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”



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”


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.


Harvest 2010: Oppenlander Vineyard Crush and Pressing by valleyfog

Oppenlander Fruit Upon Arrival at Winery, Oct. 2010. Photo by Jennifer Waits.

For many vineyards in the cooler growing valleys and hillsides in Northern California this year, it was unclear when — and sometimes if — grapes would ripen. That was certainly the case at Oppenlander Vineyard in Comptche, California. As we mentioned in our profile of this tucked-away vineyard, it is a little closer to the coast and experiences cooler growing conditions. And with the 2010 growing season as cool as it was, predicting a pick date was like throwing darts.

Luckily a warm beginning to autumn, with no rain in sight for most of October, prodded things along in Mendocino County. By the second week of October, the sugars had passed 23 Brix and pH was hovering around 3.3. Vineyard owners, the Shandels, picked the 114 clone of their pinot noir on October 14 and trucked it on down to us in San Francisco for our Waits-Mast Pinot Noir.

Punching down Oppenlander fruit, October, 2010. Photo by Brian Mast

We knew that the vineyard struggled to ripen this year and so the fruit looked slightly uneven. But as we set to work on sorting, we meticulously sifted through the clusters and berries, throwing away any questionable ones. Berries were small to medium sized and clusters ranged from small and tight to medium and loose.

After a five-day cold soak, the 1.18 tons of fruit went into fermentation mode and needed inoculation with RC212 to stoke the fermentation and get those yeasts converting sugar to alcohol at the right pace.  As we did punchdowns on the fruit, we could start to see that wonderful, vibrant color that we remembered from our 2009 Oppenlander crush and pressing.

At pressing, we transferred the free-run juice to neutral barrels and then moved the rest of the juice and berries through a few cycles. We pressed as high as 1.4 bars and stopped there – the pressed juice went into a new French Damy barrel from the Vosges forest in Burgundy. That vibrant color was still there and the Oppenlander tasted tart, juicy with some earth and tea notes.

Spooky Pre-Halloween Oppenlander Pressing on Oct. 26, 2010. Photo by Jennifer Waits.

After all the fuss about a cool growing year, this could turn out to be a pretty intense wine. The Damy barrel should impart some nice warm spices like cinnamon and clove. We’ll check back with you on its progress throughout the next year or so to see how it evolves and comes into its own.