ValleyFogBlog


Harvest 2017 is a Wrap by Jennifer

What a strange year. The first Waits-Mast Family Cellars harvest for the 2017 vintage was on September 15 and then we ended up with an 11 day break, while waiting for fruit to develop further. On September 26, we brought in Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc from Mariah Vineyard in Mendocino Ridge. Two days later, we were done; with Pinot Noir picks from Oppenlander Vineyard and Nash Mill Vineyard arriving in the winery on September 28.

Waits-Mast winemaker Shalini Sekhar loads empty bins onto Mariah Vineyards' owner Dan Dooling's truck. Photo: J. Waits/Waits-Mast Family Cellars

Waits-Mast winemaker Shalini Sekhar loads empty bins onto Mariah Vineyards’ owner Dan Dooling’s truck. Photo: J. Waits/Waits-Mast Family Cellars

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Autumnal Leaves and Winesong as Harvest 2017 Nears by Jennifer

Our house is finally cooling down to the 70s after several weeks of hot September weather in San Francisco. It has been much the same up in Mendocino County, although there are already signs of fall, with a smattering of leaves starting to change color in the vineyards.

Leaves changing color at Oppenlander Vineyard on September 9, 2017. Photo: J. Waits/Waits-Mast Family Cellars

Leaves changing color at Oppenlander Vineyard on September 9, 2017. Photo: J. Waits/Waits-Mast Family Cellars

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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 1 – Tech Conference Delves into Suitcase Clones, Pinot Noir Blanc and Fringe Vineyards by Jennifer

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We had a wonderful time at the 16th Annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival last week in Boonville. The event took place between May 17th and May 19th and featured a technical conference, BBQ, grand tasting event, winemaker dinners and winery open houses. We arrived on Thursday evening in time to attend the press welcome dinner. Typically only open to press and volunteers, this year the organizers made some additional tickets available to participating winemakers. It was fun getting to mix and mingle at the casual dinner on the grounds of Foursight Winery. We sampled delicious wines from a number of wineries (including the first of many pinot noir blancs of the weekend), had scrumptious food from the newish Anderson valley eatery Aquarelle, and met some interesting folks. We turned in soon after the sun set in order to reserve our energy for the technical conference the following day.

Balo Pinot Noir Blanc

Sampling a Balo Pinot Noir Blanc (Photo: J. Waits)

We arrived at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds on Friday morning for the technical conference held in the Apple Hall. It was early and we were hungry, so we dived into the breakfast spread. Featuring Navarro‘s fantastic Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer grape juices, coffee cake, and a hearty savory egg custard, it was certainly not the typical conference fare. After hearing presentations about the state of viticulture in Mendocino County and about agricultural water use in Anderson Valley, we launched into the first tasting panel of the day just after 10am.

I was anticipating the Pinot Noir Blanc session, as we’d been intrigued by this wine after trying a fantastic one at Domaine Carneros. During the panel we learned that white Pinot Noir is certainly not a new concept, as it’s been made historically in Italy, France, and Germany. Balo Vineyards‘ Assistant Winemaker Alex Crangle was interested in making some Pinot Noir Blanc and started the process by sampling some of the wines available in the marketplace, including a few from Oregon.

Tasting Pinot Noir Blanc

Tasting Angel Camp, Balo, and Alta Pinot Noir Blanc (Photo: J. Waits)

Balo ended up making three barrels of Pinot Noir Blanc from various vineyards, largely because of a surplus of fruit in 2012. Balo pressed whole clusters of Pinot Noir for its wine. John Keyes from Angel Camp Vineyard shared another Pinot Noir Blanc. Angel Camp’s wine came from whole cluster pressed Pinot Noir grapes, with a total production of 18 cases of wine. Winemaker Jessica Tomei from Alta Wines also did a barrel this year and we were able to taste a barrel sample of the wine which was still finishing malolactic fermentation. The wines were all quite different, but were interesting examples of Pinot Noir Blanc. Continue reading



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.



2012 Harvest Begins in Anderson Valley by Jennifer
Fruit on the Vine at Deer Meadows Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

Fruit on the Vine at Deer Meadows Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

Over the weekend we made a trip up to Anderson Valley and Mendocino to check in on some of the vineyards that we source fruit from for Waits-Mast Family Cellars. We figured that harvest was getting close, but we didn’t realize just how close. Based on visits to two of the vineyards, we decided that Monday, September 24 was the day to start harvesting some of our fruit.

On Saturday we toured through Deer Meadows Vineyard with owner Rich Savoy. We are thrilled to be working with Deer Meadows again after crafting an amazing wine from the vineyard in 2009. It was a toasty warm day when we visited and we heard throughout the weekend that this warm-up came after some recent cool weather. As we drove up to see the vineyard at 1600 feet above Boonville, we passed a trio of vultures. Two of them looked quite dramatic, with their wings spread far apart. We assumed they were guarding a fresh kill, but Rich said that they were probably just sunning themselves.

Collecting Samples from Deer Meadows (Photo: J. Waits)

Collecting Samples from Deer Meadows (Photo: J. Waits)

When we got to the vineyard, Rich was out pulling cluster samples from various sections of the vineyard. We met up with him to continue the process and taste some berries. After pulling samples of the various clones of Pinot Noir that we get from his vineyard, we convened in his outdoor lab in order to check out sugar and acid levels for the fruit. First we measured the weight of various cluster sizes, then we took a look at sugar levels of the samples. Finally, by using Rich’s small manual grape press, we combined all of the grapes in order to get overall readings for acid and sugar.

Brian's new refractometer (Photo: J. Waits)

Brian’s new refractometer (Photo: J. Waits)

Brian recently purchased a shiny new refractometer, so we were able to use it for the first time, comparing its readings to those obtained by Rich’s optical refractometer. Our daughter, who has been learning all about measurement in her first grade class, was also put to work. Although she complained vociferously about the heat, the bugs, and about being hungry; she enjoyed tasting the sweet grapes and relished getting an opportunity to squeeze juice onto the refractometers.

Oppenlander Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

Oppenlander Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

On Sunday we made it to three more vineyards: Oppenlander, Nash Mill (a new vineyard for us this year), and Wentzel. After driving out to Comptche and tasting the grapes at Oppenlander (and getting confirmation from our 6-year-old super taster), it was clear that they still had a ways to go. Our sugar readings confirmed that. Brian walked the vineyards and tasted through the rows at Nash Mill in Anderson Valley and was confident that the fruit there still needed more time to ripen as well.

Wentzel Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

Wentzel Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

Our final stop of the weekend was Wentzel Vineyard, up in the hills above Philo. Our very first commercial release was from Wentzel Vineyard fruit in 2007 and it was magnificent, even grabbing a spot in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Wines of 2009 feature. We didn’t have access to the vineyard in 2008 and 2009, but have been thrilled to be sourcing from Wentzel again since 2010.

Owner Roland Wentzel was there when we stopped by on Sunday afternoon and he drove us out to see the fruit. When we got to the section of the vineyard that we source our fruit from, we were startled by what sounded like gun shots. Roland explained that he had a propane cannon set up to scare off bears. Set on a timer, the cannon emitted loud blasts every 5 minutes that definitely made us jump every time we heard them.

Roland also showed us additional bear-proofing in the form of a solar-powered electric fence that had peanut butter slathered on it. Last year a bear showed up for the first time at Wentzel Vineyard and made off with a bunch of the harvest. When the grape-loving bear returned again this year for a small snack in the vineyard a few weeks ago, Roland decided to employ the cannon and electric fence in order to keep the vineyard safe from predators.

Peanut Butter on Electric Fence at Wentzel Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

Peanut Butter on Electric Fence at Wentzel Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

While walking through the rows and tasting the fruit at Wentzel (our daughter was dying to eat an entire cluster), we collected samples to take back to Roland’s kitchen lab. After doing a bunch of readings, it seemed clear that we should harvest the following day.

Brian samples Wentzel fruit (Photo: J. Waits)

Brian samples Wentzel fruit (Photo: J. Waits)

So, on Monday, we had our first harvests of the year. We picked one clone of Pinot Noir at Deer Meadows and picked the entire field blend that we use from Wentzel Vineyard. Both picks arrived in San Francisco late in the afternoon on Monday looking beautiful. We hand-sorted all of the fruit and both sorts were fast and easy. We picked out leaves and an occasional raisin, but for the most part the berries were gorgeous and delicious.

Bin full of fruit from Deer Meadows Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

Bin full of fruit from Deer Meadows Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

We’re not sure what next week will have in store, but we’re carefully monitoring all of the remaining vineyards. We’re expecting additional clones from Deer Meadows and are still waiting to begin harvesting from our blocks at Oppenlander, Nash Mill, and Mariah Vineyards (a Mendocino Ridge vineyard that is new for us this year).



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.



Barrel tasting 2010 vintage Pinot Noir by valleyfog
pinot noir barrel tasting

Barrel-tasting the 2010 vintage

The time is nigh – we’re getting ready to bottle our 2010 vintage at long last. As you might remember, 2010 was a very cool vintage, with late spring rains and a cool summer. There were a couple of heat waves in August and then in September and October, which caused a bit of a scramble to pick the fruit before sugars spiked. After closely tracking Brix and pH, visiting the vineyards and poking, pulling and tasting the berries, in the end it came down to a nod and a smile between us and each grower – “let’s pick!”

16 months later, after the wines have gone through fermentation, racking from new to neutral barrels and resting comfortably in the winery, they are ready. Before bottling, we do a final barrel tasting to see how the wines taste and if any final blending is necessary to round out any rough edges.

The challenge when you make small lot, single-vineyard Pinot Noir – lots of either two or four barrels like we do – you don’t have that much to blend in or out. You’re really banking on the vineyard to provide interesting, unique and desirable characteristics – it was even more of a gamble when only made one barrel of a particular vineyard. As we tasted through each of the barrels across the four different vineyards and three different appellations of Pinot Noir, each tasted different, displaying variations on the Pinot Noir theme, and really didn’t require any blending.

In fact, we’re going to leave them as is. That’s our goal in the first place with making single-vineyard Pinot Noir – to retain the site-specific characteristics of each wine, rather than try to blend together the perfect Pinot Noir. We are extremely pleased with all of our 2010s and feel like they are ready for bottling, and soon after going through bottle shock, ready for our fans to enjoy. Here are the tasting notes for the different wines:

2010 Wentzel Vineyard, Anderson Valley: We’re excited for the return of Wentzel, our 2007 effort being the only other vintage we had made from this organically-farmed Anderson Valley vineyard up in the hills above Goldeneye. And a winning effort at that – it was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top Wines of 2009. We worked with Roland Wentzel to acquire some fruit from a small hillside parcel called “the clos”, which has a mix of Dijon clones 114, 115, 667, 777. From our tasting today, we picked up on aromas of toast, sweet cherry and raspberry with a bright cherry and juicy palate, lively acidity making it dance along to the finish. There is a purity to this wine and is very much reflective of that red-fruit driven Anderson Valley Pinot Noir that we love. Read more about our harvest and crush of this wine here.

2010 barrel tasting notes

Random scribblings on the 2010s

2010 Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County: this is our second vintage from Oppenlander, a small vineyard situated northwest of Anderson Valley, closer to the coast. It has much cooler daytime temperatures and is harvested later than most Anderson Valley wines. This one also has great acidity to it – that oceanic acidity we’ve picked up on before with Oppenlander – and also feels slightly denser than the Wentzel. The wine is a beautiful violet and crimson color and is showing some nice earth and spice notes on the nose, with a sweet cherry palate that has some tannins and chewiness to it. The Oppenlander and the Wentzel will do well with age and we’ll likely release them later in the fall. Read more about Oppenlander and the 2010 harvest here.

2010 Archer Family Vineyard, Russian River Valley: formerly owned by the late Gary Archer, this vineyard is close to Amber Ridge, another Russian River vineyard with which we’ve had great success. We worked with the Dijon 828 clone from this vineyard; 828 tends to have a more dense color pigmentation and lower pH (= higher acids). This wine is ready to come out of its shell – nice herbal and red-fruit notes on the nose, clean cherry and strawberry on the mid-palate and a juicy finish. Expect to see this released in the Spring/Summer timeframe.

2010 Londer Vineyard, Anderson Valley: we made four barrels total from Londer, with a mix of 115 and Swan clones. As we tasted through each glass representing each clone and new(since racked to neutral) and neutral oak barrels, each was displaying an interesting component, from earthiness to tea leaves to chalkiness to bright and pretty flower petals. In the fifth glass, we combined all four barrels and this wine really comes together beautifully. Each of those elements, and others, mix together well to create a Pinot Noir with bright red fruit and a depth of character. Read more about the 2010 harvest and crush of our Londer Vineyard Pinot Noir here.

Jennifer Waits barrel tasting

Jennifer searches for the right adjective

Wow. As we’ve said before, the waiting is the hardest part. You can do your best to respect the fruit in the winemaking process, let the wine take its course and hope everything turns out right. Especially after a stressful vintage due to the cool weather, these wines strike a wonderful balance and have turned out really well.

The 2010 Pinot Noir will continue to evolve, of course, and on release of each vineyard-designate wine, we’ll go into more detail and description in our tasting notes. Until then, we’re thoroughly enjoying our 2009 vintage, as our many of our customers, restaurants, retailers and the press. Head to our web store to see what strikes your fancy and order some Pinot Noir today. After reading all these tasting notes, you must be thirsty!



Pinot Days Chicago Tasting Brings a Waits-Mast Customer to Tears by Jennifer
Brian at the Waits-Mast table at Pinot Days Chicago 2011

Brian at the Waits-Mast table at Pinot Days Chicago 2011

We had an incredible time participating in Pinot Days Chicago on Saturday. It was our 4th time pouring at the event, and as in previous years, it was great to catch up with old friends and fans of Waits-Mast Family Cellars.

Each year has been memorable, in 2008 we met some folks who have become regular customers, in 2009 we were told that we had “bangin’ juice,” and last year we heard that the wine tasted like “fall in a glass.”

This year, we poured a selection of our 2009 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir releases throughout the day. Most who stopped by our table got to try our wines from Anderson Valley (Hayley Vineyard), Russian River (Amber Ridge Vineyard) and Mendocino (Oppenlander Vineyard). After we poured through those wines, we had visitors sample our release from Deer Meadows Vineyard in Anderson Valley and from La Encantada Vineyard in Sta Rita Hills.

Response to the wines was amazing and we experienced a first for us when a new fan actually started tearing up after trying our wine from Deer Meadows vineyard.

Here’s a quick sampling of some of our favorite reactions to the wines:

2009 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir, Hayley Vineyard (Anderson Valley):

Tasters called this wine “elegant,” said it had eucalyptus characteristics, and described it as “earthy” on the nose, yet “California” upon tasting. One person said, “this is a revelation” and remarked that it has “fabulous complexity in the nose.” Another said, “I’m an Oregon guy…that’s exciting.” Others said that it had a “roundness” and was “velvety” and “delicious” with hints of “strawberry.”

2009 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir, Amber Ridge Vineyard (Russian River):

One of the tasters inhaled this wine deeply and said he was “just getting high” off of the nose and said that it had a “hint of creme brulee,” and was “nice and soft.” He added that, “I’ve been to every Pinot Days from the beginning and this was definitely way up there.” Another person said that it was like a “blast off in your mouth.” Someone else said it was “smokier” than our other wines and that it had an “interesting finish.”

2009 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir, Oppenlander Vineyard (Mendocino):

Folks who came by our table and tried our Oppenlander Vineyard Pinot Noir described it as “tart,” with a “little more acid” than our releases from Hayley and Amber Ridge Vineyards.  Another said that it was “earthy” and would pair well with steak. Someone else noted that it had an “unexpected dryness.” One person said that initially there’s a burst of fruit, followed by “tannins at the end” with a nice finish. At least one person said that it was their favorite wine.

Waits-Mast "super-fan" Luke

Waits-Mast "super-fan" Luke

2009 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir, La Encantada Vineyard (Sta Rita Hills):

We only brought a few bottles of this wine to taste. The few who were able to sample it had nice things to say. One taster said that it tasted of “burnt cranberry, orange and raspberry” with “not a lot of earth.” Another person exclaimed that this wine was an “orgasm in my mouth.”

2009 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir, Deer Meadows Vineyard (Anderson Valley):

As with the La Encantada, we were only able to bring a few bottles of this wine to Pinot Days. This was the wine that made a taster cry and that others described as being like “velvet.” Waits-Mast “super fan” Luke (amazingly not the taster who was brought to tears) explained his love for the wine, saying, “I don’t want to stop drinking [it] with my nose.” He told us that tasting the wine was akin to listening to the “Star-Spangled Banner” in that it produced “goosebumps.” Luke added, “You saved me months of meditation.”

Thanks to everyone who stopped by our table at Pinot Days Chicago. It’s always a fun event for us, largely due to the warmth of the crowd.



Harvest 2011: The Waiting Continues by valleyfog
Londer Vineyard

Swan clone at Londer on October 2, 2011

At this point in October, we’ve normally harvested the majority if not all of our pinot noir from the different appellations with which we source fruit. As of today, we’ve only pulled in one lot of 115 clone pinot noir from Londer Vineyard, and we’re still awaiting the other clone from Londer, Swan, both from Anderson Valley. Nor have we picked our blocks from Wentzel in Anderson Valley, Oppenlander in Comptche and Vineyard 11 (formerly Archer Family) in Russian River Valley.

2011 has proven to be another cool year – similar to 2010, but with a couple of more challenges, or as we like to think about them, opportunities for distinctive wines. 2010 was a very cool growing year in Northern California, especially in the coastal climates, but there were a few heat spikes in August and September. 2011 has been consistently cool, with fewer and less intense warm periods. This has pushed harvest dates out further than last year.

Also adding to the delays have been a couple of rain storms that hit last week across California. If you didn’t get a crew to pick your fruit (often a challenge when everyone wants to pick on the same day) before the rains hit, you have to wait at least a couple of days if not more to let the fruit dry out and avoid any bunch rot. The last of the rains were on Thursday and the earliest we expect to get fruit is on Monday the 10th.

We took a whirlwind trip up to Philo last weekend, staying just over 24 hours, to check out our blocks from the Anderson Valley and Comptche vineyards. Our first stop was Wentzel Vineyard, where upon arrival it was misting rain. We checked in on our the small block called “the clos” from which we get a blend of Dijon clones (114, 115, 667, 777). The most recent measurement of the sugars in the grapes, measured in Brix, was just over 21 Brix. A target zone that we look for in Brix is 23.5 – 24.5 Brix.

Wentzel Vineyard

Brian checking the berries at Wentzel

We’re not die-hard about the numbers, because you have to look at other important factors: acidity, flavor, color and consistency of the seeds, and finally your gut feeling. The berries tasted good and the seeds are starting to get crunchy, so it’s getting there. With the rains coming in and a slow, cool season, we are predicting the Wentzel will come in late this coming week of the 10th.

We took a drive over to Londer Vineyard, further West of Philo, on Sunday morning; clouds were breaking up and the sun was starting to shine. Londer has been partially picked, but the Swan clone usually comes off the vines last. The yield on these vines looks pretty good, despite some shatter (when a grape cluster doesn’t fully mature due to early season growing conditions like cold and wind) and there is a mix of clusters with small berries and some with large berries. The Swan clone is further along, around 23 Brix, and we were getting more flavors from these given that they are closer to ripening. We expect the Swan clone to come in early this coming week.

After a brief visit with Shirlee Londer (and their dogs, which kept our 5 yr old daughter entertained), we took the windy road up to Comptche, about 30 minutes north of the valley, to check out Oppenlander. In the past we have gotten 114 clone from Oppenlander, but we heard of the possibility of some Pommard and 115. We checked out all the vines, tasting berries up and down the rows, and Oppenlander is also looking good. Very minor puckering from the few warm stretches that we’ve had late in the summer. All the vines have a good canopy, which perhaps helped a little bit during the heavy rains in the last week. We will be getting a blend of 114, 115 and Pommard from Oppenlander on Monday the 10th.

Oppenlander Vineyard

Pommard clone on the vines at Oppenlander

Also on Monday, we’re likely to get our pinot (828 clone) from Vineyard 11 near Windsor in Russian River Valley. So it will be a busy couple of weeks at the winery with only one bin fermenting (Londer 115 on its native yeast) and 4+ tons coming in. After that, we’ll be pressing late into the month. We’ll keep you posted on how the rest of the fruit looks when it comes in in our next harvest update.