Our Third Pick of the Year – Mariah Vineyards in Mendocino Ridge
September 8, 2015, 3:17 pm
Filed under: Vineyards, Winemaking | Tags: , , ,

Within 10 days of the start of the Waits-Mast 2015 harvest, we are now 3/5th of the way through our picks. Mariah Vineyards in Mendocino Ridge was harvested on Sunday night and vineyard owner Dan Dooling hand-delivered the beautiful fruit to us in San Francisco yesterday morning before things really heated up in the city.

Pinot Noir grapes from Mariah Vineyards arrives on Sept. 7. Photo: J. Waits

Pinot Noir grapes from Mariah Vineyards arrives on Sept. 7. Photo: J. Waits

Continue reading

Harvest 2015 Starts in August – Our Earliest Ever
rain on wire at Wentzel Vineyard. Photo: J. Waits

Rain on a wire at Wentzel Vineyard. Photo: J. Waits

On Saturday, August 29 we got up bright and early and headed over to the Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley for the first Waits-Mast Family Cellars pick of the year. A small amount of rain fell as dawn approached and the sky was still shrouded in fog. The vines glistened with tiny rain drops and just after sunrise, workers were in the fields harvesting grapes.

just-picked Pinot Noir at Wentzel Vineyard in 2015. Photo: J. Waits

Just-picked pinot noir grapes at Wentzel Vineyard during 2015 harvest. Photo: J. Waits

We’ve never picked that early from that vineyard and it’s the first time that Waits-Mast has ever harvested in August. Every year our picks seem to be getting earlier and earlier and many of our growers and winemaking friends in California are reporting that the 2015 harvest seems to be about a week earlier than last year.

Wentzel Vineyard on day of harvest 2015. Photo: J. Waits

Wentzel Vineyard on day of harvest 2015. Photo: J. Waits

So far that is ringing true for us, with our Wentzel Vineyard pick this year occurring 5 days earlier than in 2014. For comparison, we picked Wentzel fruit on September 24 in 2012 and on September 8 in 2013.

On Wednesday, our fruit was harvested at Deer Meadows Vineyard (also in Anderson Valley), exactly a week earlier than in 2014. Looking through our records, it’s a bit of a shock to see that back in 2012, we picked Deer Meadows on September 24 and in 2013 we picked on October 10th.

View from Deer Meadows Vineyard less than a week before harvest 2015. Photo: J. Waits

View from Deer Meadows Vineyard less than a week before harvest 2015. Photo: J. Waits

Sometimes vineyards in nearby locations seem to track with each other as far as ripening and pick dates, but, as we saw in 2013, there are oddball years where our expectations about the order that our vineyards will be picked are completely blown by what we actually see and taste on the vines.

At this point in the season, we are in regular contact with our three remaining growers about where things stand with harvest. It’s likely that we will have at least one more harvest this week and will probably be done completely within the next few weeks, perhaps before we would have even started our first pick back in 2012. It’s hard to believe…

2014 Harvest Begins
September 15, 2014, 12:01 am
Filed under: Events, Winemaking | Tags: , , , , , ,
Wentzel Vineyards Pinot Noir arrives

Wentzel Vineyard fruit arrives

It’s only mid-September and we are more than halfway through harvest at Waits-Mast Family Cellars. In addition to being in constant communication with our growers and our wine making facility about pick logistics, we’ve also been out doing tasting appointments, pouring at events, and scrambling to buy more barrels to hold our increasingly growing production (we plan to surpass 500 cases this year!). Our first harvest of 2014 was at Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley on September 4. We greeted grower Roland Wentzel when he delivered the fruit to the winery in San Francisco that evening (after braving city traffic jams) and then raced home to pack for a trip up to Anderson Valley and Mendocino the following day.

Continue reading

Counting Down the Days to Harvest 2014

It’s the calm before the storm, as harvest is imminently approaching for Waits-Mast Family Cellars. It’s looking like our first pick of the year will happen in just a few days, with other picks soon after. This will all be unusually early for Mendocino Pinot Noir. But because of the drought and a warm winter, budbreak was early. This, along with a moderate growing season is driving an earlier harvest.

A week ago we went up to Anderson Valley and Mendocino Ridge in order to check in on the vineyards from which we source our Pinot Noir grapes and things were looking and tasting great already. Here’s a quick glimpse of what’s happening at four (of our five) vineyard sources:

Wentzel Vineyard, Anderson Valley: Our first visit on the weekend of August 23, 2014 was to Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley. We initially starting working with this vineyard in 2007 (the wine was our first commercial release) and after a short break, have been making wine from Wentzel every year since 2010. Pictured below is the section, dubbed Le Clos, from which we have primarily been getting our grapes. It features a field blend of Dijon clones of Pinot Noir and is located in a lovely, enclosed sloping section of the Wentzel property. It looks like this will be our first pick of 2014, with fruit coming in any day now.

Wentzel Vineyard

Wentzel Vineyard, Anderson Valley


Continue reading

2013 Harvest is On…
Wentzel Vineyard Harvest 2013

Harvest 2013 at Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley (photo: J. Waits)

Just when 2013 seemed like it would be an uneventful, dare we say, “normal” growing season, we were tossed a few interesting twists. It got me wondering if there really is such a thing as a normal year. Certainly 2013 is less stressful than some other years in which we had atypically cold summers. Rather than waiting and waiting for fruit to ripen this year, we ended up harvesting 2 weeks earlier than last year in some cases. But some of the odd twists include bringing in fruit from our coolest vineyard (always last to pick) prior to fruit from one of our warmer sites.

Our first Waits-Mast harvest of the year was from Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley. In a nice bit of serendipity, we were up in Mendocino County to participate in WineSong and the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir kick-off tasting the weekend of September 7-8. In the course of our vineyard checks that weekend, we learned that we’d be in the area on the day of the Wentzel pick. Continue reading

Of Wines and Minerality
July 27, 2013, 3:55 pm
Filed under: Tasting notes | Tags: , , , , ,

In today’s Wall Street Journal, wine writer Lettie Teague dissects the words “mineral” and “minerality” as they apply to wine. Her piece hints at a larger, industry-wide discussion about the terms, as there have been several other articles and panels in the past few months dealing with this topic. Chemist and wine educator Roy Williams writes in Daily Press that, “I have reviewed the information in the literature regarding the possible explanation for what many wine lovers refer to as minerality and I can find nothing that would offer any real scientific evidence that such a phenomenon exists.” A similar sentiment was expressed during a technical session at Pinot Paradise in May and at another conference way back in 2009 (which the New York Times even reported on).

So, even if there aren’t minerals, per se in wines, what does the mention of minerality by wine tasters really mean? In her piece, Teague interviews numerous wine shop owners, viticulture experts, and winemakers in order to get a sense of a common understanding of this terminology. One conclusion that she comes to is that minerality is often equated with acidity. She writes, “I can’t think of a minerally wine that doesn’t have lots of acidity too. That may be one of the key factors to minerality, even if the two aren’t fully synonymous…”

As I was reading this article, I couldn’t help but think about one of our wines (the 2009 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Oppenlander Vineyard) that our former winemaker Chris Nelson described as having “oceanic acidity” – a probable descriptor due to the vineyard’s proximity to the Pacific. In my mind I had conflated this descriptor with “oceanic minerality.” A quick web search reveals that “oceanic minerality” has been bandied about in reference to several wines. The phrase has also been used to describe the aroma of a single malt scotch, the taste of a shrimp dish, and the characteristics of a marine clay spa treatment (the oceanic minerality purportedly aids in cellulite reduction). The term that we’ve linked to one of our Pinot Noir releases, oceanic acidity, hasn’t really picked up momentum as a wine descriptor (although it appears in the tasting notes for a few other wines crafted by our former winemaker), but it does crop up in articles and websites that discuss the effects of climate change (which creates a more acidic ocean).

Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County, 2012

Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County (photo: B. Mast)

A big range of wines have been described as having oceanic minerality, including  Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscadet, and Malbec. Whereas with the white wines, I would tend to think that oceanic could imply a briny, salty flavor, with the reds my mind plays back memories of sea breezes, acidity, and wet stone (perhaps sea creature-infused limestone, even though we may not technically be tasting minerals from the soil).

What do you think? Is minerality a term that you use when tasting and describing wine? How does it relate to acidity? And where does the term “oceanic” work into the equation for you?

Beating the Heat at 2013 Pinot Days San Francisco
July 5, 2013, 11:06 am
Filed under: Events, Tasting notes | Tags: ,
2013 Pinot Days San Francisco

Entrance to Festival Pavilion at Ft. Mason During 2013 Pinot Days San Francisco (photo: J. Waits)

In the midst of a warm San Francisco weekend, Pinot Days took place on the edge of the San Francisco Bay on Sunday, June 30, 2013. While crowds swarmed into the city for a particularly celebratory Pride Parade following marriage equality rulings this week, others migrated to Ft. Mason in order to sample Pinot Noir. In the large warehouse space, we were nestled between Wait Cellars (no relation to Waits-Mast, although we are friendly with owner Bob Wait, as we’ve all been making wine in San Francisco since 2005) and Walt Wines in the alphabetical arrangement of wineries at the event.¬† After getting our table in order, we trotted out a rotating selection of samples of Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir throughout the day.

Waits-Mast Rose of Pinot Noir

Chilling the Rose (photo: J. Waits)

We figured that our iced 2012 Waits-Mast Rose of Pinot Noir from Mendocino would be a welcome first sip for many tasters, especially if they trekked into the city from the hotter outskirts. Although some people skipped it (when offered the rose, there are people who give us the “are you kidding?” look), others seemed to be excited to try it. One fellow told us that he didn’t normally like rose. He agreed to try it and liked it, saying that it was “not the typical rose.” Brian was pleased by that and even snapped a picture of the taster while we were changing his mind about rose. A lot of people commented that it was “nice and dry,” and others said that it had “nice, upfront fruit,” was a “nice summer wine,” that it had a “gorgeous nose,” and was “fun.” Continue reading


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.