Pinot Days Chicago – Day Two by valleyfog

picture-047Our Pinot Noir Chicago weekend included a separate event the day after Pinot Days. On Sunday, November 16th, Crushpad held an open house at Just Grapes, a very cool wine shop in the financial district in Chicago. Pouring at the event, in addition to Waits-Mast, were folks from Crushpad,  and Crushpad Commerce clients Joelle Wine Company and Bon Coeur Cellars. It was an opportunity to pour our wines and mingle with people in a more intimate and low-key environment.

Floor to ceiling wine racks...sighhhhhh.

Floor to ceiling wine racks...sighhhhhh.

Just Grapes carries a wide variety of wines and really tries to simplify the process of learning about and choosing good wines. The fact that they have a section of the store devoted to Wall Street Journal Wine Picks says a lot about their philosophy.  We were parked up in the special events section of the store and had saved about 5 bottles of wine to pour for this event. That was it – we didn’t bring any additional wine for the weekend. There were more visitors than we expected and at a certain point, we weren’t sure if we would have enough wine to last us until closing time. But we actually had about half a bottle of our La Encantada left at the end of the day (which we gave to one of the store managers to enjoy.)

Brian pours the Waits-Mast lineup on chilly Chicago afternoon

Brian pours the Waits-Mast lineup on a chilly Chicago afternoon

There were a lot of Chicago-area Crushpad clients attending, along with Just Grapes regulars and a few old friends of ours that came by to visit. Many of the Crushpad clients were curious about what it was like to go commercial and we traded stories about the barrels of wine we’re making. There were also some prospective clients as well. For us, it has been an interesting experience to go from being in front of the table tasting wines to behind the table pouring wines. And people are now asking us about how we got into the “business” and how they might as well. That’s what’s great about Crushpad. It really helps you dip your toe in the whole experience and see how you like it. Inevitably, you’re hooked, so eloquently captured on the back of the Crushpad t-shirts they were giving away that night: “WARNING: Winemaking is Addictive.”

The happy winemakers behind the table, waiting for new fans.

The happy winemakers behind the table, waiting for new fans.

In addition to tasting other wines being poured at the event, we also were privy to some good bubbly. Dave from Crushpad had a “stash” of a really nice bottle of Champagne from Jean Veselle. So, when we had a break, we would dash over to his table and get a couple of hits of this lovely Pinot Noir-dominant bubby from France. How perfect to have a little champers to celebrate a successful and fun weekend in Chicago!

Now, we’re back home and fine-tuning our web store, so look for a post in the next couple of days about our wines (finally) for sale! Just in time for holiday shopping!


A view from the table


Pinot Days Chicago 2008 Trip – Day One by valleyfog

picture-008Pinot Days Chicago was a total blast! The event, on Saturday, November 15, 2008, was our first public tasting. We poured samples of three of our wines: 2006 Hein Vineyard (Anderson Valley) Pinot Noir, 2007 Wentzel Vineyard (Anderson Valley) Pinot Noir and 2007 La Encantada Vineyard (Santa Rita Hills) Pinot Noir and we were thrilled by the positive response. I think Jennifer and I were a bit anxious about hearing the feedback – we like these wines, but we really hoped that others did too. So, needless to say, when people started tasting and enjoying our wines, we were relieved. It started out slowly, though.

picture-001The trade tasting was from 11am-1pm and we were a little late getting our table set up (slept in due to our 2 year old not sleeping well the previous night). So after we got our bottles out & opened up, our 40×20 poster on an easel, and collateral carefully arranged on the table, we stood and awaited the masses. Our early “customers” included a couple of sales managers from Binny’s, my favorite high-volume wine/beverage store in the Chicago area. The Des Plaines location is conveniently on the way to my sister’s house from the airport, so I always stop in to pick out a few choice bottles (of Pinot, of course). Other buyers, wine bar owners and distributors came by and tasted as well. We definitely had interest from a few distributors for representation in the Chicago area, which we would love.

Brian pouring Pinot Noir for some brave souls

Brian pouring Pinot Noir for some brave souls

The public tasting opened up at 1pm and ran until 5pm. This is when things got really fun. We had a great time chatting with people about our wine, their wines and everything else in between. We looked around at other tables, though, and initially, it seemed that attendees were gravitating towards other wineries and not as many were coming to us. This is where a mix of design staging, salesmanship and PR come in. Design staging: we mounted a 40″ x 20″ poster of our label on foamcore and set it up behind us on an easel – the beautiful photograph was a beacon calling people to our table. Salesmanship: you’ve got to catch the attention of the people walking by at a distance and invite them in to your world of wine. PR: we had more than a few friends and family at the event that were chatting up Waits-Mast and sending people our way.

And then we got some momentum. There were a few people that were really struck by our wines. Notably Luke and his friend Bill. Luke described the aroma from our 2006 Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley as “a perfume so lovely I wish my wife would wear it!” As he went through our flight of three wines, he wrapped up with our 2007 La Encantada Pinot Noir from Santa Rita Hills and was beside himself about this wine. I believe he said, “I’ve died and gone to heaven.” He really wanted to know what was the “magic” that went into creating this “perfect symphony” (his words, I swear!) of a wine. I did my best to explain the science of making that wine, but the rest of it is pure art (and an expression of a great vineyard and grower).

Luke and some other new Waits-Mast "regulars" enjoying another round of La Encantada

Luke and some other new Waits-Mast "regulars" enjoying another round of La Encantada


Luke made his way around the rest of the show, but came back to us with new friends and others he had been directing towards our table. According to Luke, “the whole show was worth it just to meet the two of you.”

By the end of the day, we had some “regulars,” in addition to Luke, who kept returning to our table, helping us finish off the last few bottles. Mark Phillips, who has a PBS special and his own stemware line and is friends with our friends Lisa and Blair, was there with his friends too. It was also fun to meet a few wine bloggers, including Pinot Noir enthusiast Douglas Trapasso of Chicago Pinot and Bill Wilson from Wine for Newbies (be sure to see his wrap-up post about Pinot Days, which includes some great wine tasting etiquette tips).  The overwhelmingly positive feedback was more than we could have ever imagined. Tired, cold and hungry, we headed home for the evening still buzzing from the day’s festivities.

Waits-Mast collateral exhibiting the dripping damage of the day

Waits-Mast collateral exhibiting the dripping damage of the day

Pouring at Pinot Days Chicago next weekend by valleyfog
November 12, 2008, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

pinot_days_logoWe’re off to the Windy City this weekend to pour our wines at Pinot Days Chicago (Saturday, November 15, 1-5pm). We’re excited for many reasons. First off, this is the first time we’ve poured our wines at an official event, especially one this big. Over 50 different wineries will be pouring there, including some of our faves: Inman Family Wines, Dain, Siduri, Roessler, and Raye’s Hill, amongst others. Second, the appearance at Pinot Days marks the release of our first commercially-available Pinot Noir, our 2007 Wenztel Vineyard from Anderson Valley. And third, but certainly not least, is visiting and staying with my twin sister and her family in the Chicago area.

I’m excited that Cece and husband Kevin will be able to take a break from their hectic lives (lots of soccer, volleyball and basketball games to truck their three kids back and forth to — all worth it!) and attend the tasting and try out some amazing wines. Wait! Who’s watching the kids? Their eldest, Eileen, will take care of all the kids so we can play adult for a few hours.

just-grapes-logoWe’ll also be pouring at the Crushpad Open House the next day, Sunday, Nov. 16th, from 2-5pm at Just Grapes, a cool wine shop/tasting bar down near the financial district. I grew up in South Bend, IN (about 2 hours away) and have many friends in Chicago, so we’re giving plenty of opportunity for them to stop by and visit with us and try our wines.

On Saturday, to find us, look for the Crushpad table. We’ll be one of their Crushpad Commerce partners that will be pouring at their table, along with Joelle Wines. And wear your parka – it could be snowing on Saturday! To think we’re leaving a heat-wave in San Francisco for the snow! Gotta love the Midwest…