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.


“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!

Crush 2009: 5 Vineyards/5 Vintages by valleyfog
Brian and Jennifer on the sorting line back in 2005 for our first crush with Amber Ridge

Brian and Jennifer on the sorting line back in 2005 for our first crush with Amber Ridge

That’s right. We’re on our fifth vintage. Isn’t that crazy?? Our first vintage was 2005. Jennifer and I had been married for almost three years, we had a baby on the way, and life was busy enough. Then we read this story in the San Francisco Chronicle about custom wineries that allowed you to make your own barrel of wine, one at a time, just like the professionals do. We did a pinot noir barrel tasting at Crushpad, located at that time in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood, and were sold on the quality. We made one barrel that year from Amber Ridge vineyard, an up and coming Russian River vineyard near Gary Farrell’s Starr Ridge Vineyard in Windsor. It was so good, our friends wanted bottles and cases of the wine. We were hooked.

Fast forward to 2009: more excellent pinot noir, a cool label, a fancy website, a working webstore, this somewhat eloquent blog and our wines actually selling(albeit slowly) in the marketplace. We’ve even got a couple of good reviews. So the passion that Jennifer and I shared initially that drove us to make wine has only been stoked further by the support of our family and friends, industry peers and wonderful customers. So to celebrate our fifth vintage, we are making pinot noir from five different vineyards. That almost sounds crazier than the fact that we’re on our fifth vintage.

Our expansion (in a non-expanding economy) has to do with two things: our focus on site-specific wines and a bountiful harvest. Our site- and vineyard-specific approach reflects three different regions: Anderson Valley, Russian River Valley and Sta. Rita Hills. Our long-time affinity for the Anderson Valley and membership in the Anderson Valley Winegrowers’ Association has inspired us to expand that portion of our portfolio of wines. And it turns out that this year, because of a bumper crop and a slow economy, we have been able to get our grape-stained hands on some of the best fruit in Mendocino. We didn’t plan on producing a total of 8 barrels (across five vineyards), but the opportunity was too tempting to turn down. That may not sound like a lot to some people, but it’s a big commitment for us folks with day jobs. We’ll go in to more detail on the vineyards we’re working with, but we wanted to provide a quick overview of our small lot, single-vineyard pinot noir program for 2009:


115 clone pinot noir grapes at Rich Savoy's Boonville vineyard

115 clone pinot noir grapes at Rich Savoy's Boonville vineyard

Anderson Valley, Rich Savoy’s Deer Meadows Vineyard (vineyard designate TBD): for the few, but proud, followers of us on Facebook that have been hearing about the “mystery fruit,” it is now revealed. We toured some great vineyards in Anderson Valley in September and heard about a very small amount of fruit available from Rich Savoy’s Boonville vineyard. Situated at 1600 feet elevation, with a commanding south-facing view of Anderson Valley, Savoy’s vineyard off of Deer Meadows Road is meticulously farmed in multiple blocks. We were lucky enough to get enough 115 and Wädenswil (it’s Swiss!) clones to make two barrels. Look for a future post about our visit and tasting notes from the pressing.

Mendocino County (Comptche), Oppenlander Vineyard: wait – there’s more mystery fruit! When Brian was up in the Anderson Valley in for this year’s Pinot Noir Festival, he hit a few new open houses, thanks to some tips from his friend Asim. At both Baxter and Phillips Hill, we tried wines from Oppenlander Vineyard. Oppenlander is owned by the Shandel family and is located near Comptche, northwest of the Anderson Valley and about 8 miles from the ocean. This is the wild west of pinot noir – similar to the true Sonoma Coast vineyards like Hirsch. The grapes benefit from cooler temperatures and therefore, longer hangtime and better flavor development. This means intensity of flavor without over-extraction of fruit. That’s how we intend to coax these grapes into an elegant expression of pinot noir. We’ll be making two barrels of the 114 clone.

Anderson Valley, Hayley’s Vineyard: Hayley’s (aka Annahala Vineyard) is located on the valley floor, between Boonville and Philo. The valley floor actually gets a lot of low-lying fog that comes in from the “deep-end” of the valley, cooling the grapes down at the end of the day and early in the morning. This slows down the sugar production in the grapes and again, allows for flavor development. We sorted this fruit this past week and the 114 clone berries were tasty with great acidity. Exactly what we expect from Anderson Valley. We’ll make one barrel of this wine in 2009.


Waits-Mast 2009 Amber Ridge Pinot Noir: one of 8 barrels this year

Waits-Mast 2009 Amber Ridge Pinot Noir: one of 8 barrels this year

Russian River Valley, Amber Ridge Vineyard: this year, we moved to two barrels of Amber Ridge as it may be our last chance to make pinot noir from this vineyard. Based on the sorting and pressing that we’ve completed for Amber Ridge this year, it is going to be a killer wine. One barrel is 115 clone, a more feminine, elegant version of Pinot and the other is a co-ferment of 667 and 777, two more fruit-forward and structured versions of Pinot. When we blend them together next year, we’re confident the wine will be a wonderful, complex expression of Russian River Pinot Noir. If you can’t wait until then, soon we’ll be releasing our 2008 Amber Ridge, so stay close to this blog.

Sta. Rita Hills, La Encantada Vineyard: last, but certainly not least, is this amazing vineyard farmed by Richard Sanford in Santa Barbara County. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve heard us rave about Richard and his 100% organic farming practices. The fruit always comes in with small clusters and small berries – perfect for powerful and well-crafted pinot noirs. This will be the third year we’re making wine from La Encantada, and we’re honored to have access to this vineyard. We’ll make one barrel of 115 clone, with a little 667 blended in, most likely. To try our 2007 La Encantada, which is showing great complexity after a year in the bottle, click here.

Tasting the Waits-Mast 2007 La Encantada Pinot Noir with Richard Sanford

Tasting the Waits-Mast 2007 La Encantada Pinot Noir with Richard Sanford

But wait, there’s more…

To celebrate our fifth vintage, we’re making an extremely small amount of sparkling wine. It’s a long ways away, as sparkling wine takes two years to ferment and age, so we’ll leave you with that. Until then, we’ll provide more updates on the 2009 harvest and crush, as well as some holiday surprises coming soon!

Waits-Mast Wines at Internos Wine Cafe in San Francisco by valleyfog
Internos Wine Cafe on Geary Street in San Francisco

Internos Wine Cafe on Geary Street in San Francisco

Waits-Mast Pinot Noir is now being served by the glass at a new wine bar in the Laurel Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. Our 2007 Wentzel Vineyard Pinot Noir is currently on the list and soon, our 2007 La Encantada will be available by the bottle. Geary Street is lined with Irish pubs and Asian restaurants, but clearly there is a dearth of wine bars in this neighborhood. Enter Internos Wine Cafe, the latest addition to the wine bar scene in San Francisco. Run by Adnan Daken and Quinn Longbothum, Internos (Italian for “between us”) has been open for about a month now and already has a loyal following. It’s also getting some great reviews on Yelp which led us to discover this gem in the first place.

The bar has a rustic, warm feel, with great photography and artwork and a small, but growing wine list. We asked Adnan how he builds his wine list and he replied “with wines that I like to drink.” He has good taste and likes to introduce smaller, lesser-known wines to his curious customers. On our first visit there, I enjoyed a Carneros Pinot Noir from Cuvaison – not extremely rare, but not easy to find around town. Plus, Carneros wines don’t get enough exposure these days. Jennifer sampled a number of different white wines before settling into a 2006 JL Colombo Viognier from the Rhone Valley. We also enjoyed some great small plates, including bruschetta, dried meats and wonderful cheeses.0051

Adnan has a long history of owning and working at restaurants and joints in North Beach and after moving to this neighborhood, was ready to establish his own outpost in Laurel Heights. It’s exciting to be working with another wine-related business that is establishing itself and trying new things.  In addition to offering many wines by the glass and bottle, Internos is going to build out a retail section where customers can discover and take home other interesting and eclectic wines.

Check out Internos and their great wines at 3240 Geary Street, San Francisco, between Parker and Spruce. The Bridge Theater is a couple of blocks away, so make a night out of it and see a movie too.

Spring Release: La Encantada Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills by valleyfog

le-bottle-shotAt last, it is ready: after all of our babbling about La Encantada Pinot Noir on this blog, you’re now able to get some of your own! Please welcome our second wine from the 2007 vintage. It’s a lovely and lush Pinot Noir from La Encantada vineyard in Santa Rita Hills (Santa Barbara County) and those that have had a preview of this wine are truly enchanted. The vineyard is owned by Richard and Thekla Sanford (of Sanford Pinot Noir fame) and along with their other vineyards, La Encantada was one of the first vineyards in Santa Barbara County to be certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). It has been said that wine is “bottled poetry.” If this wine was a poem, it would be a dark and brooding selection of verse that you read, put down and then come back to again and again.

But how does it taste, you implore? It is very fruit-driven, with fragrant cherry and strawberry on the nose, good tannins and a deep ruby color, leaning towards crimson. The palate unfolds with lush sweet cherry and blackberries, spice, floral notes and a hint of cola. The La Encantada has great structure and is a fantastic wine for both sharing with friends now and tucking away in the cellar for later. For more info and specs on this wine, click here.

Pinot Noir clusters at La Encantada vineyard

Pinot Noir clusters at La Encantada vineyard

We visited the vineyard last summer and experienced great hospitality from Richard and his crew and enjoyed a few Sideways moments. To read more about the vineyard tour and see photos, see our blog post here.
To celebrate the release of this lovely wine, we are offering a special discount of 10% off one or more bottles of Waits-Mast La Encantada Pinot Noir. Just enter the discount code ENCHANTED to take advantage of this offer. Patrons who order a total of 6 bottles or more of either of our current releases (for example, a mixed 6-pack) will receive a total of 15% off the list price. Just enter the discount code 2ENCHANTED to take advantage of this offer. Our release offers are good until March 31, 2009, so if you’ve got a hankerin’ for some good Pinot Noir, act fast! To start shopping, click here.

Crushpad Mashup 2009 by valleyfog
Crushpad boyzz Stuart Ake and Alan Baker man the Pinot Noir table

Crushpad boyzz Stuart Ake and Alan Baker man the Pinot Noir table

We’ve just returned from the Crushpad Mashup 2009. The Mashup, held at the winery, brings together CP winemakers from near and far to try barrel samples of their 2008 vintages. Wines are arranged around the room by varietal and then at each table by vineyard. So you can try your own wine from a particular vineyard next to another winery’s from the same vineyard.

Our 2008 wine has been in the barrel since September/October, and we have not sampled them yet. Between the holidays and malolactic fermentation, you’re better off waiting until 3-4 months into aging to get a good read on how the wine is coming along.

Jennifer the supertaster puts her nose to work

Jennifer the supertaster puts her nose to work

We tried our Amber Ridge Pinot Noir, from Russian River in Sonoma, first. The color is a deep, ruby red and the aroma was a very faint cherry. With a good bit of swirling and sucking the wine in, I got some nice red fruit on the mid-palate and plum and some of that classic Pinot earthiness on the finish. I remember when we were making our 2005 Amber Ridge that it came off very light early on in the barrel, but really developed and once in the bottle for a few months, was spectacular.

Next was the 2008 Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley in Mendocino. Hein Vineyard is in Philo, just a mile past Milla Handley’s vineyard and winery. If you remember from our post in the fall on the Hein crush, the juice was 100% free run – no pressing of the skins. We did this because some of the vineyards in Anderson Valley were affected by smoke from the fires in Mendocino County. To ensure that we didn’t get too much of the smoke residue that may be on the skins, we didn’t press the skins. And the Hein is now coming along quite well. It has a medium garnet color and a nice nose of cherry and earth. The wine shows a good backbone – a decent amount of acid and tannins. I think this one may need a little more barrel time, but we’ll check in on it in a couple of months to see. All the components are there, though, so it will be cool to see how it develops.

Brian puts the 2008 vintage to the test

Brian puts the 2008 vintage to the test

And last was our second effort of La Encantada Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills. The clusters and the berries on this fruit were small and near perfect when they arrived in early October and the color and concentration of the wine reflects this intensity. The color is a dark garnet and there is already a lot of juicy fruit showing on this wine. We also noticed some nice spice and earth and decent tannins to hold it all together.

To soak it all up, our good friends at Crushpad brought in a wood-fired pizza oven on wheels. The pizza was AMAZING. Pepperoni, Margherita and a white pizza with spinach, onions and creme freche, all with that lovely charred, chewy crust.

It was a great event and each of the wines was showing its own personality and promise. We’re already excited about this vintage and we’ll keep you posted on its progress. If you can’t wait until the fall, try our 2007s. We shared them with some friends last weekend over a lovely dinner of roast pork, root vegetables and apples — a perfect match for Pinot Noir. The Wentzel from Anderson Valley has really developed in the bottle and has that classic combination of fruit and forest floor on the nose that I love. The La Encantada, due to be released next month, has beautiful, rich Pinot Noir fruit and wonderful aromas that develop within an hour or two after opening. Delectable!

Wood-fired pizza - the perfect finish to a promising vintage

Wood-fired pizza - the perfect finish to a promising vintage

Valentine’s Day Wine, Chocolate and Poetry Special by Jennifer
February 2, 2009, 11:55 am
Filed under: New releases, Promotions | Tags: , , ,

Valentine Thoughts With a few short weeks away from Valentine’s Day, we’re excited to be able to share our take on the classic V-Day tokens of affection with you: wine, chocolate and poetry.

For a limited time only we are offering a 2 bottle Valentine’s Day gift set of Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, featuring a 4 piece varietal box from San Francisco’s renowned boutique chocolatier Recchiuti.

This special gift pack features a bottle of our 2007 Wentzel Pinot Noir and an exclusive pre-release of our 2007  La Encantada Pinot Noir (due to be released in late March). The set comes packaged in a custom-shipping box with a hand-selected poem  inside. With amazing Pinot Noir, chocolate and poetry, you’ll have all the makings of a romantic evening.

The Recchiuti varietal box includes four chocolates offering different tastes from cocoa grown in Madagascar, Venezuela, Columbia and Ecuador and is gift-wrapped for the occasion.


Valentine’s Day Gift set contents:

2007 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Wentzel Vineyard (1); suggested retail: $42

2007 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, La Encantada Vyd (1); suggested retail: $49

Recchiuti varietal box of chocolate (4 pieces; 2oz); suggested retail $11

TOTAL: Valentine’s Day Special price for both wines and the chocolate gift box: $97.99 + shipping and tax

To purchase, visit the purchase section of our website.

In order to ensure your gift arrives by Valentine’s Day, please follow these deadlines for GROUND shipping:

East Coast: Order needs to be placed by 2/4

Mid West: Order needs to be placed by 2/6

West Coast: Order needs to be placed by 2/9

Waits-Mast hand selects romantic poems to include in its Valentine's Day gift pack

Waits-Mast hand-selects romantic poems to include in its Valentine's Day gift pack

We also offer 2- and 3-day air shipping. For sub-freezing climate customers,we recommend that you ship via air to ensure the safety of the wine. We currently have a hold on wines being shipped via ground to the Midwest, for example, to avoid any wines being frozen/damaged.

Customers in the San Francisco Bay Area can save on shipping costs by choosing “local pickup” from the shipping options. You can then pick up the wine at the Crushpad shipping and logistics center in San Francisco. Call  (415) 558-9181 to schedule your pickup.