Besides wine, one of our passions is the written word. To marry these two pursuits, we decided to curate and publish our first collection of poetry, just in time for the remaining weeks of National Poetry Month. Our small poetry booklet (we just learned that the fancy term for this is chapbook) contains the work of 8 Northern California poets. Thanks so much to our friend Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet for not only lending us a fantastic poem from her forthcoming collection Tulips, Water, Ash; but also for being the poetic ambassador for the project. Because of Lisa we were introduced to the work of the other amazing poets in our collection.
Here is an excerpt from Lisa’s poem “The Secret Lives of Objects,” featured in our collection:
My friend, the engineer, sees hurt machines
—a car grinding its gears, a discarded vise—
and aches. He knows what they know.
The rusted fan, the flea-market eggbeater
share all innocent objects’ silence. They speak,
are heard, only through us; need us
Like our wine, the Waits-Mast Poetry Collection 2009 is a very limited release, with only 100 numbered copies available with wine purchase. Get your copy while they last. They’re available to customers who purchase 2 bottles or more (so they can fit in the box!). If you’re a San Francisco local and just want to buy one bottle of wine, then you can grab yourself a booklet if you pick up your wine from the winery.
It’s a relatively rare occurrence for Waits-Mast to do public tastings, so it’s hard to believe that we participated in three tasting events in the past nine days. All of the opportunities to pour were impossible to pass up, even though Brian was out of town for two of them (and crestfallen of course). It was quite a treat, since we always enjoy sharing our wine with others and, of course, hope that we’ll create a few fans along the way. But, it’s always a bit nerve-wracking to pour in public because everyone’s palate, taste preferences, and opinion is unique and not everyone is going to love our wines as much as we do.
Thankfully the feedback from the crowds at all of the events was overwhelmingly positive. But, of course, it’s the silent tasters, vague comments (“this one’s more savory”), and borderline negative remarks that keep us (well, Jennifer anyway) awake at night. It’s complicated to put yourself out there (“have a taste, tell us what you think”), because you are inviting both accolades and critiques, even though it’s so much more fun to hear glowing remarks over criticism.
The incredibly personal nature of taste is something that Brian and I have both been thinking a lot about, especially after seeing Eric Asimov’s recent article, “Finessed and Light: California Pinot Noirs with a Manifesto,” in the New York Times. In the article Eric Asimov writes:
“From Mendocino and Sonoma through the Santa Cruz Mountains and Arroyo Grande south to the rolling hills of Santa Barbara County, a rebellion is brewing. The dominant style of California pinot noir remains round, ripe and extravagant, with sweet flavors of dark fruit and alcohol levels approaching and sometimes surpassing 15 percent.
But on a recent trip through these leading pinot noir areas I was thrilled to find a small but growing number of producers pulling in the opposite direction.
Instead of power, they strive for finesse. Instead of a rich, mouth-coating impression of sweetness, they seek a dry vitality meant to whet the appetite rather than squelch it. Instead of weight, they prize lightness and an almost transparent intensity.”
These lighter styles of Pinot Noir aren’t necessarily the favorites of big name critics. We’ve even experienced that on a smaller scale when sending our more “elegant” 2006 Hein to a blind tasting. We didn’t get any descriptive feedback on the wine, but heard that it didn’t “score” well. After taking a look at its competition, we realized that it had no chance against the bigger wines that it was being pitted against.
At the book chat at Omnivore Books today, Passion for Pinot: A Journey Through America’s Pinot Noir Country author Jordan Mackay confirmed that trend, pointing out that creators of lighter-style Pinot Noir aren’t sending wine to critics since they know that in the current critical climate it won’t score well. He also added that he personally doesn’t believe in scoring wines, but admitted that wine scores play a huge role in selling wines on a “big scale.”
In his blog for La Rochelle Winery, Steven Mirassou points out that wine style trends come and go (often fostered by celebrity wine critics), everyone has personal preferences, and that there’s room on the shelf for a range of styles. He argues that as a winemaker his goal is to remain “…true to the vineyard and to the grape…and, more importantly, …true to my winemaking philosophy.”
I kept these thoughts in mind when we poured our wines at Canyon Market, Wine 2.0 and at Omnivore Books. During the tastings I heard lots and lots of opinions about the wines. At Wine 2.0 we poured three: the 2006 Hein Vineyard (Anderson Valley), and the 2007 vintages of Wentzel Vineyard (Anderson Valley) and La Encantada (Sta Rita Hills). When people were faced with three wines to try, they typically came up with a clear favorite. It varied by person, with all three wines making it into the top position at some point in the evening. But what was really interesting to me was that the same wine can elicit polar opposite opinions.
In particular, the Wentzel received some over-the-top love, with one man saying that it had the best balance of the three. The same taster then said, “this is the best wine I’ve had all night” and remarked that it gave him faith in American winemaking. Yet, the same wine caused another taster to flatly proclaim, “this needs a lot longer.” Brian reminded me that I shouldn’t necessarily take that as a negative (even though I did), especially since we both agree that the Wentzel is going to age really well. But, still….It’s amazing that so many enjoy the Wentzel right now, while others don’t.
In terms of the La Encantada, many people commented on the beautiful aroma (one guy at Pinot Days in Chicago in November joked that he wished he could bottle the scent and have his wife wear it as a perfume) and Jordan Mackay said that compared with the Wentzel it had “heavier spice and darker fruit.”
But, perhaps one of the best compliments of all was Jordan saying that he thought our wines (he tried the Wentzel and La Encantada) represent their respective regions well. Cool. Especially since he just happens to be a huge fan of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Passion for Pinot photographer Robert Holmes was equally complimentary about the Pinots coming out of Sta Rita Hills. We couldn’t have been in better company for our tasting today.
Filed under: Events | Tags: books, La Encantada Vineyard, Omnivore Books, San Francisco, Tasting event, Waits-Mast, Wentzel Vineyard
As if two tastings in a week wasn’t enough for us, we’re pretty excited to round out our trio of pinot pours by offering samples of our Waits-Mast wine during a book event in San Francisco this Saturday, April 4th to celebrate the publication of Passion for Pinot, a beautifully photographed book focusing entirely on American Pinot Noir.
Author Jordan MacKay and photographer Robert Holmes will be discussing their book and we’ll be pouring our 2007 Pinot Noir from Wentzel Vineyard and our 2007 Pinot Noir from La Encantada Vineyard to set the mood.
If you’re in San Francisco this week for the Web 2.0 Expo, then you might want to check out the related event: Wine 2.0 Expo. It’s happening at Crushpad tomorrow (Thursday, April 2nd) from 7-10pm and there will be more than 60 wineries in attendance, as well as wine-related tech companies. Jennifer will be there pouring our single vineyard Pinot Noirs from the 2006 and 2007 vintages. She’ll also be keeping an ear glued to the speakers, hoping that some of her song suggestions (how can they resist Eartha Kitt’s “Lilac Wine”??) made it into the “user-generated” Rhapsody/Sonos playlist that’s being crafted for the event. With 1000 attendees expected, we’re not too sure that the music will be audible, but we’re sure going to try to tune in.
We hope to see you at Crushpad tomorrow for the Wine 2.0 Expo. It’s in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco at 2573 Third Street.