2013 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival Part 1 – Tech Conference Delves into Suitcase Clones, Pinot Noir Blanc and Fringe Vineyards by Jennifer


We had a wonderful time at the 16th Annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival last week in Boonville. The event took place between May 17th and May 19th and featured a technical conference, BBQ, grand tasting event, winemaker dinners and winery open houses. We arrived on Thursday evening in time to attend the press welcome dinner. Typically only open to press and volunteers, this year the organizers made some additional tickets available to participating winemakers. It was fun getting to mix and mingle at the casual dinner on the grounds of Foursight Winery. We sampled delicious wines from a number of wineries (including the first of many pinot noir blancs of the weekend), had scrumptious food from the newish Anderson valley eatery Aquarelle, and met some interesting folks. We turned in soon after the sun set in order to reserve our energy for the technical conference the following day.

Balo Pinot Noir Blanc

Sampling a Balo Pinot Noir Blanc (Photo: J. Waits)

We arrived at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds on Friday morning for the technical conference held in the Apple Hall. It was early and we were hungry, so we dived into the breakfast spread. Featuring Navarro‘s fantastic Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer grape juices, coffee cake, and a hearty savory egg custard, it was certainly not the typical conference fare. After hearing presentations about the state of viticulture in Mendocino County and about agricultural water use in Anderson Valley, we launched into the first tasting panel of the day just after 10am.

I was anticipating the Pinot Noir Blanc session, as we’d been intrigued by this wine after trying a fantastic one at Domaine Carneros. During the panel we learned that white Pinot Noir is certainly not a new concept, as it’s been made historically in Italy, France, and Germany. Balo Vineyards‘ Assistant Winemaker Alex Crangle was interested in making some Pinot Noir Blanc and started the process by sampling some of the wines available in the marketplace, including a few from Oregon.

Tasting Pinot Noir Blanc

Tasting Angel Camp, Balo, and Alta Pinot Noir Blanc (Photo: J. Waits)

Balo ended up making three barrels of Pinot Noir Blanc from various vineyards, largely because of a surplus of fruit in 2012. Balo pressed whole clusters of Pinot Noir for its wine. John Keyes from Angel Camp Vineyard shared another Pinot Noir Blanc. Angel Camp’s wine came from whole cluster pressed Pinot Noir grapes, with a total production of 18 cases of wine. Winemaker Jessica Tomei from Alta Wines also did a barrel this year and we were able to taste a barrel sample of the wine which was still finishing malolactic fermentation. The wines were all quite different, but were interesting examples of Pinot Noir Blanc. Continue reading

Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival 2013 by valleyfog

Tickets for the 2013 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival are almost sold out at the Anderson Valley Winegrowers’ website. The event is being held May 17 – 19, 2013 at various venues in the valley. The Pinot Noir Festival is really our favorite time of year — we’ve attended the festival for many years and this will be the fifth year Waits-Mast Family Cellars is pouring at the Grand Tasting.

The Grand Tasting at Pinot Fest 2012

The Grand Tasting at Pinot Fest 2012

A few of the events still have tickets available, including the technical conference, the Friday night BBQ being held this year at Scharffenberger Cellars, the Grand Tasting and one winemaker dinner on Saturday night. We are not hosting a winemaker dinner this year, instead attending the winemaker dinner at the Apple Farm with Husch and Greenwood Ridge.

For the first time, though, Waits-Mast Family Cellars is actually going to host an open house on Sunday. Most, if not all, of the wineries host an open house on Sunday, opening library wines and offering wine and food pairings. Open houses are also great for attendees of the Grand Tasting who want to purchase wines the day after the tasting.

We are hosting our open house at one of our favorite spots in the valley, the Boonville Hotel. Last year the Boonville Hotel converted their lobby shop to a wine room, offering a selection of wines from both in and outside the valley. Mark Mendenhall, the wine director at Table 128, the incredible restaurant at the Boonville Hotel, runs the wine room and also has Waits-Mast Pinot Noir on the list at the restaurant.

Our open house will be held at the hotel from 3pm to 5pm on Sunday, May 19 and we’ll be pouring a selection of our 2010 wines and perhaps a few surprises. It will be the perfect stop as you make your way out of town at the end of a blissful weekend of Pinot Noir.

We’ll be in the valley as early as Thursday and will definitely enjoy the technical conference on Friday the 17th. It’s always a great blend of nitty-gritty wine geek stuff and tastings. This year, they will be holding a tasting of Pinot Noir Blanc – “white” wine from this classic red grape (hint: you press the grapes before any extended skin contact).

Wentzel Vineyard, Anderson Valley

Wentzel Vineyard, Anderson Valley

The Grand Tasting on Saturday features 45 producers of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, one of the largest array of wineries at the festival. We’ll be pouring our 2010 Pinot Noirs from Anderson Valley including the Londer Vineyard and Wentzel Vineyard Pinot Noir. There will be plenty of other incredible Pinot Noirs being poured by some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, including folks from wineries like Baxter, Breggo, Drew, Elke, Frati Horn, Knez, Handley, Husch, Londer, MacPhail, Navarro, Phillips Hill, Scharffenberger, Roederer Estate and many more.

If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet – move fast! We hear that they are also offering shuttles to and from the valley and the coast, where there are more hotels and lodging options. We hope to see you there!