Filed under: Events, Tasting notes | Tags: Pinot Days 2012, Pinot Days San Francisco, Pinot Noir, Waits-Mast Pinot Noir
Pinot Days San Francisco is the largest event that we pour at, so it stands to reason that it can also be one of the most colorful. Saturday’s Pinot Days Grand Tasting at Ft. Mason’s Festival Pavilion in San Francisco was no exception. It was packed with more than 150 wineries and hundreds of Pinot Noir fans.
It was an unusually hot summer day, but we were kept comfortably cool at the start of the event due to a breeze blowing off the bay and into the pavilion through a sliver in the open door next to our table. As the day went on, we had the sun at our back and started to regret not lathering sunscreen on our necks. As a side bonus, however, by the end of the festival, tasters were coming to our table telling us that we were in a “heavenly aura spot” with the sun streaming down on us. We tried our best to keep the wines at a cool temperature by keeping spare bottles in a cooler bag.
We enjoy doing public tastings, largely because we realize that it’s important for us to get out and share our wines with people. We don’t have a tasting room, so events like Pinot Days are one of the only ways for us to give people a chance to sample our wines without buying them. At big tastings like Pinot Days we are amid a sea of stellar producers (and we never have time to try as many as we’d like during the event), so it’s always gratifying when we hear kind words about our wines.
People who don’t know us are always curious about the name Waits-Mast. In the past we’ve heard questions about whether or not the name was nautical. On Saturday several tasters asked if I was related to Tom Waits (the answer: not to my knowledge). Another person came to our table because she had a relative named Brian Mast (not the same guy). We quickly determined that her Pennsylvania Dutch Masts seem to be no relation to Brian’s Chicago-by-way-of-Germany Masts. Someone else found the name Waits-Mast perplexing and said, “I’m never going to remember that.” On the flip side, another taster said that our names worked well together as a brand name.
The most tense moment of the event came when a festival-goer inquired about our tasting order. Not a fan of “big” Pinot Noir, he was reluctant to try our final wine (2009 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Deer Meadows Vineyard in Anderson Valley) because of its placement in our tasting line-up. After some back and forth, I explained that we actually don’t make “big wines,” so there was no reason to fear the final wine, as we just felt that it was our “most complex” wine. I breathed a sigh of relief when the taster enjoyed the wine and left the table with a smile on his face.
At tastings people always ask us “which is your favorite?” and “which is your best wine?” This always makes us uncomfortable, as it’s sort of like picking a favorite child. Additionally, wines are living things and go through different stages of development. Some days we might be in the mood for one wine, other days we might select a different one. So, whenever possible we try to re-direct that question. If people really only want to try one wine, then we’ll try to gauge their preferences or we will steer them towards a crowd favorite.
Several tasters asked to try more Burgundian wines, but there were others clamoring for big wines. Someone came to our table and asked, “Could I try your least oak, most Burgundian wine? I’m sick of Pinot Noir producers putting syrah in it.” Although we strive for balanced wines and don’t think of our line-up as being oaky or Syrah-like, we recognize that there are a variety of palates out there. Not everyone is going to like our wines and not everyone is even going to interpret our wines in the same way that we do. We were surprised when one taster described our wines as being “more on the full-bodied side, but still unmistakably Pinot.” Someone else said, “they stand out and have nice structure,” whereas another said, “it’s refreshing to taste some really awesome pinots.”
As it approached the 5:00pm closing time for the event, we maintained our sense of humor as the crowd entered into palate fatigue. We didn’t see anyone making out (as we’ve heard happens at the Zinfandel-focused Zap festival), nobody knocked over our wine-filled dump bucket, and thankfully we didn’t have any close encounters with broken glasses. However, we did step in to assist after someone came to our table following a Pinot Noir accident (she blamed her husband) down the back of her bright yellow summer dress. I offered a bottle of stain remover and we continued pouring tastes of wine while the fumes from the mysterious stain-fighting elixir wafted towards our table. At that point in the day, very few people even noticed.
Here are some of the other comments from Saturday’s tasting:
2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Londer Vineyard, Anderson Valley:
“dried cherries and Lucky Charms”
“great tannin on back-end and great brightness of fruit.”
2009 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Amber Ridge Vineyard, Russian River:
“warm fruit on the nose”
2009 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, La Encantada Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills
“The most Burgundian style La Encantada that I’ve tasted. Usually it’s Broadway–you know it’s there. This is more like Hair than Jesus Christ Superstar.”
“some of the most grace in a Sta Rita Hills pinot noir”
2009 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Deer Meadows Vineyard, Anderson Valley
“I want this to pair with the dinner that I’m making tonight” (she had lamb marinating at home)
“high floristics,” specifically daisy
“this is the favorite one that I’ve tried”
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