Crushpad Mashup 2010: End of an Era, Beginning of Another by valleyfog

Crushpad's Illinois Street entrance in San Francisco

Crushpad held its last major event, its client Mashup, in its San Francisco location today, before the urban winery moves to Napa Valley next month.

The Mashup is an annual event where Crushpad clients, like Waits-Mast Family Cellars, pour and share barrel samples with each other and with friends.

We had already tasted barrel samples last week and earlier this year, so the event for us was less about scrutinizing wines and more about savoring the last few moments at Crushpad’s urban winery before it moves to wine country.

The Crushpad staff pulled samples of three of our 2009 wines still in barrel, our Amber Ridge, La Encantada and Hayley’s vineyard pinot noirs. Unlike the fancy wood-fired pizzas served at last year’s Mashup, the culinary fare was back to basics with the delicious and familiar El Tonayense taco trucks that have graced the Mashups of yesteryear. We also ran into fellow clients making wine at Crushpad as well as answered questions from prospective clients checking out the almost-finished goods.

We recalled our first barrel tasting in July, 2005 at Crushpad, back in its Bryant Street location, where we sampled 2004 pinot noir (their first vintage) and then proceeded to sign up for our first barrel of wine. And then later that year, spending another hour with Crushpad CEO Michael Brill tasting through the pinot barrels as we made our vineyard decision (Amber Ridge – a wise choice!) and spending two hours with then-winemaker Scott Shapley (now head winemaker at Roessler) mapping out the plan for our wine before the 2005 harvest. And of course, we have a special place in our hearts for the first Mashup we went to in 2006, where we wheeled in our newborn daughter to join in the festivities.

Crushpad pretties up the loading dock for the Mashup crowds

So it was these reminiscences and lots of conversation with the Crushpad staff that focused our afternoon as we continue to process this move of the winery to Napa’s Silverado Trail.

Jennifer was recently interviewed by the New York Times about the move and how we’ll miss the urban winemaking experience that Crushpad pioneered when it opened its doors in 2004. For us, their business model and incredible team of people have helped us realize not only mere aspirations of making our own barrel of wine, but unimaginable dreams of actually selling wine and gaining critical acclaim for our pinot noir. And all of this conveniently located minutes from our home and work.

The 2010 Mashup splatters to an end

But just as we would have never predicted all of the great things that have happened with Waits-Mast Family Cellars in the last five years, we’re excited to see what unfolds in the next five years and beyond as we join Crushpad in making our wine up in Napa with the 2010 crush.

We’ll miss the proximity and the clear distinction of being urban winemakers and will have to deal with a lot more driving and juggling of our busy schedules. Through it all, we still consider ourselves fog-bound urban winemakers – we are city folk!

One of the most compelling parts of the move, though, will be actually having the opportunity to pour and sell our wines at the tasting room they’ll be setting up at the winery. With millions of tourists trolling through Napa every year, we’re hoping to expand our visibility to people visiting wine country.

Dave and Stu soaking up the final days at Crushpad SF

And spending time up in Napa definitely doesn’t suck. If you’ve never been, it’s worth a trip. Despite the busloads of tourists, the landscape is incredible and so are the people, wines and restaurants.

While Crushpad will embrace many of the desirable trappings of Napa, we hope it remains decidedly un-Napa in its soul. That means we still expect to hear The Clash and Black Sabbath blaring through the winery sound system.

So as I mentioned to Jennifer as we walked out of Crushpad’s Dogpatch location probably for the last time, “home is where you make it.” We’re looking forward to visiting the new home for our wines, and hopefully still seeing a lot of our old friends from Crushpad.

New Wine Documentary “Blood into Wine” Chronicles Arizona Winery with Rocker Roots by Jennifer

Music and Wine Collide at Noise Pop 2010

When I scanned the schedule for the annual Noise Pop music festival in San Francisco I was surprised to see that amid all of the film festival events, there was a screening of Blood into Wine, a documentary about winemaking.

As I read more about it, I was even more intrigued since it tells the tale of a musician-turned-winemaker who is pioneering a full-scale wine operation in the hostile conditions of Northern Arizona.

We don’t often think about the worlds of rock and roll and winemaking colliding, but in this instance the connection is forged by the passion of Maynard James Keenan.

He made his mark as a musician with TOOL, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer and now has legions of fans lining up to buy his Caduceus wines (an audience member at the film screening told me that she had her mother stand in line for 4 hours at a Whole Foods in order to get a signed bottle of Maynard’s wine).

From the film (screened last night at Viz Cinema in San Francisco), it’s clear that this isn’t just a celebrity slapping his name on a bottle of wine. Keenan is living and breathing his winemaking project and talks about the similarities between making art/music and making wine.

Director Ryan Page told me that Maynard wasn’t always a wine drinker, preferring to drink beer when he was back stage at shows. When he saw that the record executives were drinking wine, he took notice and his wine exploration began.

Grabbing some free Wente wine at the film's reception

Maynard moved to northern Arizona in 1995 and eventually began his project to plant grapes in the Verde Valley after purchasing a vineyard in 2003.

Under the guidance of his winemaking mentor Eric Glomski (formerly a winemaker at David Bruce, he’s the owner and winemaker at Page Springs Vineyards and Cellars and co-owner of Arizona Stronghold Vineyards), he started to make wine with fruit sourced from Arizona and California and began planting his Merkin vineyards in Arizona at elevations between 4200 and 4800 feet.

The film Blood into Wine chronicles the winemaking process, from planting to pruning to veraison to harvest to processing to blending and bottling.

The romanticism and spirituality inherent in the vineyards and the land is beautifully portrayed, but is also interspersed with interviews with music writers and TOOL fans, comedic interludes, and sassy one-liners from Maynard (ever the performer).

We learn about the challenges of growing grapes in Jerome, Arizona; from packs of wild boars eating the grapes to cold snaps and snow. But we also see imagery of Maynard and Eric “on tour” doing meet and greets at Whole Foods and sitting down for radio interviews about their wine venture.

Yet despite all of the fans and the rock star persona, both Eric and Maynard say in the film that “we’re not chasing scores,” with Maynard adding, “we’re like an indie band.”

“Blood into Wine” premiered last week and is now in limited release in various cities in the U.S. For those in San Francisco, it will be screened again tonight (Feb. 26th) at Artists Television Access as part of the Noise Pop Film Festival.

Barrel Tasting the 2009 vintage: February Notes by valleyfog

After a busy holiday season and with our 2009 vintage resting comfortably in barrel for over four months, we were ready to check in on its progress. Each of the five different Waits-Mast vineyard-designate pinot noirs made in 2009 are doing quite well and each exhibits its own personality and distinctive flavor profile. Here are some tasting notes on how each is coming along, as of February 19, 2010:

2009 barrel tasting: five barrels, eight glasses, one spit cup

Amber Ridge vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County (clones: 115, 667, 777; two barrels, one new (Francois Freres), one neutral): the first word I wrote down was “awesome.” The fruit leaps out of the glass and is juicy and dark, with a candied raspberry finish. This will mellow, for sure, but this will definitely be a wine that will be very drinkable, very soon.

Deer Meadow Ranch vineyard, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County (clones: 115, Wadenswil; two barrels, one new (Cadus), one neutral): This is Rich Savoy’s higher elevation (1600 ft.) vineyard (official vineyard designation to-be-named) in Boonville. We’ve tasted this twice in the last month and we are very excited about this one. We feel it will deliver that complex, earthy Anderson Valley pinot noir that we love so much. Definitely some funky earth on the nose, with a mix of red and dark fruit. The tight-grained French Cadus oak is very restrained on the nose.

2009 Oppenlander vineyard from Comptche: vibrant and violet

Oppenlander vineyard, Comptche, Mendocino County (clones: 114; two barrels, one new (Remond), one neutral): Whoa! Crazy violet-tinged color on this one. I remember that color from the bottom of the bin after we dumped the grapes into the press. Chris Nelson, our winemaker, said the Oppenlander shows some of that classic “oceanic acidity.” Indeed, and some firm tannins, too. This will be a vibrant wine and we’re eager to see how it progresses as it comes together.

Hayley’s vineyard, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County (clones: 114; one barrel, 33% new French oak, Francois Freres): Hayley’s is on the valley floor, or benchland, where a lot of fog sits late into the morning. A lighter wine in comparison to some of the others, with nice red cherry fruit. Floral on the nose, with a distinct wild vanilla and coconut aroma, reminiscent of Malibu Rum (oh, the days of yore…).

La Encantada vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County (clones:115, 777; one barrel, 33% new French oak, Francois Freres): last but not least, this 100% organic vineyard always delivers beautiful and exciting wines. The 2009, our third vintage in a row with La Encantada, is showing an exotic herbal and spicy nose (consistent with previous vintages) and nice tannins. Should be another winner – so far, so good!

We’ll be back with more barrel tasting notes throughout the spring and summer and remember, we still have two different 2008 pinot noirs yet to be released. So stay tuned to our blog or sign up at our website to get on our mailing list for the latest news.

Winter/Spring 2010 Wine Tasting Events Calendar by valleyfog

We’ve got a busy Winter and Spring line up of wine tasting events coming up, so we wanted to share with you with the latest calendar listings. We’ll update this as we add more events for the Summer and Fall.

Tasting Events:

February 18, 2010, 4:30 – 7:30 pm
Local Winemakers’ Tasting, Canyon Market. Waits-Mast will be pouring its gold-medal winning 2008 Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir along with other Glen Park winemakers. Cost is only $1 per pour.
Location: Canyon Market, 2815 Diamond Street, San Francisco

February 20, 2010, 2:00 – 5:00pm
Public Tasting of the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Try our gold-medal winning wine, the 2008 Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley, along with other medal winners from the competition.
Location: the Festival Pavilion in Fort Mason, San Francisco.

March 14, 2010

March 14, 2010, 2:00 – 5:00pm
When Irish Wines Are Smiling. An Irish Themed Wine & Food tasting featuring wines from Irish owned, named and ancestry wineries served alongside freshly prepared traditional Irish Dishes & Irish Cheeses. Waits-Mast has close and deep roots in Ireland, as Brian’s mother was born and raised in Co. Louth and Brian has visited Ireland many times. Cost is $25 per person in advance, $30 at the door.
Location: Rutherford Grange Hall, Rutherford, CA

May 14 – 16, 2010
13th Annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival. This is the event that really got us fired up about pinot noir. Taste Anderson Valley Pinot Noir from more than 40 wineries, geek out on Pinot Noir at the technical conference on Friday (includes lunch) and dine with the winemakers at Saturday evening dinners held in Anderson Valley and on the Mendocino coast. On Sunday, visit the wineries during their open houses for special tastings, seminars, food pairings, and more. We’d love to see you up in beautiful Anderson Valley – road trip!
Tickets go on sale on March 15, 2010.

Wentzel Vineyard in Philo, CA, Anderson Valley

Waits-Mast Family Cellars Featured in Local NBC News Story about Urban Winemakers by Jennifer

Brian philosophizes about urban winemaking

Last night we were excited to be featured in a news story, “Urban Vintners Uncork the Stigma of Fine Wine” on NBC Bay Area TV (KNTV, Channel 11 in San Francisco) about urban winemakers.

In the segment we talk about what it’s like to make wine in the city of San Francisco. Also included in the story is one of our neighbors, Steve Goldbeck, who makes award-winning Zinfandel in his garage in Glen Park.