Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day In Napa Valley by valleyfog

Outside the Rutherford Grange

Waits-Mast Family Cellars (admittedly a non-Irish-sounding winery name) poured our Pinot Noir at “When Irish Wines Are Smiling,” a wine tasting — okay, really, it was a kick-ass St. Patrick’s Day party — held in Rutherford, Napa Valley, last Sunday.

The whole event was organized around California wineries with Irish heritage, inspired by the Wine Geese, a long tradition of Irish emigrants involved in winegrowing and winemaking ventures all over the world.

We both have Irish heritage, with the most immediate connection being from Brian’s late mother who was born and raised in County Louth, Ireland. We also had just recently been back to visit Ireland and learned all about the Wine Geese and vineyards and winemaking that currently exist in this small, perennially damp country. So as soon as we heard about this event linking two of our favorite things – Ireland and wine – we were all over it.

In addition to Waits-Mast (a very British and German name combination), 15 other California wineries with Irish heritage poured their wonderful wines. Included in the event were Fitzpatrick, Murphy, Sullivan, Taylor, Irish Vineyards, Harrington, Brown Estate, Roche, Twomey and other notable Napa and Sonoma wineries. Chefs Kelley MacDonald from the Napa Valley Wine Train and Bob Hurley from Hurley’s, along with Kerrygold (yum: Irish butter and cheese), kept our bellies full with hearty Irish sustenance.

The view from our table

We usually don’t do too much to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, despite our deep Irish connections. Not that we don’t like beer – the Guinness and the Harp are great – it’s just a mob scene in most of the pubs/bars in San Francisco. But this year, the Irish Wines event was a perfect match for us. Not only did we get to pour our wine for a great crowd of people, we got to celebrate ourselves by enjoying other “Irish” wines, great food from local Irish/American chefs, Irish trad music and step dancing. For a mini-tour of the event, click on the video below.

We took advantage of the event to preview two of our unreleased 2008 Waits-Mast Pinot Noirs (one from the Amber Ridge vineyard in Russian River Valley and the other from La Encantada vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills) in addition to pouring our 2008 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Hein Vineyard in Anderson Valley. It was helpful to get the early reaction on the two unreleased wines and get a sense for which one was ready for prime time. We’ll be revealing details on our Spring release soon, but in the meantime, here are some of the reactions that we heard about our wines at last week’s tasting. As always, there was almost an even split across tasters in terms of the wine that they preferred:

2008 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Hein Vineyard, Anderson Valley:

After winking at Jennifer, one taster said, “that’s really nice.” Others commented that it was “definitely the best Pinot I’ve had here,” “more Burgundian” and “earthy.”

2008 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Amber Ridge Vineyard, Russian River:

Tasters said, “this is the nicest one here,” mentioned its “pure Pinot fruit,” described it as a “Pinot for all occasions,” with “a really clean finish,” saying “it’s exquisite” and “spicier” than the others they tried.

2008 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, La Encantada Vineyard, Sta Rita Hills:

One taster called this the “wine of the day,” with others commenting “that’s dirty…that’s what I look for, that earthy component,” and pointing out its “bright cranberry acid,” saying it’s “a little more complex,”  and “stands out from nose to palate.” Another added, “that’s good hooch.”

While it was a great wine tasting event, in the end it was really about celebrating our Irish heritage in a way that was both close to the homeland and close to home. And true to the spirit of Ireland, the people — the organizers, the wineries, the food purveyors, musicians and dancers and most importantly the attendees with their bua na cainte (gift of gab) — made the event.

Special thanks to Andrew Healy of Three Rock Wine Co. and Becky Tyner of Small Lot Wine Tours who worked in their free time and overtime to pull the event together and make it such a smashing success. We can’t wait for next year’s Irish wines tasting!


1 Comment so far
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Nicely written guys. It as a pleasure to have you at the event. See you all soon


Comment by Andrew Healy

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