ValleyFogBlog


Waits-Mast at the White House by Jennifer
WH dinner menu place setting

White House preview menu for Singapore State Dinner, August 2016. Photo: Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama

We are beyond thrilled that a Waits-Mast wine is being served at the White House tonight during a state dinner in honor of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The 2012 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Deer Meadows Vineyard in Anderson Valley will be paired with the main course of American Wagyu Beef with Marrow Crust, Roasted Yam, Wilted Kale and Heirloom Carrots. Continue reading



Summertime Peek at our Vineyard Sources: Part 1 – Deer Meadows by Jennifer
Deer Meadows Vineyard, July 2016. Photo: J. Waits, Waits-Mast

Visiting Deer Meadows Vineyard with Rich Savoy in July, 2016. Photo: J. Waits

A week ago, on July 23, we trekked up to Anderson Valley to take a look at how a few of the Waits-Mast vineyard sources are progressing. Although it was a warm weekend for us fog-loving San Francisco denizens, the heat was not as unbearable as it’s been in much of the country this summer. In fact, it’s been a relatively cool year in Anderson Valley, which means that harvest is likely later than it was in 2015. Continue reading



Harvest 2015 Starts in August – Our Earliest Ever by Jennifer
rain on wire at Wentzel Vineyard. Photo: J. Waits

Rain on a wire at Wentzel Vineyard. Photo: J. Waits

On Saturday, August 29 we got up bright and early and headed over to the Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley for the first Waits-Mast Family Cellars pick of the year. A small amount of rain fell as dawn approached and the sky was still shrouded in fog. The vines glistened with tiny rain drops and just after sunrise, workers were in the fields harvesting grapes.

just-picked Pinot Noir at Wentzel Vineyard in 2015. Photo: J. Waits

Just-picked pinot noir grapes at Wentzel Vineyard during 2015 harvest. Photo: J. Waits

We’ve never picked that early from that vineyard and it’s the first time that Waits-Mast has ever harvested in August. Every year our picks seem to be getting earlier and earlier and many of our growers and winemaking friends in California are reporting that the 2015 harvest seems to be about a week earlier than last year.

Wentzel Vineyard on day of harvest 2015. Photo: J. Waits

Wentzel Vineyard on day of harvest 2015. Photo: J. Waits

So far that is ringing true for us, with our Wentzel Vineyard pick this year occurring 5 days earlier than in 2014. For comparison, we picked Wentzel fruit on September 24 in 2012 and on September 8 in 2013.

On Wednesday, our fruit was harvested at Deer Meadows Vineyard (also in Anderson Valley), exactly a week earlier than in 2014. Looking through our records, it’s a bit of a shock to see that back in 2012, we picked Deer Meadows on September 24 and in 2013 we picked on October 10th.

View from Deer Meadows Vineyard less than a week before harvest 2015. Photo: J. Waits

View from Deer Meadows Vineyard less than a week before harvest 2015. Photo: J. Waits

Sometimes vineyards in nearby locations seem to track with each other as far as ripening and pick dates, but, as we saw in 2013, there are oddball years where our expectations about the order that our vineyards will be picked are completely blown by what we actually see and taste on the vines.

At this point in the season, we are in regular contact with our three remaining growers about where things stand with harvest. It’s likely that we will have at least one more harvest this week and will probably be done completely within the next few weeks, perhaps before we would have even started our first pick back in 2012. It’s hard to believe…



Counting Down the Days to Harvest 2014 by Jennifer

It’s the calm before the storm, as harvest is imminently approaching for Waits-Mast Family Cellars. It’s looking like our first pick of the year will happen in just a few days, with other picks soon after. This will all be unusually early for Mendocino Pinot Noir. But because of the drought and a warm winter, budbreak was early. This, along with a moderate growing season is driving an earlier harvest.

A week ago we went up to Anderson Valley and Mendocino Ridge in order to check in on the vineyards from which we source our Pinot Noir grapes and things were looking and tasting great already. Here’s a quick glimpse of what’s happening at four (of our five) vineyard sources:

Wentzel Vineyard, Anderson Valley: Our first visit on the weekend of August 23, 2014 was to Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley. We initially starting working with this vineyard in 2007 (the wine was our first commercial release) and after a short break, have been making wine from Wentzel every year since 2010. Pictured below is the section, dubbed Le Clos, from which we have primarily been getting our grapes. It features a field blend of Dijon clones of Pinot Noir and is located in a lovely, enclosed sloping section of the Wentzel property. It looks like this will be our first pick of 2014, with fruit coming in any day now.

Wentzel Vineyard

Wentzel Vineyard, Anderson Valley

 

Continue reading



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.



Latest Press Reviews for 2009 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir by valleyfog

December 15, 2011

Our 2009 vintage has received a warm reception from both consumers and the trade that we have poured for over the last few months. Seeing Pinot Noir fans react positively to our wines at our tasting tables or wine shop owners or sommeliers is always gratifying – we like seeing smiles, wistful far-off-looks and the occasional welling up of tears in the eyes. Add some well-chosen words, and things get really poetic.

So it’s also rewarding to have our wines go through blind tastings by respected members of the wine trade media. Our 2009 Pinot Noir lineup has recently received some favorable reviews, including 90+ point ratings in Wine Enthusiast‘s December 15, 2011 issue. The best part of these reviews is always the descriptors. Wine writers are in the profession for a reason – they are good with words.

Here is a sample of the recent reviews from Wine Enthusiast:

  • 2009 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, La Encantada Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills: 92 points. “Ripe fruit, in the form of raspberries, cherries and figs, characterizes this luscious Pinot. But it has much more going for it than that. The tannins are rich and complex, the finish is dry and spicy, and the overall impression is of wine with a great pedigree. Drink over the next six years.”
  • 2009 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Amber Ridge Vineyard, Russian River Valley: 90 points.  “Classic coastal California Pinot, dry, silky and complex. So easy to like, gliding across the palate with raspberry, cherry, Canadian bacon and smoky sandalwood flavors that are filled with umami richness. Best over the next four years.”

    Amber Ridge Pinot Noir

  • 2009 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Hayley Vineyard, Anderson Valley: 90 points. “Delivers plenty of rich Pinot flavor from the great Anderson Valley of Mendocino County. Raspberries, cherries, pomegranates, Dr. Pepper cola, spices and sandalwood flood the mouth, wrapped into a silky texture. Nice now, although it could develop bottle complexity over the next 3–4 years.”

Wine Enthusiast also gave our 2009 Deer Meadows Vineyard Pinot Noir 90 points, with the following description: “raspberries, cherries, vanilla, cinnamon spice and sandalwood wash over the palate, just delicious.”

The Deer Meadows also made it on the short list of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir wines reviewed by Jon Bonne in the San Francisco Chronicle in October.  It ranked as one of the 11 best out of over 40 bottles tasted, and received the following review:

This San Francisco label tapped an impressive parcel – the site at 1,600-feet elevation farmed by Richard Savoy that was the source of Littorai’s One Acre bottle. Eucalyptus-driven and piney; it’s chewy and more of a forest-driven wine, with lots of bright citrus to finish.

As we like to say, we love our wines, but we love it when others love our wines, too! And if you want to try all of our wines, we recently released a couple of multi-packs. We have a Fifth Vintage 5-Pack to celebrate the five different Pinots we made in our fifth vintage and we have a Mendocino County 3-Pack for for all of our Mendocino and Anderson Valley Pinots. Both are priced with a package discount, so enjoy!



Harvest 2011: Cold Summer, Late Rains and Bears, Oh My! by valleyfog

Russian River Valley pinot noir arriving at the winery

It’s October 15 and we still are waiting for more pinot noir fruit to get picked and sorted in this 2011 vintage. Today, we sorted our Russian River Valley pinot noir fruit from the vineyard formerly know as Archer Family Vineyard (it was recently sold and new vineyard name is TBD). Usually RRV fruit comes in sometime in mid-late September.

The fact that you have Sonoma fruit getting picked in mid-October tells you what a crazy growing season this has been. Not only did the cool summer push back the phenolic development of the grapes, but the rains in early October caused ripening to stall momentarily. In some cases, it pushed back the ripeness, with sugars going down.

And then, when you get a region like Anderson Valley, where our grapes have come in normally in late September to early October, things are getting pushed back even further. We are still awaiting another lot of Anderson Valley pinot noir, with our Wentzel fruit scheduled for pick on Monday the 17th.

Evidence of a hungry bear at Wentzel Vineyard

And did we say bears? Yes, bears. A little visitor has consumed a few pinot noir clusters at Wentzel Vineyard, further challenging the final yield of the vineyard. Suffice it to say, we are lucky to get our little ton of pinot with all the challenges the year has brought.

Despite all the challenges or idiosyncrasies of the 2011 vintage, the fruit looks *and* tastes good. For growers overall, yields are down due to shatter, dropped fruit because of mold or lack of ripeness and general damage from the rains, but what remains after this close attention to quality are excellent grapes that hopefully are benefiting from an additional two to three weeks of hang time. As Bonne notes in his own 2011 harvest update, more hang time (and cooler growing conditions) means more complexity and more balance.

We’ll see – as Tom Petty growls in his hit from the 80’s, “the waiting is the hardest part.”



Fall Release Now Available: 2009 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir by valleyfog

2009 Oppenlander Pinot Noir

At long last the wait is over. It’s always the hardest part of wine making. You get excited about a particular vintage and how the wines will turn out, but the wines need time. Time to evolve, time to settle down, time to open up. And the time is now as we are excited to release our Waits-Mast Family Cellars lineup of 2009 Pinot Noir wines.

2009 was a very favorable growing year, as many wine writers have noted, and there was a lot of great pinot noir available that year. We ended up sourcing fruit from five different vineyards, from as far south as Sta. Rita Hills and as far north as Comptche, CA. Here is the lineup, with links to tasting notes and specs on each one:

2009 La Encantada Pinot Noir

The joy of this lineup is that it is a diverse portfolio of wines, each representing the style and personality of the vineyard and the region. The Sta. Rita Hills pinot screams central coast with its bright acidity, amazing structure and cranberry tartness. The Russian River pinot is fruit-forward with a floral nose and silky finish. And as we get into Anderson Valley with the Hayley and Deer Meadows we pick up the pure cherry fruit and earthy aromas from that cool climate. Wrapping it up in Comptche, the vineyard that is furthest north and closest to the coast, the wine serves up that “oceanic acidity,” a balanced, earthy and strikingly-colored pinot noir.

After reading all that, and if you’ve been following this blog since the 2009 harvest, then you’re probably ready to get some for yourself. Our online store, which we had closed for the summer due to warm weather shipping restrictions and some updating of the store, is now open and the 2009 vintage is now available. Just go to www.waitsmast.com and click on “purchase.”

At the moment, we are only able to ship within the state of California, but we are working on adding some additional states in the coming weeks and months. If you are in one of those other 49 states and wish for us to ship to you, let us know and we’ll do our best to get the proper permits (there are tons of legal restrictions on direct shipping, so no guarantees).

2009 Deer Meadows Pinot Noir

Soon we’ll have some retailers offering our wine through their online site as well, and they often ship to many states in the U.S. Stay tuned to our blog and our website for updates on these retailers. And to read some of the latest reviews, go to our News page on our website for the most recent reviews on Waits-Mast Pinot Noir.

Enjoy the wines and we’ll keep you posted on more updates on this vintage, our 2010s and the 2011 harvest.



Countdown to the 2009 Release: Deer Meadows Pinot Noir by valleyfog

Pinot Noir grapes at Rich Savoy's Deer Meadows Vineyard above Boonville

It’s been a little quiet over here at ValleyFogBlog, but we’ve been busy behind the scenes at Waits-Mast Family Cellars this summer readying our 2009 vintage Pinot Noir wine for release in September. The busy stuff is the less-than-glamorous side of running a winery. Things like permits, licenses, label approvals and the like. It’s the long checklist of items that we have had to go through to get to releasing and selling the wines.

The good news is we are almost done with all that. A few last steps in the month of August, mostly focusing on revamping our webstore, and then we will be ready to release the wine in early September. So we thought we would take some time to revisit each of the five different pinot noirs we crafted in 2009, profiling a different vineyard each week leading up to the launch.

When you’re in the middle of harvest of any given vintage there is great excitement and anticipation for how the wine will turn out. We recall 2009 being a special year because the growing year was ideal – consistently warm and moderate across the summer – and we expanded our vineyard portfolio to take on some new and different Mendocino County vineyards. Back then we were about to burst – we just couldn’t wait to share these wines. And alas, they are ready.

Taking the 09 Deer Meadows Pinot Noir for a test-drive at Frances restaurant in SF

This week we are going to look at our 2009 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from the Deer Meadows Vineyard. This wine is probably one of the best single-vineyard wines from a vineyard you’ve never heard of. Deer Meadows Vineyard is located in Anderson Valley and is owned and farmed by Rich Savoy, one of the best-known pinot noir growers in that region. The vineyard you may have heard of is Savoy Vineyard, which is down the road from Deer Meadows was Rich’s original vineyard (and is now owned by Breggo Cellars).

Deer Meadows is located at 1600′ elevation above Boonville, sitting above the fog layer and experiencing slightly cooler temperatures than the valley floor, give its altitude. To read more about our first visit to the vineyard back in September of 2009 and notes on harvest and winemaking, check out our blog post from October, 2009.

But let’s get to the most important part – now that the wine has been aged in French oak and in bottle, how does it taste? Here are our most recent tasting notes from the 2009 Deer Meadows Vineyard Pinot Noir:

The best word to describe this wine is exotic. Wonderful floral and earthy aromatics integrate with a slight caramel edge and Asian spice on the nose. The palate is brisk with bright cherry, orange peel and coriander. Intense red cherry and great acidity punctuate the finish. With such great structure, the wine will unfold after a few hours after being opened; with bottle aging, it will develop even more complexity over time.

Here are the details and specs for this wine:

  • Clones: 115/Wädenswil
  • Harvest/Brix: September 25, 2009 at 23.5 Brix
  • Fruit: 100% whole berry (no stems)
  • Fermentation: RC212 yeast
  • Barrel aging: 17 months in French oak, 25% new (Cadus, tight grain, medium toast)
  • Alcohol content: 14.2% by volume
  • Bottled: March, 2011
  • Production: 49 cases

Sound good? Oh yeah, it is. Wait until you hear about the next 09 pinot…we’ll look at the 2009 Oppenlander Vineyard next week.