ValleyFogBlog


Crush ’09: Amber Ridge pressing by valleyfog
Tasting the Amber Ridge juice in increments

Tasting the Amber Ridge juice in increments

The crush is on and Jennifer and I are busier than ever this harvest season. We’re expanding our Pinot Noir portfolio quite a bit this year (more news on that in future posts), so we’re going through waves of sorting and pressing. The Amber Ridge fruit from Russian River came in first and has gone through its cold soak (5 days) and fermentation process and we pressed it in two different sessions. We pressed the 115 clone first as that fruit came in about 4 days before the 667 and 777 came in.

With 115, we moved about 40 gallons, or about 2/3 of the barrel, from the bin to a neutral oak barrel. The remaining grapes and juice were pressed in increments of .2 bars, a measurement that roughly translates to pounds-per-square inch. The pressing happens in a large EuroPress, a machine that has a bladder that slowly expands with increasingly larger amounts of pressure on the skins. The more you press, the more color and flavor you extract from the grapes. You don’t want to press Pinot too much, as you don’t want to overpower the wine with too many tannins or too much bitterness from the seeds and skins.

Jennnifer does the taste test on a sunny Sunday

Jennnifer does the taste test on a sunny Sunday

After going through various increments, we stopped at 1.1 bars. Some of the increments generated the sweetness of the grape, while others revealed earthier flavors, like herbal tea, that come from the tannins. It all mixes together to provide structure, balance and hopefully, complexity.

After filling up the rest of the barrel of 115, a few days later we went back into the winery to press the 667 and 777 clones, which were co-fermenting. After about 45 gallons of free run juice were transferred to a new Francois Freres M+ oak barrel, we went through the same pressing process, this time going up to 1.2 bars. In tasting the fermented juice, we noticed lots of red and darker fruit flavors and a nice pucker of acidity. 667 and 777 carry more tannin and up-front fruit flavor, respectively, so they will complement the 115 base that we have in the other barrel.

Now the two barrels are cozy in the winery, awaiting the occasional topping (extra wine to ensure the barrel is filled all the way to the top and no oxidation takes place) and future barrel tastings. The 2009 Amber Ridge is off to a great start and portents to be a lush and complex Pinot Noir. We’ll keep you posted on its progress throughout the year.

Gorgeous Russian River Pinot Noir wine ready for barrel

Gorgeous Russian River Pinot Noir wine ready for barrel

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2009 Harvest Has Begun by Jennifer
Amber Ridge (115) Awaiting Sorting

Amber Ridge (115) Awaiting Sorting

With all of the Waits-Mast 2008 Pinots settling into their bottles, our thoughts have eagerly turned to the 2009 harvest. With some late Spring rains and a consistently warm and dry summer, this year is shaping up to be a great harvest.

Of the different vineyards from which we source fruit, our Russian River grapes, from Amber Ridge vineyard in Windsor, California,  are usually the first to be harvested. This year was no exception; on September 9th we welcomed and sorted the first of our fruit: Dijon clone 115 from Amber Ridge. We work a lot with 115 as our base clone because of the more elegant red fruit and floral characteristics. From there, we build and integrate other clones to add structure and complexity.

The fruit was beautiful and it was our daughter’s first trip up the ladder to the sorting table. She dug right in and loved the taste of the fruit (but complained about her sticky fingers). Brian built up his right bicep while hold her in one hand and sorting fruit with the other! We’re not kidding when we say Waits-Mast “Family” Cellars.

Our Winemaker-in-Training at Her First Sort

Our Winemaker-in-Training at Her First Sort

Building on the 115, on September 11th we hand-sorted the 667 and 777 clones from Amber Ridge. The 667 provides great backbone for the final blend and the 777 adds that punch of fruit to round out the variety of berry flavors. Off on a secret mission to find more Pinot Noir fruit sources, we tapped our friend Bryce to help us sort the fruit that day.

He reported that the fruit was in great shape and that the 777 in particular was “pristine” and  “absolutely stunning,” commenting that “if all grapes tasted this way, I would survive on nothing else.” Wow. We’re sorry we missed the sort, but are pleased to hear this.

This year, we are doing two barrels of Amber Ridge, which allows us a little more versatility in working with these clones, oak and yeast, among other components. It also give us some more flexibility in the final blending process. It’s almost done with fermentation and the last of the sugars are converting to alchohol, so later this week we’ll be pressing the Amber Ridge…probably on the same day that we’ll be bringing in the “secret” fruit from Anderson Valley. More to come on that in our next harvest update!



Waits-Mast Gets Press in Glen Park News by Jennifer
September 10, 2009, 2:46 pm
Filed under: In the news | Tags: , , ,
Glen Park News Piece on Waits-Mast

Glen Park News Piece on Waits-Mast

We’re very neighborhood-oriented and the distinct character of all the different parts of San Francisco is one of the things that Brian and I love about living here.

Even though we’re in a big city, there’s still a small town feel in places like Glen Park village.

So, we were excited to be approached by the neighborhood paper, The Glen Park News, for a story about our winemaking operation. We chatted with Bonnee Waldstein and toured her (and her photographer husband) around the winemaking facility during one of our recent bottling and blending sessions.

Today, the Fall 2009 issue of the Glen Park News hit the street (literally…as you can only read it if you pick up a physical paper copy) and I took a walk to grab some copies for posterity. Stacks of the paper arrived today at various establishments in the village, including the dry cleaners, mailbox store, and Bird & Beckett books. I even noticed a number of merchants absorbed in the paper, including one of the librarians at the Glen Park Library.

Stack-o-Glen Park News

Stack-o-Glen Park News

There’s something very retro and comforting about people in the same village reading the same paper on the same day.

It brought me back to my days of high school journalism when we’d see the entire quad filled with students reading the paper that we’d just released that morning.

Coincidentally, the first people I saw in the village today were the author Bonnee and her husband Michael as they walked out the dry cleaner with their own copies of the News in hand. Glen Park sure feels more like a small town than a big city and that’s one of the reasons why.



2008 Pinot Noirs are Bottled and Numbered by Jennifer
Getting Ready to Bottle the 2008 Vintage

Getting Ready to Bottle the 2008 Vintage

This is the time of the year when things start to get a bit crazy around the winery. Last night we just finished bottling our 2008 Pinot Noirs and are expecting some of our grapes to come in from the 2009 vintage within the next week.

We decided to emphasize the “small lot” angle starting this year and opted to go DIY by hand numbering each bottle of wine. Jennifer also digs the fact that this personal touch is reminiscent of hand-numbered limited edition vinyl records.

Figuring that this task was more than our 20 fingers could handle, we enlisted the help of several wine pals last night and made a party out of boxing up, numbering, and sealing up all 75 cases (900 bottles) of 2008 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir.

Bottling the 2008 Waits-Mast Amber Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir

Bottling the 2008 Waits-Mast Amber Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir

The evening began with us tasting samples of the 2008 Pinot Noir from La Encantada Vineyard (Sta Rita Hills) and the 2008 Pinot Noir from Amber Ridge (Russian River).

We’re really happy with how the wines have developed and think they are super tasty already. With our stamp of approval the bottling began for La Encantada, followed by Amber Ridge. As the bottles came off of the bottling line we loaded them into the cardboard cases and Jennifer meticulously marked each box with a set of numbers (1-12, 13-25, etc.) to make our hand-numbering task a bit easier.

As our friends Richard, Bryce, and Darleen arrived, we slipped off into another room with our metallic markers in order to hand number each bottle’s label (1-300 for each vineyard-designate). Along with the Amber Ridge and La Encantada, we also worked to number the previously bottled (as of a few weeks ago) 2008 Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley.

We were so glad to have the help, as writing numbers on the tiny space on each bottle required a lot more concentration than we’d anticipated. It was still a lot of fun, and we joked about our favorite (1/300, 30/300, 111/300) and least favorite numbers (anything with 8s or with 3 digits).   We resisted the urge to mark bottles with secret messages, our initials, or whimsical numbers (Jennifer was very tempted to write her favorite radio station’s frequency of 89.7 when she got to bottle number 89)…at least this year.
The 300th Bottle

The 300th Bottle

We’re anticipating that we’ll release the 2008 Waits-Mast Amber Ridge Pinot Noir in November 2009 and will release the Hein and La Encantada in Spring 2009.

In the meantime, we’re about to begin the whole wine-making process for 2009. Our grapes from Amber Ridge Vineyard are expected to be picked this week, with others to follow in September/October and we are excited to again hand-sort the grapes.

Thanks again to our friends for the help with numbering, loading bottles into boxes, and lifting and sealing up cases of wine. We hadn’t anticipated all of the manual labor that would be involved and thank Bryce for volunteering to do much of the heavy lifting.