Pinot Days San Francisco 2009 by valleyfog
Pinot Days San Francisco 2009

Pinot Days San Francisco 2009

Thousands of Pinot Noir lovers rallied on an unusually hot day in San Francisco yesterday to try over 400 different Pinot Noirs (yes, apparently that was the number of Pinots being poured) at the Grand Festival Public Tasting at Pinot Days San Francisco 2009.

The majority of these Pinot Noirs were from California, as well as Oregon producers and New World producers from New Zealand and Australia. As a small lot producer pouring for the first time at Pinot Days San Francisco (we poured at Pinot Days Chicago last year), we were the relative unknowns, but saw a steady stream of traffic and made some new friends. That’s the best thing about these tasting events: meeting new people and having free reign to talk about Pinot Noir for four hours straight.

Many people mentioned to us that they were drawn to our table because our label photography stood out to them. We were told that the foggy black and white photography was reminiscent of Ansel Adams and many seemed to get transported to another place just by looking at our label and poster. Most notably, one person said, “I don’t want to drink it, I just want to look at it.” Another said that they were attracted to our table “like a bee to a flower.” Being both intrigued and interested by a label is certainly the first step, so we were really happy to hear that design and imagery is helping to capture the romance of our wines.

Waits-Mast Signage

Waits-Mast Signage

Luckily those at Pinot Days seemed to dig not only the label, but also the wine inside the bottles. We poured two: our Waits-Mast 2006 Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley and the  Waits-Mast 2007 La Encantada Vineyard Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills. The two wines are very different based on their vintage and appellation, so we knew that it would be a dramatic side-by-side tasting.

We poured the Hein first, and think that it’s really come into its own after two years in the bottle. Tasters seemed to like it too! We heard a lot of comments about the nose, including that it was “very aromatic,” “floral” and “perfumy.” In terms of the taste, we were excited when a non-Pinot lover (although she admitted that she was open enough to go to a 100% pinot noir event) told us, “I don’t normally like Pinot Noir, but I like this.” Others commented that the wine had “more earth, “silky tannins” and bracing acidity. One taster was intrigued by the wine’s complexity, noting that nose led him to expect one thing, but when he tasted the wine he was taken down a “different path,” one that was quite enjoyable.

Waits-Mast 2006 Hein Between Tastes

Waits-Mast 2006 Hein Between Tastes

Others (perhaps a 50/50 split), were taken by the La Encantada’s more powerful “spicy,” “coffee-like,” and “heavy toast” aromas. One person commented, “wow, this is really smoky.” They also spoke of the heavier, fruity taste with intense cherry (one called it a “sour cherry note”) and “sauvage” berry fruit on the palate. This wine inspired the most colorful praise, including remarks like: “It’s meaty,” “It’s really got some character,” and “It’s dirty.” Our former winemaker Scott Shapley said that he detected some nice herbal qualities too.

And then there were quite a few that liked them both (ourselves included). One taster who liked both said that that he’d drink a big glass of the La Encantada on a sunny day and that for the Hein he’d have “lots of friends over….and many glasses.” We were gratified to hear from several people that our wines were their favorites of the day, with one man boldly stating, “These are the best wines here.” Wow.

When the day was over, there were tired feet, broken wine glasses, and wine-stained literature; but hopefully also a few more Waits-Mast fans.

Benefit Tasting for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society a Rousing Success by Jennifer
Brian Gesticulates at the Tasting Table

Brian Gesticulates at the Tasting Table

On Saturday Waits-Mast Family Cellars participated in a private benefit event, with proceeds going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It was a gorgeous summer day, perfect for an afternoon wine tasting in sunny California. This is the 2nd time that we’ve helped out with a fundraiser of this kind. We were inspired to participate because Jennifer’s sister has become a passionate supporter of the cause and is about to run her second marathon in order to raise money for leukemia and lymphoma research.

We started out the tasting with a Fort Ross Rose of Pinot and then followed that up with three Waits-Mast Pinot Noirs. We poured our 2006 Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley, the 2007 La Encantada Vineyard Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills, and a barrel sample of our 2008 Amber Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir from Russian River. It was fun to share our wine with everyone and a special treat to dive into the barrel sample (which is tasting delicious already).

Beyond the food, wine, and conversation, it was also gratifying to hear that this year’s benefit raised twice as much money as last year’s (over $2700); so we were happy to help out for such a great cause.

Pouring at Pinot Days San Francisco this Sunday by Jennifer
June 22, 2009, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , ,
Brian Pouring at Pinot Days Chicago

Brian Pouring at Pinot Days Chicago

It seems like only yesterday that we were pouring at Pinot Days Chicago, our very first public tasting, back in November. It was lots of fun and we’re excited to be participating this year in our own backyard in San Francisco.

We’ll be on the bill this Sunday, June 28th at Pinot Days San Francisco during the Grand Festival Tasting (look for us at the Crushpad table). If you’re a pinot nut like we are, you should peruse the full calendar of events taking place Wednesday through Sunday. Included in the lineup are a winemaker dinner, special focused and regional tastings, and lectures from hot shot producers.

To gear up for Pinot Days you may want to do some research in advance, as it’s rumored that there will be around 200 Pinot Noir producers in attendance. To get a glimpse of one Pinot enthusiast’s thoughts about the 2006 vintage, take a look at one of the festival founder’s top 25 Pinot Noir picks for domestic wines released in 2008. It’s an entertaining and informative read, especially in the way she depicts the 2006 vintage (which makes up the majority of the list):

“2006 is an odd vintage for California pinot because it has no distinction…2006 tends to be the Peter Brady vintage; there is nothing at all wrong with it, but it just doesn’t stand out. True, there were botrytis issues, but if you survived that the grapes just seemed ‘normal.’ And that is not a bad thing. I think the vintage was unfairly maligned, as it produced many balanced and ageworthy pinots. With that said, since it is sandwiched between two of the more outstanding vintages (2005 and 2007), my guess is it will go down in the annals as an ‘off year.’ It’s a shame to label it as such; there are plenty of 2006 shining stars out there for the drinking…”

It’s always fun to see these “top” lists, especially when they contain beloved regions, producers, and vineyards. Anderson Valley got some well-deserved attention and one of the top wines was from Wentzel Vineyard. Nice work.

Bob Nye, Goldeneye Winery, Passes Away by valleyfog
June 6, 2009, 8:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

We were shocked to get an email earlier this week from the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association that Bob Nye, general manager of Goldeneye Winery in Philo, had passed away suddenly at the age of 48 on Monday, June 1. This is very sad news for this community and especially for his family and close friends. He is survived by his wife and young son. A special memorial fund has been set up for his son’s college education and a memorial service will happen this coming Sunday, June 15 at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden at 1pm. More information about the fund can be found here.

While I didn’t know Bob that well, I can tell you what a stand-up guy he was. As new winemakers joining the Anderson Valley community, Bob was very supportive of us joining the association and getting involved. We are a couple of times removed from Anderson Valley, it seems, because we don’t have vineyards or a winery in Mendocino County, but we do make wine with Anderson Valley fruit and we’ve been going to Anderson Valley for many years and have gotten to know many of the people in the winemaking community. He chatted with us last year at Mary Elke’s open house and was very welcoming. When we poured at this year’s Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, Bob actively sought out members of the wine trade press to try Waits-Mast wines. Like I said, stand-up guy.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. We know Bob will be sorely missed.

Waits-Mast Wentzel Pinot Noir is Wine of the Week on Bottlenotes by Jennifer
June 5, 2009, 3:02 pm
Filed under: Tasting notes | Tags: , , , ,

Wow. We were so excited to get some buzz going about our wine this week. Bottlenotes named the Waits-Mast Family Cellars 2007 Wentzel Pinot Noir their “wine of the week” and highlighted our efforts in their “Daily Sip” email blast. According to Bottlenotes, this is sort of equivalent to getting a nod from the likes of Us Weekly and Daily Candy. They write:

“…Our favorite of the current release is the 2007 Wentzel Vineyard from the Anderson Valley. This Pinot has a rich dark-cherry nose and is full of bold dark-berry fruit and a touch of spice on the finish…”

Bottlenotes is a really cool online wine community and they have a particular interest in small production wines, like ours. Community members can learn about wine, post tasting notes (see the notes for our Wentzel pinot noir here), join wine clubs, purchase hand-selected wines, and follow Bottlenotes-penned Twitter updates about tastings and wine news. They also have a wedding and gift registry so that wine enthusiasts can create lists of bottles that they’d like to get as gifts.