ValleyFogBlog


2017 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival and an Early Peek into the Vineyards by Jennifer

One of our favorite wine events is the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival. Brian and I started going to the festival probably around the year 2001 and began pouring Waits-Mast Family Cellars wine at the event’s Grand Tasting in 2009, so it’s always a great opportunity to see many friends and fans and meet other Pinot Noir lovers.

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The big tent at Goldeneye Winery during set up for the 2017 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival Grand Tasting. Photo: J. Waits

At this year’s 20th anniversary event, held May 19-21, we not only shared our wines at the Grand Tasting, but also co-hosted a winemaker dinner held at Scharffenberger Cellars. Additionally, we visited a couple of the Anderson Valley vineyards that we source fruit from, including Wentzel Vineyard and Nash Mill Vineyard.

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Bottle of Waits-Mast Pinot Noir at our table at the winemaker dinner at Scharffenberger Cellars. Photo: J. Waits

Since we live and make our wines in San Francisco, a nearly three hour drive, we don’t typically check in on the vineyards until it’s closer to harvest. However, I was enamored with what I saw in the vineyards this spring and think it’s a magical time to witness the flowering of the vines.

Nash Mill Vineyard, May 19, 2017. Photo: J. Waits

Nash Mill Vineyard, May 19, 2017. Photo: J. Waits

Even before visiting the vineyards, we were struck by how green Anderson Valley looked. It’s been a very rainy 2017 season and everything is growing like crazy, which we got more insight about after touring through Wentzel Vineyard with owner Roland Wentzel.

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Flowering in Wentzel Vineyard on May 18, 2017. Photo: J. Waits

As we walked through the vines, Wentzel was astonished by the new growth that he was seeing, telling us that he had recently suckered (pruned off new shoots) and was surprised by how quickly he needed to do it again. Tall grasses were also thriving under the vines, reaching tall heights thanks to a wet season.

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Wentzel Vineyard, with tall grasses on May 18, 2017. Photo: J. Waits

Over the years evidence of bears has been spotted at Wentzel and most dramatically, a bear ate much of the fruit intended for Waits-Mast in 2011. As a result of that, we’re more curious about bear sightings and Wentzel mentioned that six weeks before our visit a bear broke into a neighbor’s chicken coop and killed more than 20 chickens. He speculated that the river was high, making it difficult for the bear to fish for its normal sustenance.

The growing season begins at Wentzel Vineyard, May 18, 2017. Photo: J. Waits

The growing season begins at Wentzel Vineyard, May 18, 2017. Photo: J. Waits

As we headed to several different blocks at the Wentzel Vineyard we also saw wild turkeys on the ground and spied an ominous group of birds circling overhead. The full life cycle is often on display in the wooded hills of Anderson Valley.

Wildlife at Wentzel Vineyard. Photo: J. Waits

Wildlife at Wentzel Vineyard. Photo: J. Waits

Local animal friends were also in evidence when we headed to Nash Mill Vineyard for a quick visit on May 19. We got our regular stare down from a bovine neighbor before we dashed into the vineyard.

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Bull neighbor near Nash Mill Vineyard. Photo: J. Waits

In the Deep End of Anderson Valley, Nash Mill is typically harvested later than Wentzel, so we weren’t surprised to see that flowering was just beginning. Clusters were generally smaller, shoots were shorter and we learned later that grasses were mowed in advance of our visit.

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Nash Mill Vineyard, May 19, 2017. Photo: J. Waits

It was wonderful getting an early preview of the 2017 vintage and everything seems like it’s off to a good start. We look forward to checking in on our vineyard sources this summer as we get closer to harvest, as it will be here before we know it.

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