Wine Book Lust/Must: Pacific Pinot Noir by valleyfog

I went through a phase of buying up tons of wine books, early on when my interest and enthusiasm for wine went into hyperdrive. At first, there were books about the basics of wine and annual wine guides. Then there were the wine history books, including American Vintage by Paul Lukacs, which deepened my perspective on the industry.

pacific-pinot-book-cover1Lately, I’ve slowed down, though, perhaps become more selective on purchasing wine books, given a slight saturation in my bookshelves. But, a number of great books continue to come out every year, looking at different angles of the business, from recounting the famous Judgement of Paris tasting in 1976 where California wines beat out the French, or studies on particular grapes varietals of which I am obsessed (uh, hello Pinot Noir!). John Winthrop Haeger now has two books focused on Pinot Noir and I just picked up his second tome, Pacific Pinot Noir, that was released in November. His first, North American Pinot Noir, is a total geek-out on the grape, and includes profiles of some notable North American Pinot Noir producers. But Pacific Pinot Noir is more of a definitive guide to a broader set of producers from Oregon and California. For Pinot Noir fans like us, books like this are essential. I found it recently at Omnivore Books on Food, an extremely cool new bookstore in Noe Valley in SF that is devoted entirely to, well, the name says it all.

La Encantada Vineyard in Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County

La Encantada Vineyard in Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County

The first thing Jennifer did when we got the book home was to find in the index citations of the various vineyards from which Waits-Mast Cellars sources its grapes. La Encantada vineyard, owned by Richard and Thekla Sanford of Alma Rosa, is mentioned in a few places:

La Encantada, while still young, seems an exceptionally promising site. Like Sanford & Benedict, much of it is north-facing, its soil is rock-strewn and marly, and its hilly topography creates a diversity of microclimates even within single vineyard blocks.

Amber Ridge, a Russian River vineyard from which we have sourced grapes in our 2005 and 2008 bottlings, comes up a number of times in the book, even though it is still relatively new. Paul Hobbs, Kosta Browne, Siduri and Sonnet are among the wineries using grapes from this vineyard planted with Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777. The description of Kosta Browne’s 2004 Amber Ridge reminds me of our 2005 vintage, especially the cherry candy reference:

Medium, rosy black-red color; huge nose of rose petal and raspberry; raspberry and cherry candy on the palate, with briary and peppery hints toward the end; full-bodied, concentrated, and satiny.

Hein Family Vineyard in Anderson Valley, near Philo, CA.

Hein Family Vineyard in Anderson Valley, near Philo, CA.

And Hein Family Vineyard, located in Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) is mentioned briefly – in the sections on Copain and Roessler wineries. There is a connection between the two: Scott Shapley, winemaker at Roessler, is the brother-in-law of Wells Guthrie, owner of Copain (who also is part owner of Roessler); Scott was also a winemaker at Crushpad in its early days and made our 2005 Amber Ridge Pinot Noir. We made a single vineyard Pinot Noir from Hein in 2006 which is coming around quite nicely after a year and a half in the bottle and we have a 2008 Hein in barrel currently.

After such clear affirmation of our grape choices (like we didn’t know!), I returned to the beginning, soaking up the acknowledgements, forward and introduction. One thing that I was reminded of was that the rise of New World Pinot Noir (wine made outside of Burgundy) is still relatively new. Especially in California, where Pinot Noir struggled in the 1960s – just at the same time when the California wine industry was starting to really come into its own in terms of global recognition and credibility. Pinot Noir had  been grown successfully in the U.S. for a very long time, but with the advent of new winemaking technology – starting in the 60s – it became even more unpredictable than its usual fickle self. According to Haeger,

American winemaking had changed in the 1960s as new technology, processes, and equipment were adopted without much reflection simply because there were new, available, and affordable. The classic recipe for red wine had been replaced with an entirely new one that relied on industrial processes, heavy-handed intervention, and fault correction.

In other words, Pinot Noir, the most fragile of red wine grapes, couldn’t survive such rough handling. While some producers dropped Pinot from their lineup and focused on more durable wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, thankfully, others persevered and adapted their techniques accordingly. And thus began a resurgence in Pinot Noir in the 80s and 90s…just around the time when I got hooked myself.

So for any Pinot Noir fans out there, this is a very informative, well-laid out book that is a great primer to peruse before your next trip to California or Oregon wine country, or the trip down the street to your local wine shop or restaurant.

January Special: 15% off All Wine by valleyfog
January 10, 2009, 4:41 pm
Filed under: Promotions | Tags: , , , , ,
Looking south across Anderson Valley, near Philo, CA.

Looking south across Anderson Valley, near Philo, CA.

For those that are not on our mailing list, we wanted to make sure you knew about our New Year’s special:

One of the joys of wine is that it is always new – a new vintage, a new producer, a new appellation. So, we think that resolving to try a new wine is a fine New Year’s resolution to consider. To encourage this resolve, especially for those who have yet to try our wines, we are offering a limited discount on our wines throughout the month of January:

Save 15% off any bottle or case of Waits-Mast Pinot Noir through January 31, 2009. Enter the discount code newyear in the coupon code box. Go to our website to check out our wines and start shopping!

NOTE: customers in the SF Bay Area can save on shipping costs by choosing “local pickup” from the shipping options. You can then pick up the wine at the Crushpad shipping and logistics center in San Francisco, located at 566 Minnesota Street, just off of Third Street and Mariposa. Call ahead at (415)558-9181 to schedule your pickup.

Have you tried any new wines this year? Read any interesting new poems? Let us know in the comment box below – we love comments! Jennifer got me some nice poetry for Christmas, including a small, rare volume from George Sterling. I’ll have to share some of my favorites in the next post. Happy New Year!

Brian sampling the Wentzel Pinot Noir at last year's Crushpad Client Mashup

Brian sampling the Wentzel Pinot Noir at last year's Crushpad Client Mashup

Toasting the Holidays with Waits-Mast Pinot Noir by valleyfog

Well, the holidays are behind us, but good memories of food, friends and family linger. This year, all three combined with our wine at various holiday functions. We traditionally serve our wine at our family Christmas meal (and Thanksgiving) here in Northern California, and we’re glad to report that now our wine is finding its place on tables across the country.

Good friends gather over Waits-Mast Pinot Noir in Sacramento

Good friends gather over Waits-Mast Pinot Noir in Sacramento

Hailing from Sacramento way, Sande Drew and her husband Anders (who really hails from Sweden) are big fans of Waits-Mast Pinot Noir (in fact they were our first on-line customers) and I believe they’ve gone through a number of bottles over the last two weeks. Sande and Anders attended a Christmas dinner at their friend Mike and Annette’s house and they poured two of our Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs, the 2006 Hein Vineyard and the 2007 Wentzel Vineyard to accompany their meal, along with some Champagne. This was an eclectic fete, with friends from Dallas, Mike’s parents from Los Angeles, an Arabian horse breeder, an artist who is a sculptor and painter, a former broadcast anchor (in markets like Dallas and Detroit) and of course, the Swedish Chef and artist Anders! They picked a good wine to pair with the meal, an international menu including Moroccan lamb couscous,  stuffed baked cabbage, German beef rouladen and a Swedish anchovy and potato dish known as Jansson’s Temptation. It all sounds tempting!

Photo collage of Waits-Mast-Penney Christmas Dinner courtesy of Janine Penney (she's the one in the corner)

Photo collage of Waits-Mast-Penney Christmas Dinner courtesy of Janine Penney (she's the one in the corner)

And of course, here at home in the Bay Area, we toted a bottle of our Wentzel Pinot Noir to Christmas dinner at Jennifer’s sister’s house in San Jose. We joined Janine and her family and her brother-in-law and his girlfriend, along with Jennifer’s parents to make merry around a table of culinary goodness. Janine slaved for days, with help from husband Martin and mother Susie, in anticipation of the event. We busted out a sparkler – a 2003 Brut Rose from Handley Cellars – to go with the assortment of fine French, English and American cheeses and nuts including rosemary-toasted pecans. The dinner menu featured a beautiful roast turkey (brined of course!), honeybaked ham, a curiously delicious puree called Monk’s Dish, stuffing, sweet potatoes (with marshmallows), green beans (w/bacon and pine nuts) and Meetinghouse Biscuits (from the former restaurant of the same name). Along with the Pinot Noir, we served a 2006 Gewurztraminer from Bargetto Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The meal was capped with a serving of Susie’s famous grasshopper pie and a dramatic reading of Twas The Night Before Christmas.

Half way across the country and more than a few degrees cooler, the McTigue family (full disclosure: my twin sister!) in the Chicago area rang in the New Year with the 07 Wentzel as well. My brother-in-law Kevin is a burgeoning chef de cuisine and was testing out his new Christmas toys – chef’s knives and a food processor. They plied their friends with a sumptious feast including mixed baby greens w/ balsamic vinaigrette and dried cranberries, cream of broccoli soup, beef tenderloin with a Waits-Mast Pinot Noir reduction and twice-baked potatoes. I think I need to book another flight to Chicago to visit Chez McTigue!

Stretching to the east coast, I know that Lynn Krielow Chamberlain, a.k.a. The Wine Fairy who interviewed me for her online radio show back in October, received a bottle of our Wentzel Pinot Noir just in time to serve at her Christmas dinner in North Carolina. We hope it was enjoyed by all.

If anyone else has holiday wine pairings and menus to share – post a comment, please. Even if (for shame) it didn’t include one of our wines. We’re equal opportunity Pinot Noir drinkers, trust me!

Happy New Year!

Brian and Jennifer