ValleyFogBlog


Of Wines and Minerality by Jennifer
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?

Advertisements


Beating the Heat at 2013 Pinot Days San Francisco by Jennifer
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



Sampling Sips and Bites at Taste of Mendocino by Jennifer
Taste of Mendocino banner

Taste of Mendocino 2013 (photo: J. Waits)

Last Tuesday, Brian and I poured Waits-Mast wines at the Taste of Mendocino event at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio of San Francisco. Featuring an array of producers and purveyors from Mendocino County, the event gave consumers, trade, and media the opportunity to sample tastes of wine, beer, cheese, coffee, chocolate, pie, and more. Representatives from other Mendocino companies and services talked about the range of attractions and lodgings in the county as well.

Taste of Mendocino Workshops

Taste of Mendocino Workshop Line-up (Photo: J. waits)

The day was divided into a trade/media event from 2-5pm and a consumer event from 5-7pm. Additionally, several panel discussions during the trade portion gave wine buyers and journalists an in-depth look at Coro Mendocino wines, food from Mendocino county, and the 2011 vintage of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Brian participated in the Pinot Noir panel, during which all of the wineries provided preview samples of the 2011 vintage. Since I was holding down the fort at our table while Brian spoke, I sadly missed the discussion. Luckily, Fred Swan did a thorough write-up for his NorCalWine blog, giving his take on the vintage and his tasting notes on the wines poured by Waits-Mast, Elke, Husch, Baxter, Harmonique, Bink, Balo, and Witching Stick.

Tasting Panels at Taste of Mendocino

Workshop Room at Taste of Mendocino (photo: J. Waits)

This was the first winemaker panel that either of us had sat on, so Brian was excited/nervous. It was pretty cool for Brian to be on the same panel as other esteemed winemakers from Anderson Valley, especially with someone like Mary Elke, whose wines we’ve admired for many years. Each winemaker got up and did a five minute presentation on their winery and the specific wine they were pouring for the audience.

Brian got up and talked about the yet-to-be-released 2011 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley. Everyone on the panel discussed the late-harvest rains and how they handled mold or Botrytis. Brian described how they handled the dampness at Wentzel, where the vineyard staff waited for the clusters to dry after the rains on October 10, did extra leafing to promote airflow and then used leaf-blowers to dry out the clusters further. The fruit from this vineyard was picked a full week after that rain, on October 17, and was the cleanest pick we had that year.

The crowd awaiting the beginning of the AV panel.

The eager crowd before the AV panel (photo: B. Mast).

The 2011 Wentzel still needs time in the bottle to age and develop further, but in Fred Swan’s overview of the panel, he rated this wine “highly recommended.” This bodes well for when the wine is ready for release later this year!

As had been the case when we poured at the 2012 Taste of Mendocino, this was a really fun and productive event, especially since so many of the attendees were from restaurants and retail shops. We don’t have the time to reach out to as many restaurants and shops as we’d like, so it is fantastic to pour samples of our wines at event where wine buyers are coming to us. We ran into some folks who we’d seen at last year’s event, made some new connections, and even crossed paths with people who I know from the San Francisco music and radio scene (it’s amazing how often the music, radio, and wine worlds collide). People were well-behaved and we didn’t hear or see any signs of broken glass (although someone did accidentally knock over our dump bucket, spilling icky leftover wine on our table).

We got some nice feedback on the wines that we poured. Whereas some attendees were adamant about not tasting our rose (they’d say, “no, I’ll start with the pinots”), those who did said that the 2012 Waits-Mast Rose of Pinot Noir from Mendocino County was “delicious,” “real dry,” “nicely balanced,” with “great acid.”

Golden Gate Club for Taste of Mendocino

Golden Gate Club during the Taste of Mendocino (photo: J. Waits)

When we poured the 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Londer Vineyard in Anderson Valley, we got many questions about the status of Londer Winery. Friends and fans of Londer expressed their sadness that the vineyard was sold and the winery closed. We worked with the vineyard when Larry and Shirlee Londer owned it and hope that the resulting wine does them proud. Tasters said that our wine was “aromatic” and “juicy” and one attendee said it would be “great with chocolate.”

Our 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley was described as “earthy,” “a little chewier,” and “complex,” with an “exuberant nose.” As far as the 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Oppenlander Vineyard in Mendocino County, tasters said that it had a “great tangy-ness,” was “sandy” and “bright,” with “an explosion of flavor on the palate.”

View of Golden Gate Bridge from Presidio

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Presidio (photo: J. Waits)

After wrapping up our day in the Presidio, we headed out to dinner with friends from Frati Horn Winery. We hadn’t been able to catch up with them much at the event, as their tasting table was located in the big room with the view at the Golden Gate Club. We swapped stories, shared winery gossip, and enjoyed a great meal before retiring for the evening.



2013 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival Part 2 – A Beautiful Day for the Grand Tasting by Jennifer
AV Pinot Fest Tent at Goldeneye Vineyard

The 2013 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival Gets Underway at Goldeneye (Photo: J. Waits)

Looking back on the 10+ years that we’ve been attending the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, it’s hard to believe that we skipped the grand tasting event for so many years. In fact, we’ve never attended the grand tasting as consumers and only started to go when we began pouring our wines at the festival back in 2009. We’d imagined it to be a crazed swarm of wine drinkers, when in fact it’s a lovely, small event featuring some incredible producers.

This year’s 16th annual grand tasting took place on Saturday, May 18 in a tent in the vineyard behind Goldeneye Winery in Philo, California. We poured two wines, our 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Wentzel Vineyard and our 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Londer Vineyard. Both wines have special significance for us. Our very first commercial release was a 2007 Pinot Noir from Wentzel Vineyard. It’s a delicious wine and we couldn’t be happier to be sourcing from the vineyard again.

As far as Londer Vineyard goes, we were excited to get fruit from this vineyard that we’ve had a long relationship with as fans. Brian and I got acquainted with Larry and Shirlee Londer soon after they moved to Anderson Valley and we have fond memories of attending their very first winemaker dinner in the barn on their property. Sadly, they’ve now moved away and are in the process of shutting down their winery. They poured at their final Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival this year and it was great to see them and to showcase a wine that we made from their fruit.

Pouring wine at the AV Pinot Fest

Brian pours at the 2013 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival (photo: J. Waits)

Only wines from Anderson Valley can be poured at the grand tasting event, so we kept it simple by pouring two of our Pinot Noirs from 2010. Here’s some of the feedback that we heard from tasters:

2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Wentzel Vineyard, Anderson Valley:

“my favorite”

“love the smell”

“a lot of structure”

“liquorice”

“cherry”

2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Londer Vineyard, Anderson Valley:

“great fruit, great spice, my kind of wine”

“it’s a wow”

“very Burgundian”

“spiciness on the finish”

“very elegant”

“love the nose”

“favorite”

View from the table at the AV Pinot Fest Grand Tasting

A view from our table at the grand tasting (photo: J. Waits)

Interestingly, we overheard someone critique one of our wines (we’re not sure which), saying,  “I don’t like it, it’s too Burgundian.” This immediately prompted someone else to come to our table because she said that she’s a fan of that style of wine. It’s always fun to hear comments like this, as it makes it quite clear that taste is subjective.



Braving the elements for Pinot Days Chicago 2013 by Jennifer

Pinot Days Chicago 2013 sign

It’s been a year and a half since the last Pinot Days Chicago, so we were looking forward to the opportunity to pour Waits-Mast wines for our Chicago fans once again. During a particularly crazy weather week, we headed to the Navy Pier for yesterday’s event. Luckily the rains/snow/flooding of the previous few days had subsided, although we were alarmed to see black smoke emanating from a fire at the O’Hare airport (apparently just an emergency training exercise) as we drove to the tasting. After safely arriving at our destination (a gorgeous room at the Navy Pier with a lake view), we set up our signage, bottles, and literature for the expected crowds of Pinot Noir consumers and industry folks.

Tasting glasses at Pinot Days Chicago 2013

Tasting glasses at Pinot Days Chicago 2013. Photo credit: J. Waits

Although this is the 5th time that we’ve poured our wines at Pinot Days Chicago, it had been a year and a half since the last event in November, 2011. Traveling to Chicago had become a fall tradition for us, so it was strange to not be there last November. Thankfully the event still took place, moving to April this year.

During this year’s Pinot Days Chicago we poured three of our more recent releases, including our recently bottled 2012 Waits-Mast Rosé of Pinot Noir from Mendocino County as well as our 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Londer Vineyard and our 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Wentzel Vineyard.

Waits-Mast Rosé of Pinot Noir

Brian shows off the new Waits-Mast Rosé of Pinot Noir. Photo: J. Waits

It was exciting to launch our brand new rosé at Pinot Days. Bottled on March 30, this is our very first rosé. Crafted from fruit from some of our favorite vineyards in Anderson Valley and Mendocino, we think it’s pretty delicious and were looking forward to hearing what others thought of this wine. We only made 24 cases of our 100% Pinot Noir rosé, so we only brought a few bottles to the tasting for the rosé’s public debut. Despite the chilly spring weather in Chicago, tasters were quite complimentary about the rosé (although some inevitably declined to taste it, preferring to stick to full-on Pinot Noir). In addition to the rosé, we also poured two other wines from Mendocino County – our 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Londer Vineyard and our 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Wentzel Vineyard. Here are some tasting notes from some of the attendees who stopped by our table:

2012 Waits-Mast Rosé of Pinot Noir, Mendocino County:

“fine mineral quality” (from a non-rosé fan)

“I wouldn’t send this back”

would be “great with Chilean sea bass – best of both worlds, taste of red, refreshing [quality of a] white”

“nice and refreshing”

“yummy”

“my favorite of the day”

“this is the best thing here”

“gorgeous”

Pouring at Pinot Days Chicago 2013.

Pouring at Pinot Days Chicago 2013. Photo: J. Waits

2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Londer Vineyard, Anderson Valley:

“love the smell, can’t place it”

“smokiness on the nose”

“earthy smell”

there’s a “very feminine grace to this”

“dances across your tongue”

“violets on the nose”

“fruit forward”

“anise”

“delicious”

“cherry”

“almost like tangerine” (on the tongue as a top note)

“red fruit in nose”

Waits-Mast table at Pinot Days Chicago 2013

Waits-Mast table at Pinot Days Chicago 2013. Photo: J. Waits

2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Wentzel Vineyard, Anderson Valley:

“smells awesome”

“dryer finish” (than Londer)

“rich, nice structure”

“fruitier smell” (compared with Londer)

“denser, richer”

“good with salmon, it would stand up to the fat”

“black cherry”

“beautiful acidity”

“such a great expression of Pinot”

“my favorite”

“beautiful”

Pinot Days Chicago 2013 end of day

Pinot Days Chicago 2013 at the end of the day. Note the half-eaten sandwich. Photo: J. Waits

All in all, Pinot Days Chicago was great fun for us. We saw many old friends (fans, family, industry folks, and fellow winemakers) and were also happy to introduce our wines to many people who had never tried our wines before. We did miss seeing our #1 fan, Luke – we waited patiently for him to arrive at our table, hoping for some poetic pronouncements about our wine. Alas, we hope to see him next year. But, perhaps one of my favorite moments was when renowned winemaker Brian Loring of Loring Wine Company complimented us on our wines and applauded us for our small production, saying, “dare to be small.”



Pinot Days San Francisco Recap: From Jesus Christ Superstar to Lucky Charms by Jennifer
Pinot Days San Francisco 2012

Pinot Days San Francisco 2012

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.

Brian with the late afternoon "heavenly aura" above him

Brian with the late afternoon “heavenly aura” above him

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 floral”

“great tannin on back-end and great brightness of fruit.”

2009 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Amber Ridge Vineyard, Russian River:

“amazing”

“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)

“smooth”

“high floristics,” specifically daisy

“smells fantastic”

“floral nose”

“herby/mint nose”

“this is the favorite one that I’ve tried”



Wine & Spirits April 2012 Pinot Noir Roundup by valleyfog

Wine & Spirits April 2012 issue

We’re very excited about the inclusion of two different Waits-Mast Pinot Noir wines in Wine & Spirits Magazine’s April 2012 issue that just came out on newsstands today. The magazine, which is geared towards restaurants and retailers as well as consumers, published its annual roundup of the “Year’s Best Pinot Noir”, looking at Pinot Noir from California and Oregon appellations. After tasting through 914 new-release Pinot Noirs over the last 12 months, its critics rated 121 as “exceptional” or 90+ pts and another 62 as “best buys”.

The 2009 Waits-Mast Deer Meadows Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley was in the top 10 California Pinot Noirs reviewed, received a rating of 94 points and this review:

Brian Mast and Jennifer Waits were wine drinkers and media/ communications professionals when they attended the technical conference at the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival in 2000. By 2005, they had made their first wine and they began producing micro-lots of pinot noir under the Waits-Mast label in 2007 (the winery remains a part-time gig). This one comes from a southeast-facing vineyard at 1,600 feet in the hills above Boonville. It’s whole-berry fermented without stems, providing a rich red fruit flavor of tiny woodland berries, tart and fragrant. There’s a salty porcini note, a coastal forest feel, delicate and harmonious. (49 cases)

The 2009 Waits-Mast La Encantada Vineyard Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills received a 91 pt rating and this review:

A micro-cuvée from the team at Waits-Mast, this is more vinous than many pinots from the Santa Rita Hills. It’s clean and fragrant with mouthwatering, tart cherry flavor and root-like spiciness. There’s a chalkiness to the tannins balancing a sweet, gentle finish. Serve it with a gamey, heritage-breed pork chop. (23 cases)

So, we’re super-pumped about making it into this short-list of great wines. The Wine & Spirits tasting process is pretty rigorous. It is double-blind, with a selection panel made up of sommeliers, winemakers, retailers and other wine industry folks tasting the first round and then recommending about 20-30% of the wines to get to the next round. In the next round, a Wine & Spirits critic reviews the wines again blind (from a second bottle provided by the winery), and writes up the review and decides on scores. More on their tasting process can be found here.

09 Deer Meadows Review

For a super-small winery like ourselves to be included in this field of top producers, folks like Williams-Selyem, Hirsch, Flowers, Freestone and others is humbling and gratifying. We recommend that you go out and buy the hard copy of the magazine to see all the reviews and a great feature story on Anderson Valley.

So, we’ll momentarily savor the reviews and the wonderful adjectives and then move on to our winemaking and other tasks. We also look forward to seeing the smiles of people tasting our wines at the upcoming events this spring and summer.