Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival 2012 Tickets On Sale by valleyfog

Navarro Vineyards in Anderson Valley

Tickets for the 2012 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival are on sale now at the Anderson Valley Winegrowers’ website. The event is being held May 18 – 20, 2012 at various venues in the valley. The Pinot Noir Festival has been an annual pilgrimage for us for many years and this will be the fourth year Waits-Mast Family Cellars will be pouring at the Grand Tasting.

This year will also be the first year we are co-hosting and pouring wines at a winemaker dinner. Scharffenberger Cellars will host the dinner on Saturday night, May 19, in a private dining room at their tasting room in Philo and will pour a selection of their sparkling and still wines. Joining Scharffenberger will be Waits-Mast and Phillips Hill. The evening will begin with a sparkling wine reception followed by a sumptuous dinner perfectly suited to the wines prepared by local Chef, Karina.

Winemaker dinners at the festival hold a special place in our heart because our attendance at these dinners many years ago gave us the opportunity to meet the winemakers and learn more about their beginnings in the wine business. Because Anderson Valley is more remote and therefore less crowded than wine regions like Napa or Sonoma, visitors get a much better vantage point in which to meet winemakers and tour wineries and vineyards. At some of the first winemaker dinners we attended over 10 years ago, the time we spent with winemakers inspired us to make our own wine and even helped us develop relationships with growers from whom we would subsequently purchase fruit.

At the Grand Tasting on Saturday, which runs from 11am – 3pm, we’ll be pouring our 2009 Deer Meadows Vineyard Pinot Noir, which just got a very solid 94 point rating in Wine & Spirits’ April 2012 roundup of America’s best Pinot Noirs. With our 2010 vintage in bottle, it is likely that we will pour some of our 2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, but we’re still deciding which vineyard-designate wine to preview. In addition to Waits-Mast, there will be over 40 producers pouring at the Grand Tasting, including favorites like Londer Vineyards, Goldeneye, Foursight, MacPhail, Jim Ball, Elke, Baxter, Drew, Roederer Estate, Toulouse, and many more.

A plethora of wine at the BBQ

Also worth attending is the Friday night BBQ, being held this year at Husch Vineyards. There’s lots of great food, music and of course, Pinot Noir. It’s a very convivial atmosphere and guests and winemakers are encouraged to bring their own bottle. The table that holds these bottles quickly becomes a feeding-frenzy, getting the BBQ off to a roaring start.

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the technical conference. For years, the technical conference has been a great way for us to get more immersed in the winemaking process. Presentation topics can span from yeasts and microbes to chocolate and cheese – all centered around growing, making and drinking the best Pinot Noir that Anderson Valley has to offer.

So, get your tickets now because they sell out fast. The winemaker dinners have very limited seating, the Grand Tasting is usually limited to about 600 or so attendees, and other events sell out quickly as well. Snatch up your tickets, do your research on all the wineries ahead of time, make sure you find lodging close to the valley (always challenging) and we’ll see you in May!

Wine & Spirits April 2012 Pinot Noir Roundup by valleyfog

Wine & Spirits April 2012 issue

We’re very excited about the inclusion of two different Waits-Mast Pinot Noir wines in Wine & Spirits Magazine’s April 2012 issue that just came out on newsstands today. The magazine, which is geared towards restaurants and retailers as well as consumers, published its annual roundup of the “Year’s Best Pinot Noir”, looking at Pinot Noir from California and Oregon appellations. After tasting through 914 new-release Pinot Noirs over the last 12 months, its critics rated 121 as “exceptional” or 90+ pts and another 62 as “best buys”.

The 2009 Waits-Mast Deer Meadows Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley was in the top 10 California Pinot Noirs reviewed, received a rating of 94 points and this review:

Brian Mast and Jennifer Waits were wine drinkers and media/ communications professionals when they attended the technical conference at the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival in 2000. By 2005, they had made their first wine and they began producing micro-lots of pinot noir under the Waits-Mast label in 2007 (the winery remains a part-time gig). This one comes from a southeast-facing vineyard at 1,600 feet in the hills above Boonville. It’s whole-berry fermented without stems, providing a rich red fruit flavor of tiny woodland berries, tart and fragrant. There’s a salty porcini note, a coastal forest feel, delicate and harmonious. (49 cases)

The 2009 Waits-Mast La Encantada Vineyard Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills received a 91 pt rating and this review:

A micro-cuvée from the team at Waits-Mast, this is more vinous than many pinots from the Santa Rita Hills. It’s clean and fragrant with mouthwatering, tart cherry flavor and root-like spiciness. There’s a chalkiness to the tannins balancing a sweet, gentle finish. Serve it with a gamey, heritage-breed pork chop. (23 cases)

So, we’re super-pumped about making it into this short-list of great wines. The Wine & Spirits tasting process is pretty rigorous. It is double-blind, with a selection panel made up of sommeliers, winemakers, retailers and other wine industry folks tasting the first round and then recommending about 20-30% of the wines to get to the next round. In the next round, a Wine & Spirits critic reviews the wines again blind (from a second bottle provided by the winery), and writes up the review and decides on scores. More on their tasting process can be found here.

09 Deer Meadows Review

For a super-small winery like ourselves to be included in this field of top producers, folks like Williams-Selyem, Hirsch, Flowers, Freestone and others is humbling and gratifying. We recommend that you go out and buy the hard copy of the magazine to see all the reviews and a great feature story on Anderson Valley.

So, we’ll momentarily savor the reviews and the wonderful adjectives and then move on to our winemaking and other tasks. We also look forward to seeing the smiles of people tasting our wines at the upcoming events this spring and summer.