“Hot Sh*t Pinot Noir” and “Sexy Tannins” by valleyfog

Tasting the Waits-Mast Lineup

“Hot Shit Pinot Noir.” That was the subject heading of an email we received a few weeks ago from a fervent fan from Michigan who had tried our wine at Pinot Days Chicago 2008.

We were surprised and pleased that the email made it through the Yahoo! Mail spam filter (aka the Gauntlet) because we always like to hear from people who have such outspoken reactions to our pinot noir. The exuberant author, Ashleigh, and her two friends Nick and Leslie, were heading out to the Bay Area and wanted to meet us for a special tasting. How could we refuse?

We met with them early this week, before our calendars were full of Pinot Days-related events. (They are setting out on a special Pinot Days tour of Russian River on Friday and we are pouring at Pinot Days San Francisco this coming Sunday, July 27th.) Given that it was a “school” night, it was more convenient to meet at our house, so our dining room turned into the tasting room.

Doing mothers everywhere proud, our foodie ambassador guests from the Midwest showed up bearing gifts of Brownwood Farms Michigan Cherry Salsa and Famous Kream Mustard and Kilwin’s fudge. Although they were excited about their first pilgrimage to wine country, they were also happy to share with us some tastes from their own backyard. Ashleigh, Nick and Leslie all met while working in a wine bar in Ann Arbor and although they no longer work together, their wine-oriented adventures continue.

Treats from the Midwest

To kick off their visit, we lined up a special “flight of duos,” our closest attempt at a vertical. We poured two wines from the same vineyard, but different vintages, next to each other to compare styles and vintages.

It was a total of six Waits-Mast Pinot Noirs and for us, was a rare opportunity to review our handiwork. With the exception of one wine, these six bottles represent our current production (not including 09s in barrel).

Here are the wines poured and the colorful adjectives (this is where the sexy tannins come in) and reactions that we always love to hear from our fans. It was especially gratifying to hear their positive feedback on our yet-to-be-released 2008 Waits-Mast La Encantada Vineyard Pinot Noir.

Our duo of Pinots from Amber Ridge Vineyard

2005 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Amber Ridge Vineyard, Russian River Valley

“funk…to make you intrigued”

“Such a sexy wine.”

Has “sexy tannins.”

Nick said that “If they made a candle that smelled like this and called it ‘hot shit Pinot Noir’,” he’d buy it.

2008 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Amber Ridge Vineyard, Russian River Valley

“Blueberry” on the nose

Brian described the aroma as being like a “blueberry Pop-Tart.”

2006 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Hein Vineyard, Anderson Valley

“More tannins” (than the 2008 Hein)

“Dusting of cocoa powder and strawberry.”

2008 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Hein Vineyard, Anderson Valley

“Hot shit Pinot Noir” is what Ashleigh wrote in her notes after tasting this at Pinot Days Chicago

2007 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, La Encantada Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills

“smoke on the nose”

“black cherry”


Duo of Wines from La Encantada Vineyard

2008 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, La Encantada Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills

“If Russian River met Willamette Valley and had babies.”

“This is prime time.”

“Sexy sister of the ’07.”

As we sipped wine and grazed on heirloom tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and other munchies, we swapped stories of our shared passion for wine, and in particular pinot noir.

The night lingered on and the conversation drifted into favorite Ann Arbor hot spots, wine country recommendations (both Napa and Michigan!), indie rock, with the occasional operatic interruption from our four year old daughter.

All in all, it was a fun tasting and a great opportunity to meet and make new friends. And who knows, you may be seeing Waits-Mast pinot noir at some wine bars and restaurants in Michigan!


2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival Recap: Part 2 – The Grand Tasting by valleyfog

The calm before the storm at the Grand Tasting

On the second day of the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, a Grand Tasting is held under a big tent plopped down in the middle of Goldeneye Winery in Philo. This is the second year that Waits-Mast Family Cellars has joined a small group of 40 other producers and poured its Anderson Valley pinots at the Grand Tasting. It really is one of the best organized events for pinot lovers.

The tasting is organized by Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association and its members/volunteers, including all of the great staff at Goldeneye that hosted us for the day this year. With a limited attendance of around 650 people, the goal of the Grand Tasting is to keep it small and intimate.

The size and scope of the event allows attendees to stroll about the tent and talk with as many different winemakers as possible. As is the case in most tastings like this, certain tables get a crowd going about 4 or 5 people deep, but the pace still feels relaxed (the wine, alluring food, and music certainly helped!).

This year’s festival (Jennifer’s first time at the grand tasting) was held on Saturday, May 15th on an absolutely gorgeous and temperate day (as opposed to last year’s heatwave) amid the vineyards at Goldeneye. One of the highlights for us was that food was actually delivered to our table. We got one plate (can we talk about the salmon and capers pizza?) just before the tasting opened, and another halfway through the tasting. That reminded me of our wedding reception, where appetizers and champagne were presented upon our arrival to the reception hall. In other words – a smart move.

Jennifer samples the wares as we set up for the day

Another focus for this tasting is that only Anderson Valley pinot noir can be poured. Sorry Russian River and Sta. Rita Hills.

This year we poured our current release, the Waits-Mast 2008 Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir along with its distant cousin, the 2006 Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir.

Despite their sameness of place, each of these wines was very different from the other and garnered equal amounts of smiles and an always-rewarding collection of descriptive approbation.

Of the 2006, we heard from one taster that there was “great purity” in the wine. The 2008 was described as having “more spice,” and as “darker,” with a “different texture” than the 2006. One person who stopped by simply said that the 2008 was the best wine she’d had at the entire tasting.

Without a doubt, though, the buzz of the event was the talk of smoke. Mendocino forest fires in September 2008 blew a lot of smoke into Anderson Valley, affecting the grapes. There have been a number of articles written on the topic and many of the wineries based in Anderson Valley have been very up front about how they’ve had to deal with the overly smoky aromas or taste that resulted from this vintage.

Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival Location at Goldeneye

As you may recall from our blog post in 2008 during harvest/crush, we addressed any possibility of smoke effect on the grapes by doing a 100% free run into barrels and foregoing pressing the skins.

We found that after a few months in barrel, there was still some residual smokiness and used a filtration technique call reverse osmosis (which was used by most of the wineries pouring 2008s from Anderson Valley). While this is not a technique we would normally use, it was an extreme vintage that required extra work with the wines.

The smoke was a reality of the vintage, but it was unfortunate that so many attendees seemed to be looking for the smokiness on the wines. If you go into a sensory experience like wine tasting expected to sense something, well, then you’re more likely to smell or taste it.

We’re pleased with the result of our 2008 Anderson Valley wine, and apparently, so were the judges of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, who gave it a gold medal for its category. And at the Grand Tasting in Anderson Valley, we took the opportunity to try other wines from our colleagues and were very impressed with the majority of the 2008s (and other vintages, too).

Capping off the day was a silent auction filled with many rarities, including one of the last bottles of our SF Chronicle Top 100 2007 Wentzel Vineyard Pinot Noir. All of the proceeds went to benefit the Anderson Valley Health Center, a not-for-profit community health center providing important services to the valley.

Once again, the crowd was a great collection of passionate, discerning and curious wine drinkers. We’ve been going to this festival for so many years that it has become like a reunion when we return each year. We can’t wait for next year’s festival, where we’ll be able to pour our 2009s…until then, we’ll savor the past weekend and what little is left of our 2008 vintage.

2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival Preview by valleyfog

Wentzel Vineyard in Philo, CA, Anderson Valley

The 2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, taking place the weekend of May 14 – 16, 2010, is less than a month away and we can’t wait. This relatively small and intimate event is one of the highlights of our year.

Over the years, our many trips to Anderson Valley and this festival in particular greatly influenced our desire to make pinot noir. And after going for so many years, we enjoy running into old friends and making new ones.

Tickets to many of the events are still available but will likely sell out soon. Here is a preview of some of the events throughout the weekend, including inside scoop on what Waits-Mast Family Cellars will be pouring at the festival and an exclusive silent auction item that you can’t get anywhere else.

  • Technical conference: designed primarily for growers, winemakers and winery folks, this conference, happening on Friday, May 14, also appeals to the wine enthusiast. If you are passionate about pinot noir and want to learn more, the conference lets you jump in feet first into the world of growing, making and selling pinot noir. Wine writer Jordan MacKay will MC the event, which in the morning features more in-depth sessions on growing techniques, terroir and clones and a discussion of the 2008 vintage. The lunch at this conference is always amazing. It’s held behind the fairground building and everybody brings a bottle of their pinot noir, filling up the gazebo with an incredible variety of wines to sample. When you sit down for lunch at a picnic table, you’ll likely be sitting next to a winemaker or grower, so it’s a great opportunity to get to know people in the business first-hand.
  • Technical conference, part 2 & consumer tasting seminar: In the afternoon session, which is also sold as a separate consumer-friendly session at a lower price, featured tastings will include Savoy Vineyard wines from Roessler, Benovia and Radio-Coteau. Winemaker Jim Klein of Navarro will also pour a vertical of Navarro magnums from older vintages.
  • Social BBQ: If you haven’t had enough pinot noir on Friday, after the technical conference there is a social BBQ being held over at Standish Wine Co. It’s a great way to unwind in the warm valley atmosphere after all that talk of clones, microbes and yeast strains. And like lunch, everybody brings extra bottles and leaves them at a table for all to sample. If you’re a pinot noir lover, you’ll be like a pig in mud.
  • Grand Tasting: Speaking of pig in mud, over 40 producers will be pouring only Anderson Valley Pinot Noir at the Grand Tasting on Saturday, May 15, from 11am – 3pm. Waits-Mast Family Cellars will be pouring our 2006 and 2008 Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley. In addition, we’ll bring a small amount of barrel samples of our 2009 Pinot Noir from Rich Savoy’s Deer Meadows vineyard. For more info about this wine, check out our blog post on it from last harvest. Also featured during the Grand Tasting is a silent auction benefiting the Anderson Valley Health Center. Waits-Mast is donating a two-pack of Anderson Valley wines which will include the last available bottle of our 2007 Wentzel Vineyard Pinot Noir, which was named to the San Francisco Chronicle Top 100 Wines of 2009. If you’ve been aching to get your hands on this wine after it sold out in December, now’s your chance.
  • Winemaker dinners: if you can still get tickets to one of these, they are well worth it. Now, after the Grand Tasting your palate may be a bit tired out. But if you pace yourself, you’ll enjoy the rare wines and up-close interaction with winemakers at these dinners. Check out the lineup of dinners still available at the festival website.
  • Open House: on Sunday, March 16, fill yourself up with a hearty breakfast at the Boonville General Store and chart your course for the open house portion of the weekend. Wineries always pour something special and have great wine and food pairings.

As you can see, there’s a ton of stuff going on and no shortage of amazing wines to try and buy. We hope you’re able to make the drive to Anderson Valley and join us for the festival next month.

2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival Tickets Now on Sale by valleyfog

May 14-16, 2010

Tickets for the 2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival go on sale today. The festival runs Friday, May 14 through Sunday May 16, 2010 in Mendocino County, with most of the events happening in Boonville and Philo and all along Highway 128. Waits-Mast Family Cellars will be pouring its Anderson Valley pinot noirs, including our 2008 Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir, at the Grand Tasting on Saturday, May 15 from 11am – 3pm at Goldeneye Winery.

One of our favorite parts of the festival is the technical conference, which runs most of the day on Friday. It is a great opportunity to “geek out” on winegrowing and winemaking and also taste some great wines. This year the festival is adding a Consumer Tasting Seminar to the technical conference in the afternoon. This is ideal for attendees not interested in the more technical sessions or those unable to make it up for the 8am start of the conference.

There are also four winemaker dinners worth checking out, featuring wineries like Handley, Phillips Hill, Roederer Estate, MacPhail, Goldeneye and others. These are a real treat because they are small, intimate and often feature library wines. At every table there is a winemaker that you can chat with, so it’s a great way to get to know the people that make these wonderful wines.

Hein Family Vineyard in Anderson Valley, near Philo, CA.

Get your tickets earlier than later because many of the events, especially the technical conference and the winemaker dinners, sell out early.

The Grand Tasting usually limits the number of attendees to around 650 or so, to keep it from getting too crazy. Also plan to spend most of the day on Sunday in the valley because the open houses, which are free, are fantastic. They often feature library wines and great food and wine pairings. Some of our favorite stops include Londer, Mary Elke, Baxter and Esterlina. In other words, take Monday off to recover! We’ll see you up there in May!

Waits-Mast Pinot Noir Now Available at Draeger’s Market Los Altos by valleyfog
January 24, 2010, 3:52 pm
Filed under: Retail | Tags: , , , , , ,

Draeger's Market in downtown Los Altos

South Bay and Peninsula pinot noir lovers rejoice! You can now find Waits-Mast Pinot Noir at Draeger’s Market in Los Altos, California. It is located at 342 First Street, just off of Main Street in downtown Los Altos. Draeger’s has always been known for its exceptional wine department. The Los Altos store has a great selection of domestic wines, including many local wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains, and a strong selection of European wines. They are now stocking our latest release, the 2008 Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley.

Draeger’s, a Bay Area institution, is a favorite haunt of Brian’s. He often finds himself in a grocery store many days a week, seeking out ideas for the evening’s dinner or just stocking up to feed the child, and locally-owned markets are always the best. Jennifer has been going to the same hairstylist in Los Altos for many years, so Brian and their daughter often drive down from the city and while away the time ambling about Draeger’s and downtown Los Altos. They have great produce, meats and fish and lots of hard-to-find groceries.

Stop by Draeger’s and say hi to Stacy in the wine department and she’ll help you out with all your wine needs. And we’ll see if we can get our wine into the other Draeger’s markets as well for you San Mateo, Menlo Park and Danville folk.

SF Wine Trading Company Now Stocking Waits-Mast Pinot Noir by valleyfog

San Francisco Wine Trading Company

San Francisco Wine Trading Company on Taraval, near West Portal

Waits-Mast Family Cellars is happy to announce that SF Bay Area locals can find our wines at the San Francisco Wine Trading Company (SFWTC). Located at 250 Taraval at Funston, the Sunset/West Portal neighborhood wine shop is currently carrying our 2007 La Encantada Vineyard Pinot Noir and 2008 Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir on its shelves. We really feel like our wines are in a good home (or rather, way station) since the shop is as fog-bound as we are in this Cool Grey City of Love. Owners Julia and Gary, and knowledgeable staffers like Suzanne and Alex, are very friendly and helpful, and have an amazing selection of wines for such a seemingly small store. They definitely maximize their shelf-space and have a knack for getting a hold of difficult-to-find, smaller lot wines.

Jennifer samples our wine and awaits the neighborly crowd

We kicked off our latest retail availability by pouring our wines at SFWTC’s Neighborhood Winemaker’s Tasting this past Friday. SFWTC holds this type of tasting once a quarter, inviting SF-local winemakers to pour their wares. Julia and Gary have loyal, discriminating, yet very neighborly customers and we were eager to gain their approval with our wines. Also pouring excellent wines were Bob Rawson and Fred Dick of Urbano Cellars and Ed Kurtzman with his August West and Sandler wines.

We poured the La Encantada and Hein pinot noirs at the early evening event. Each of the wines quickly found its own following among the attendees who often returned to our side of the tasting bar for repeat pours. Comments on the La Encantada included a “Rhone-like nose” with “sawdust” “minerality” and “intense fruit.” The Hein generated a number of pleasantly pensive pauses and lots of surprised looks that a 2008 was showing so many layers at such a young age.

Everyone was in good spirits as the Friday, 5:30pm start time found visitors easing into their weekends with warm smiles and empty glasses ready to be filled. There were lots of regulars and newcomers alike. A formidable crew of our fans showed up, including family from Massachusetts (where we can’t ship direct!).  It’s always great to see these different worlds overlap where old friends re-connect and new friends are made. Paths cross and stars align. From our vantage point behind the bar, it was a blast. While we all had our fair share of wine chatter, a convivial feeling swirled around the place and everybody was genuinely having a great time. Before we knew it, it was 8pm and we were starving.

Brian pours pinot noir for a happy crew of locals and fans

So, definitely check out SF Wine Trading Company if you are achin’ for a bottle of our wine, if you are in search of other hard-to-find wines or just looking for a good recommendation on a $10 bottle of something to go with Thursday’s dinner. And then dip down into West Portal and enjoy the cool shops and restaurants. It’s a neighborhood that sometimes feel like it is caught in another time…but, we’ll save that for another post.

2008 Hein Pinot Noir Gets Gold in SF Chronicle Wine Competition by valleyfog

2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Public Tasting on Feb. 20

The results from the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the first and largest competition of American wines, came out today and the 2008 Waits-Mast Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley won a gold medal in the $40 – $49.99 pinot noir category. Brimming with over 4,900 entries overall, the competition was judged by some of the leading experts in the wine media and industry, include Wilfred Wong, cellarmaster for Beverages & More!; Jon Bonne, wine writer for the San Francisco Chronicle; Dan Berger, syndicated journalist; and Paul Lukacs, wine writer and educator out of Baltimore, MD. Lukacs wrote the book American Vintage: The Rise of American Wine, one of the first books that got Brian deeper into the history of wine.

We harvested the Hein grapes in early October of 2008 and co-fermented 115 clones and Pommard clones. Pommard can impart a more robust, fleshy characteristic, while the Dijon clone 115 tends to be lighter and brighter.

The result is what we strive for with our Anderson Valley wines – bright red fruit balanced with earthy and woodsy undertones. The 2008 Hein also shows some nice warm spices, which we felt made it go well with our holidays meals this past Christmas. Good acidity and subtle tannins provide structure to make this an enjoyable, food-friendly wine for years to come.

2008 Waits Mast Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir

In addition to being available at our online store, our 2008 Hein Vineyard pinot noir is available locally in San Francisco at Canyon Market in Glen Park. We will also be pouring it at a Neighborhood Winemaker’s tasting at the San Francisco Wine Trading Company on Taraval Street in the Sunset on Friday, January 15 from 5:30 – 8:00pm. We currently have about 13 cases left of the 2008 Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir.

And of course we’ll be pouring the gold-medal-winning wine, along with some of our other wines, at the Public Tasting of the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, which will be held on February 20 from 2:00 – 5:00pm at the Festival Pavilion in Fort Mason. You can find out more information about the tasting and buy tickets here.