ValleyFogBlog


Exit 2012, Welcome 2013 by valleyfog
Deer Meadows Vineyard, Anderson Valley

Deer Meadows Vineyard, Anderson Valley

With 2012 barely a glimmer in our rear-view mirror, we’re excited about all that 2013 will bring. 2012 was a good year in many ways, so we thought we would take a quick look back at some of the highlights of the year for our little winery and provide a brief preview of what to expect in 2013. Here are four things, in no particular order, about 2012 that made the year in winemaking for Waits-Mast Family Cellars a great one, plus a preview of things to come:

1. The 2012 Vintage: the growing season this year was consistent and cool with minimal disruptions. A few heat spikes here or there, but nothing to worry about. In 2012, we became more focused on Mendocino County and decided to only use pinot noir fruit sourced from that region, working with vineyards from Anderson Valley to Mendocino Ridge to Comptche. We worked with a total of five different vineyards this year, continuing with Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley and Oppenlander Vineyard in Comptche. We returned to Deer Meadows Vineyard, 1600 feet above Anderson Valley and worked with two vineyards for the first time: Nash Mill in Anderson Valley and Mariah in the Mendocino Ridge appellation. Besides being in Mendocino County, what these vineyards also have in common is that each is independently-owned, small and well managed. We just barrel tasted the 2012s the other day and we’re excited for this vintage – but patience will need to prevail as the wines will be in barrel for a number of months (except for a rosé…wait, did we say rosé? Look at the 2013 preview for more info.)

2. Tasting Events: 2012 was a year where we poured at more events than ever. We continued to pour at our favorites, like the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival and Pinot Days, but also tried out some new events like Taste of Mendocino and Winesong. And every once in a while, a special opportunity comes along. Being able to pour our wine at Sideways the Play in Santa Monica this past summer was a blast. The play naturally drew a crowd of Pinot Noir fans and it was a treat for Brian to meet Rex Pickett, author of Sideways and Vertical. The best thing about all of these events is seeing old friends and meeting new ones. We’re always up for talking about wine, whether we’re geeking out about clones or cold soaks or just enjoying the wine and trading stories with our visitors. Inevitably, a colorful remark or gesture arises and our day is made.

Wine & Spirits Best 100 Wines 2012

Wine & Spirits Best 100 Wines of 2012

3. Accolades: our wines continued to garner strong trade press and blog reviews. Each of our 2009 vintage Pinot Noir wines received good reviews in outlets like Wine Enthusiast, PinotFile, Wine & Spirits, Daily Sip and more. The inclusion in Wine & Spirits’ “Best 100 Wines of 2012” was definitely a highlight. We were honored to have the 2009 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Deer Meadows Vineyard featured among some of the best wines across the world. In the PinotFile newsletter, our 2009 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Oppenlander Vineyard in Mendocino County received a Pinot Geek rating from the Prince of Pinot and made his 2012 California Pinot Noir All-Americans list (honorable mention).

4. Restaurants and Wine Shops: we’ve been working hard to get our wines in restaurants and wine shops to make it easier for people to try and buy our wines. It was great to have the support and response from wine stores like Wine Club Santa Clara, K&L Wines, SF Wine Trading Co, Canyon Market, Wine Exchange, Robert’s Market, and Little Vine. And we’re thrilled to be placed on some incredible wine lists at restaurants like Kokkari, Michael Mina, Brasserie S&P, Liberty Cafe, The Hobbit, moto, L2o, Acadia, Boonville Hotel, MacCallum House and more. For a full list of restaurants and wine stores that carry our wine, go to the News section of our website.

2012 Waits-Mast Rose of Pinot Noir

5. 2013 – a preview: Okay, so here is a short list of things we’re excited about in 2013:

  • Releasing our other two 2010 wines from Oppenlander Vineyard & Archer Family Vineyard (RRV) this Spring
  • Releasing our first rosé of Pinot Noir this Spring  (see photo above)- wine club members will get it first. It is a saignée of the fruit from three different vineyards and it is tasting great already. More to come.
  • Bottling our 2011s and tasting them along the way to see which ones will be ready for a Fall release
  • Pinot Days Chicago – it used to be in November, but now is in April. We love the “home crowd” here as Brian’s Midwestern roots harken him back home.
  • The 2013 vintage – so hard to think about the next vintage when we feel like we just wrapped up 2012, but harvest will be here before you know it.
  • Hopefully seeing and hearing from you, our fans, along the way. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all of these updates and more.

With that, we wish you the happiest of New Year’s and a bountiful and peaceful 2013.

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Red and White Wine Bar Opens in San Francisco’s Glen Park by Jennifer

Red & White in Glen Park

For years we’ve been hoping that one day there would be a wine bar in our neighborhood and last night that wish was finally realized with the opening of Red & White in Glen Park (678 Chenery Street, near Diamond in San Francisco).

Last night’s opening was part of their “soft launch” of the wine bar and retail space. They entertained guests for several hours in this warm and inviting  neighborhood haunt and featured both a by-the-glass tasting menu, along with a selection of charcuterie, cheeses, and gougeres (french cheese puffs).

Beginning on Tuesday, January 5th, Red & White will also be open for lunch and owner Juliana Flores promised us that there would be gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches on the menu.

Since Red & White is also a retail space, you can pick up bottles of wine to either enjoy in the bar or to take home. They have a great selection of wines to choose from, including some unusual bottles from California and from all over the world (we even spotted a sparkling wine from Australia). They are also selling our remaining 12 bottles of the 2007 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley (which made the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Wines of 2009 list).

Waits-Mast on the Shelves

It was a treat to see the wine bar open and buzzing with people and we couldn’t be happier for owners Juliana and Peter. Since this was a date night for us, we tried as many wines as we could in 3 hours. Jennifer had a delicious glass of La’ Antica Quercia Prosecco di Conegliano Brut, 2007 (Italy) that was crisply refreshing.

The menu’s poetic description of the wine (written by owner and former ad guy Peter Bell) certainly caught Jennifer’s eye:  “Imagine a sparkling wine conceived and created by Milan designers-understated with a fresh aesthetic and organic inspiration.”

Brian started with a glass of French viognier and we paired both wines with a plate of the amazing savory cheese puffs with gruyere, black pepper and thyme (they plan to expand the list to include sweet cheese puffs with blue cheese and dried cherries!).

Gougeres at Red & White

Throughout the evening we also sampled an intriguing California-made pinot noir made with French grapes (Rutz Pinot Noir French Cuvee 2005 Sonoma/France), a cinnamonly slice of heaven Cabernet Sauvignon (Blacksmith Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Alexander Valley), an aromatic and viscous Petite Sirah with a smooth mouthfeel (Chronic Cellars Petite Sirah 2006, Paso Robles), and a tasty nightcap of a Syrah Port (Steele Syrah Port 2004, Lake County).

By the Glass Menu at Red & White

Along the way we paired the wines with a charcuterie plate, the creamy Mt. Tam cow’s milk cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, and a Spanish manchego.

General Manager Derek Cienfuegos walked us through the wine list and told us that they planned to change the by-the-glass list every few days. The idea is to rotate all of the wines on their shelves through the tasting list, so customers will have the chance to try something different each time they come in. Additionally, anyone is welcome to purchase a bottle of wine from their shelves to enjoy in the wine bar (for an additional $10).

We’re all about embracing the neighborhood joints and feel so lucky to be able to add Red & White to the growing list of reasons why we continue to love (and hype) Glen Park.



New York Magazine Tour of Mendocino County: More Tips by valleyfog

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Wentzel Vineyard in Philo, CA, Anderson Valley

New York Magazine‘s Adam Graham posted a great online tour of Mendocino County on Thursday and mentioned our ValleyFogBlog. Offering a more interesting, rugged alternative to Napa, the tour points out some great out-of-the-way places to visit throughout the county. Jennifer and I have been visiting Mendocino County for many years, our first romantic weekend getaway being up on the Mendocino coast. It was these travels and the many stops at Anderson Valley wineries that got us so enchanted with Pinot Noir and this region.

In addition to the excellent recommendations in the article, we also have some other personal faves in Mendocino County:

Commanding views at The Other Place, above Anderson Valley

Commanding views at The Other Place, above Anderson Valley

Lodging: Anderson Valley Inn in Philo (roomy, good rates), Boonville Hotel (great bungalows in addition the main rooms) and the Other Place (vacation rental with spectacular views, kitchen, living room, etc.). For larger houses or cottages to rent, check out Shoreline Vacation Rentals and other vacation rental services listed on Mendocino.com.

Restaurants: The Boonville Hotel and McCallum House are definitely our two favorites, but for Anderson Valley visitors, Lauren’s Cafe in Boonville and Libby’s Mexican restaurant in Philo provide tasty alternatives. Along the coast from Elk to Fort Bragg, there are a number of other great restaurants – too many to mention here. For breakfast in Ft. Bragg, though, Eggheads, with full-on Wizard of Oz motif, is a must.

Wineries: Again, the article lists some of our favorites, but here are a few more in Anderson Valley: Elke, Baxter, Phillips Hill, Claudia Springs, Roederer Estate, Handley and Navarro. Any that aren’t mentioned here are also well worth visiting and exploring. Go to the Anderson Valley Winegrower’s site for a full listing of wineries in the Valley and those, like Waits-Mast, Roessler and others, that make wine from the region. Just up the road is Hopland, where there are a number of good wineries, including Milano Family Winery.

Mendo Bot Gardens

Serene coastal path at the Mendocino Botanical Gardens

Oddball Day: the article mentions some out-of-the way places in Mendocino County that visitors may not find in the guidebooks. When we’re not pouring at the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival or poking around the village of Mendocino, we like to drive further up the coast. Our companion along the way is community radio station KZYX out of Philo. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch the call-in swap show Trading Time – it is truly a slice of Mendocino, with locals unloading old beat-up trucks and other quirky items. We then may stop at the Mendocino Botanical Gardens and take a stroll out to the coast on a path that winds through coastal redwoods. We’ll then wind our way up to Fort Bragg and stop in at some of our favorite vintage shops, including the Ark Thrift Store (benefits the local humane society and often has pets roaming the place) and Mendocino Vintage which is full of great old books, records and kitchenware. If we’re in the mood for a little more wine tasting, we may go further north to one of the most scenic wineries around, Pacific Star Winery. Sheep roam the coastal property and the tasting room has great views of the dramatic North Coast.

Makes us want to hop in the car and take another visit! Enjoy Mendocino County and the Anderson Valley and if you want to try our wines from Anderson Valley, drop us a line or go to our website at www.waitsmast.com.



The Moss Room and Hirsch Vineyards by valleyfog
May 4, 2009, 12:03 pm
Filed under: Restaurants, Tasting notes | Tags: ,

0131Keeping up with the San Francisco restaurant scene is not as easy as it used to be before we had a child. But, we try to get out and try as many new places as we can, as well as return to old favorites. So for Jennifer’s birthday last week, we decided to try out the Moss Room at the new Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Restaurants in parks, if done right (for example, North Pond in Chicago’s Lincoln Park), are a great escape from everyday urban life.

Adding to the appeal the Moss Room for us, was its association with San Francisco chef Loretta Keller of COCO500 (her partner in the restaurants at the Academy of Sciences, Charles Phan of Slanted Door, oversees the AcademyCafe). While finding the front door to the restaurant at 7:30pm on a Friday night was a slight challenge, after some circumnavigation (including a trip on a freight elevator with other lost guests), we descended into the spacious cavern underneath the museum. I won’t go into attempts at architectural descriptions, but suffice it to say, the place is pretty cool. The one thing I noticed about it is that it is not that large of a restaurant and that you feel a certain intimacy within the room, despite the high ceilings and the aquarium lining one side. Jennifer couldn’t stop staring at the illuminated “living wall,” covered with fern, moss, and stone and accented by reflections from the water beneath it.

Okay, so let’s talk food and wine. The first thing that we noticed about the menu, was the wine list. The by-the-glass selections were broken down into 3 categories that might seem unusual: Sustainable, Organic and Biodynamic. We thought this was an interesting way to both emphasize their organic leanings (even when it comes to wine) and also get customers thinking about broader categories of wine beyond just the standard white or red.

We both began with Champagne: the Gonet-Medeville “Brut”, Bisseuil, France, NV for Jennifer and the Roger Pouillon “Brut Rosé”, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, France, NV for me. Both paired very well with our starters. We shared the beer-battered squash blossoms and the Star Route Farms baby beet salad. The Champagnes cut through the richness of the squash dish and complimented the crispness of the beet, chicory and hazelnut combination in the salad. The highlight of the salad was a caramelized goat cheese: a thin layer of goat cheese goodness whimsically placed atop the salad. It doesn’t look like goat cheese, but the taste is undeniable. I believe the refrain from all at our table, including our server, was “you can’t go wrong with melted cheese.”

For the entree, Jennifer enjoyed the Bellwether Farms Ricotta Cavatelli with a poached farm egg, local asparagus, wild mushrooms, and pecorino pepato, while I savored the Liberty Farms duck breast with green garlic risotto, crispy artichokes, and ver jus. Choosing a wine varietal that would sing with both of these dishes was not a challenge: Pinot Noir was the clear choice. Selecting the bottle, though, is not always easy. Part of the fun of going out to dinner is to try different wines. While we could have taken a stab at one of the many Pinot Noirs on the list, we often like to get the guidance of a wine director or sommelier and discover something new. We quickly overlooked the Burgundy page because of the prices (I love Burgundy wines, but they’re too expensive to “try out,” especially with the restaurant markup) and inquired about California Pinots. Failla Sonoma Coast was tempting, as was the Lynmar Russian River (our winemaker Chris Nelson worked there previously) and the Clos Saron, a Pinot Noir from the Sierra Foothills (we’re very intrigued about this wine region). But having read a few articles about David Hirsch and his extraordinary vineyard in the Sonoma Coast (located just three miles from the ocean, at a 1500 feet elevation), I was keen on trying more Hirsch wines when I had the chance. Zack, who was helping us with the wine choices, recommended we try the “Moss Room Blend,” a small production (50 cases) Pinot Noir from Hirsch Vineyard blended by the Moss Room’s beverage director. Apparently only five other restaurants or retailers got the opportunity to make their own blend with Hirsch’s grapes.015

So, given all that information and the fact that Hirsch farms his vineyard in 60 different blocks because of the varying soil characteristics and climate conditions in this wild location along the coast, we had to try it. It was a 2007, but with decanting it didn’t take long to open up. The color was a transparent ruby red, with a touch of crimson. The nose had a nice floral and strawberry high note, with a hint of earth. The palate showed fresh raspberries up front with a sour cherry finish on the back. Good acidity and fine, yet forgiving tannins gave it the right structure to complement our dishes. Between the mushrooms in Jennifer’s dish and the duck in mine, we had a lot of earthy flavors going on, so the wine balanced them out beautifully.

We savored the wine and lingered at our table while other couples came and went. It was impossible to ignore the fantastic dessert menu. Jennifer loved her creme fraiche panna cotta with farmer’s market organic strawberries. Brian had the dark chocolate hazelnut cake and deemed it delicious as well. We were happy to have finally checked out the Moss Room and hope to return soon.



Champagne, Avocado, Cucumbers and Hummus at Internos Wine Cafe by Jennifer
March 20, 2009, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Restaurants, Wine bars | Tags: , , , , ,
Internos Wine Cafe

Internos Wine Cafe

Last weekend we were searching for a quick bite before heading off to finally see Slumdog Millionaire. Brian figured a wine bar would be a great bet and dived into the fun task of searching for a wine bar near The Vogue Theater in San Francisco (one of the few remaining single-screen movie houses). Although it wasn’t walking distance on a rainy Sunday night, the brand-new (opened maybe 3 weeks ago) Internos Wine Cafe (3240 Geary, between Parker and Spruce) was close enough for our purposes.

We popped in and were warmly greeted by owner Adnan, who suggested that we grab seats at the bar. After ordering some wine (Gosset Grande Reserve Champagne for Jennifer and 2006 Cuvaison Pinot Noir from Carneros for Brian) we took Adnan’s advice and ordered the avocado, hummus and cucumbers bruschetta. Wow. Killer combo and so tasty with the bubbly. We also got the fresh mozzarella, diced cherry tomatoes and fresh basil bruschetta, which was equally yummy.010

After finishing up our bruschetta, we continued grazing, consuming both a cheese plate (brie, blue, aged Parmesan and a lick-the-bowl clean delicious house-made honey ricotta) and a cured meats plate (hot coppa, dry salami, and prosciutto). It was all super satisfying and the perfect amount of pre-movie food.

We ordered a bit more wine and Adnan was very helpful in leading Jennifer through some tastings before she decided on a glass of the 2006 JL Colombo Viognier (Rhone, France). Brian stuck with Cuvaison, choosing a glass of their 2005 Mount Veeder Cabernet (Napa Valley) for his second taste of the night.

With wine bars cropping up in neighborhoods all over San Francisco, it was fun to discover Internos Wine Cafe in an unexpected pocket on Geary. From what we hear, it’s already become a popular destination for nearby residents. Not a surprise. It’s a super friendly, casual (but chic) wine bar with a nice wine list and delicious light fare. The only thing missing was dessert and we hear that’s coming soon.



Cupcakes and Pinot Noir by Jennifer
March 7, 2009, 6:34 pm
Filed under: Restaurants, Tasting notes, Wine bars

061I’m in New York City right now and was trolling around the West Village this afternoon in search of a yummy snack when I happened upon a sign advertising cupcake, wine and beer pairings. The small store/restaurant/bar on Carmine Street, Sweet Revenge, was packed so I knew I’d found the right place to take a break and indulge.

It was a gorgeous warm day in New York and my first thought was to have a delicious cupcake paired with a cold glass of sparkling wine. However, the suggested pairings were quite creative, covering a wide range of wines and beers, so I was convinced to let Sweet Revenge be my guide.

I ended up trying the “Pure” cupcake, which was a Mexican vanilla cake with Mexican vanilla buttercream. It was paired with a Principato Pinot Noir from Italy. Wow. The cupcake was so tasty and the Mexican vanilla flavor gave it that extra spice that worked beautifully with the Pinot Noir. Initially I wasn’t sure that I’d want a red wine with a vanilla cupcake, but the intense vanilla and sweetness of the cupcake was softened a bit by the lighter styled Pinot Noir. It really was a perfect match.

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It took all of my strength to not go for a second pairing, as I was very tempted by the “Crimson and Cream” (raspberry red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting) cupcake and Lunetta Prosecco Bellini with Raspberry. Their beer pairings were equally intriguing, including Guinness matched with a “Very Strawberry” cupcake. Additionally, both the wine and beer list had a nice mix of international offerings.

My visit to Sweet Revenge was a great reminder of how fun it can be to pair wine and food, and it’s really an inspiration to start thinking about the wide range of things that work so well with Pinot Noir.

What’s one of your most creative wine and food pairings?



Hitching Our Wagon at The Hitching Post by valleyfog
Hitching Post II in Buellton, CA

Hitching Post II in Buellton, CA

Okay, so while this seems like a complete ode to Miles and Jack, honestly, we didn’t plan a Sideways pilgrimage. The movie is, of course, one of my favorite movies. And Miles’ soliloquy on the essence of Pinot Noir certainly can move one to tears, if not to a glass of the nearest DRC handy. But we never really attempted to trace their steps along the wine trail. We’ve always mapped out our own wine trail, no matter where we are. But given that we had an afternoon in the Santa Rita Hills and I knew we’d be hankerin’ for a hunk of something, it was obvious that I had to make a reservation at the Hitching Post II in Buellton.
 
This, of course, is where Miles and Jack sidle up to the bar, order a glass of the Highliner, proceed to dinner and encounter Maya. So with our two-year old in tow, and the bar already packed with a mix of locals and star-struck tourists, we were headed to our own table. But we did order a bottle of the 2005 Highliner, Hitching Post’s own Pinot Noir from Hartley-Ostini, along with our steaks. A flatiron for Jennifer, a New York strip for me.
 

Brian taking down tasting notes on the 2005 Highliner

Brian taking down tasting notes on the 2005 Highliner

I was tempted to order the “St. Rita’s Earth” Pinot from HP, but figured I might as well see what the Highliner was all about. It was billed as “full, round” and it was definitely a big Pinot. Big enough to work well with the steaks, but still a Pinot, not a Pinot-in-Syrah’s-clothing. Well, close. The funk and mushroom on the nose are what I like, but in a blind tasting, that could have passed for a southern Rhone wine. The fruit was very much Pinot and on the darker side. Baked cherry with lots of concentration – a ripeness that bordered on a raisin-like quality. At first, I got some tanginess, almost a little zip. That eventually smoothed over and gave way to a fairly long palate.
 
Our two-year old had not napped that day and had been dragged all over creation by her parents (in and out of the car seat at least 10 times that day), so our time was limited. We wolfed down our salads, but savored the steak and the wine, in between some coloring books and trips to the potty. Ah, the life of the parent trying to squeeze it all in. Well, we promised her a trip to the beach the next day, so hopefully that will make up for it.
 
But a trip to the Hitching Post was definitely a fitting end to a very exciting day in the greater Buellton-Lompoc area.