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.