tasted through all five vineyard-designate pinot noirs in barrel and the wines truly represent a broad portfolio of pinot noir. In barrel since October of last year, each one is distinct and supremely tasty in its own right. These are the type of wines that you could easily distinguish one from the other, because they are so site-specific. Here are some brief observations of each wine from this barrel tasting:

Hayley Vineyard, Anderson Valley: this vineyard on the valley floor gets a lot of morning fog and then warmer afternoons that combine to extend flavor development. Bright raspberry and coconut on the nose, bursting with red fruit on the palate with nice acidity and fine tannins on the finish.

La Encantada Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills: our third vintage with this Santa Barbara County vineyard, the La Encantada is delivering once again. The 2009 has a lot of exotic spices, firm tannins, and an intense core of red and black fruit.

Deer Meadows Vineyard, Anderson Valley: Rich Savoy’s upper (1600′) vineyard in Boonville is going to rock your world. A lighter touch than our other pinots, it has wonderful floral aromatics with bright cherry, orange peel and coriander. Intense red cherry and great acidity make the wine dance on the palate.

Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County (Comptche): this one is going to be coming out of its shell a bit later, but the potential that we’re tasting in this this wine is intriguing: dried lavender, purple-tinged color, earthy tones and firm tannins. Patience will serve you well with the Oppenlander.

Amber Ridge Vineyard, Russian River Valley: for those not wanting a wine that is playing hard-to-get, this pinot noir will be lush, flirty and seductive right out of the gate. Lots of cherry and raspberry, smooth tannins with a brightness to counteract the warm spices that this wine serves up. In a word: yum.

Ready to treat yourself to a flight of this amazing pinot noir? We are too, but we need to let these wines brood a little more, do a little blending and then get them in bottle. They’ve all been racked to neutral barrels. We’ll let you know about final bottling and the planned release dates, which will likely be in 2011.

2008 Amber Ridge currently on the shelves at Pleasant Hill Wine Merchant

We still have a handful of cases of our 2008 Hein Vineyard, Anderson Valley and 2008 Amber Ridge Vineyard (equally as flirty) left and will be releasing our 2008 La Encantada in September. All three of these wines are award-winning and continue to evolve beautifully, so treat yourself to one today.



Release Party This Sunday at Red + White Wine Bar in Glen Park by valleyfog

Red & White in Glen Park

Hey! We’re havin’ a party! A Spring release party in Summer. Yes, you read that right.  Spring just got away from us, so we decided that it was better late than never to hold a party in honor of our newest Pinot Noir.

So, please join us Sunday, July 11 at our favorite neighborhood wine bar, Red & White in Glen Park, as we celebrate the official launch for the 2008 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir from Amber Ridge Vineyard in Russian River. To read more about the crush and pressing of this wine and see tasting notes and specs, see our blog post from the Spring.

We’re excited to share this wine with you, as it marks our return to the very first vineyard from which we made wine in 2005 and we just got word that it scored a silver medal in the 2010 San Francisco International Wine Competition.

2008 Waits-Mast Amber Ridge Pinot Noir

We’ll be pouring our 2008 Amber Ridge Pinot Noir at promotional prices — $12 for a glass and $6 for a taste (half-glass) — during the event and you will also be able to purchase bottles to drink at Red & White or to take home with you. Red + White also has some great food to nosh on with our wine, as well as a unique selection of red, white and sparkling wines by the glass or bottle.

Details:

Location: Red & White Wine Bar

Street: 678 Chenery Street (near Diamond) in the Glen Park neighborhood (accessible via BART or MUNI)

City: San Francisco, CA

Date: Sunday, July 11, 2010

Time: 4:00pm – 7:00pm PT

View and RSVP to the invite in Facebook.

New to Glen Park? Glen Park is a great little hamlet, tucked within the hills of the southern part of San Francisco. We feel very lucky to live just up the hill from this burgh. Here are a few ideas to make a day of it:

  • Take a hike in Glen Canyon, located at the West end of Chenery Street.
  • Pick up some sandwiches or cheese for your hike at Canyon Market on Diamond Street, a great local market with everyday and specialty foods (and wines, including ours!)
  • Browse away the afternoon and maybe catch some poetry or live music at Bird & Beckett, an amazing independent bookstore located on Chenery Street.
  • Cross the street to continue browsing wonderful gifts at Perch and say hi to our friend Zoel.
  • Getting hungry? Lots of options. One of the best Neopolitan pizza places in the Bay Area is Gialina. Or get a reservation at Chenery Park, a great upscale neighborhood restaurant with contemporary American food with a Cajun touch.

We hope to see you there! And if you can’t make it to the party, swing by Red + White another time and you should be able to order the Amber Ridge Pinot Noir by the bottle to share with friends at the bar or take home to enjoy with dinner.



Spring Release: 2008 Russian River Pinot Noir from Amber Ridge Vineyard by valleyfog

2008 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Amber Ridge Pinot Noir

For our Spring release, Waits-Mast Family Cellars welcomes back an old friend — pinot noir from the Amber Ridge Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. This wine holds a special place in our heart as it was the one that got us hooked into making pinot noir. Our first venture into winemaking was in 2005 when we decided to make one barrel of pinot noir purely for the learning experience — and to drink and share some really good wine that had our name on the label.

Jumping into this whole winemaking thing was a big investment for us at the time and we spent hours tasting different barrel samples from various vineyards before finally arriving on Amber Ridge, an up-and-coming vineyard in Russian River Valley, as our choice. So, we jumped in and got our hands dirty to make this wine, and it ended up being an incredibly nuanced, aromatic and elegant pinot noir.

Suffice it to say, it exceeded our expectations. It also exceeded the expectations of our friends, who loved it so much they wanted to buy cases of the stuff.

This was the defining moment that took Waits-Mast from one barrel to a 200-case production micro-boutique brand that we are today. Okay, not quite the humongous rise to stardom, but a lot of good things have happened to us since we made that first wine – notably lots of other amazing wines that we have made since then.

When we finally got our hands on these grapes again, it was 2008. The 2008 harvest came in a little early on September 3rd and the clusters were small to medium and looked beautiful. The base clones for this wine are 115 and 667, together providing elegance and structure, respectively. To punch up the fruit a bit, we blended in a small percentage of 777 clone just before going into bottle.

The 2008 Amber Ridge Pinot Noir was bottled in September of 2009 after 12 months of barrel-aging in 33% new French oak. The nose pops with strawberry and red cherry and a little baking spice, along with hints of herbs. On the palate is the classic Amber Ridge that we love: sweet cherry, lush fruit, and a smooth, creamy finish. This wine is drinking very well right now and stands on its own by the glass or paired with pan-roasted pork tenderloin with Asian five-spice seasonings.

2008 Amber Ridge Pinot Noir

The 2008 Amber Ridge Pinot Noir is priced at $44/bottle and is now available in our online store. Enjoy!

Technical specifications:

Clones: 115/667/777

Alcohol content: 14.4% by volume

Fruit: 100% whole berry (no stems)

Fermentation: native yeast

Barrel aging: 12 months in French oak, 33% new (Francois Freres, MT)

Bottled: September, 2009

Production: 25 cases

Drink now through 2015

Price: $44/bottle

Release date: April 11, 2010



Barrel Tasting the 2009 vintage: February Notes by valleyfog

After a busy holiday season and with our 2009 vintage resting comfortably in barrel for over four months, we were ready to check in on its progress. Each of the five different Waits-Mast vineyard-designate pinot noirs made in 2009 are doing quite well and each exhibits its own personality and distinctive flavor profile. Here are some tasting notes on how each is coming along, as of February 19, 2010:

2009 barrel tasting: five barrels, eight glasses, one spit cup

Amber Ridge vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County (clones: 115, 667, 777; two barrels, one new (Francois Freres), one neutral): the first word I wrote down was “awesome.” The fruit leaps out of the glass and is juicy and dark, with a candied raspberry finish. This will mellow, for sure, but this will definitely be a wine that will be very drinkable, very soon.

Deer Meadow Ranch vineyard, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County (clones: 115, Wadenswil; two barrels, one new (Cadus), one neutral): This is Rich Savoy’s higher elevation (1600 ft.) vineyard (official vineyard designation to-be-named) in Boonville. We’ve tasted this twice in the last month and we are very excited about this one. We feel it will deliver that complex, earthy Anderson Valley pinot noir that we love so much. Definitely some funky earth on the nose, with a mix of red and dark fruit. The tight-grained French Cadus oak is very restrained on the nose.

2009 Oppenlander vineyard from Comptche: vibrant and violet

Oppenlander vineyard, Comptche, Mendocino County (clones: 114; two barrels, one new (Remond), one neutral): Whoa! Crazy violet-tinged color on this one. I remember that color from the bottom of the bin after we dumped the grapes into the press. Chris Nelson, our winemaker, said the Oppenlander shows some of that classic “oceanic acidity.” Indeed, and some firm tannins, too. This will be a vibrant wine and we’re eager to see how it progresses as it comes together.

Hayley’s vineyard, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County (clones: 114; one barrel, 33% new French oak, Francois Freres): Hayley’s is on the valley floor, or benchland, where a lot of fog sits late into the morning. A lighter wine in comparison to some of the others, with nice red cherry fruit. Floral on the nose, with a distinct wild vanilla and coconut aroma, reminiscent of Malibu Rum (oh, the days of yore…).

La Encantada vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County (clones:115, 777; one barrel, 33% new French oak, Francois Freres): last but not least, this 100% organic vineyard always delivers beautiful and exciting wines. The 2009, our third vintage in a row with La Encantada, is showing an exotic herbal and spicy nose (consistent with previous vintages) and nice tannins. Should be another winner – so far, so good!

We’ll be back with more barrel tasting notes throughout the spring and summer and remember, we still have two different 2008 pinot noirs yet to be released. So stay tuned to our blog or sign up at our website to get on our mailing list for the latest news.




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