Waxing nostalgic as we release our 2016 Rosé and 2014 Pinot Noir, Mariah Vineyard by Jennifer

In honor of our Waits-Mast Family Cellars late spring release (the 2016 Waits-Mast Rosé of Pinot Noir and the 2014 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Mariah Vineyard), it’s a good time to reflect back on the early days of these wines.

The rosé is a mere babe, crafted from a blend of luscious pinot noir juices harvested last August and September from some of our favorite Mendocino County vineyards. Nash Mill Vineyard, Mariah Vineyard and Oppenlander Vineyard make up the blend, which is being released just in time for this week’s heat spell. We only made 20 cases of this wine, so enjoy it while you can.

2016 Waits-Mast Rose of Pinot Noir just off the bottling line, February, 2017. Photo: J. Waits

2016 Waits-Mast Rose of Pinot Noir just off the bottling line, February, 2017. Photo: J. Waits

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Picks, Bins and Burgers: Behind the Scenes at Harvest by Jennifer

On Thursday we had another Waits-Mast fruit pick, this time some Pinot Noir grapes from Mariah Vineyard in Mendocino Ridge. It was a jam-packed day at the winery (we make our wine at Roar Wines in San Francisco) and a particularly hectic day for our winemaker. She awoke in the wee hours for a grape pick for another winery (complicated by a tree falling in the vineyard too!) and spent the day sorting that fruit and doing other harvest work. She wrapped up in time to brave rush hour traffic, meeting us at our San Francisco facility by about 6pm.


Mariah grapes hanging out in the cold room before sorting on Sept. 15, 2016. Photo: J. Waits

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2016 Harvest is Looming by valleyfog
September 1, 2016, 5:32 pm
Filed under: Vineyards | Tags: , , ,

Fruit at Wentzel Vineyard on August 28, 2016. Photo: J. Waits

Over the weekend we headed north to Mendocino County to see how all of the Waits-Mast pinot noir vineyard sources are doing. Harvest is in full swing for many wineries already and we are getting close to picking our first fruit. We trekked up to Mendocino Ridge first to visit Mariah Vineyard. Fog was rolling in as we arrived at the vineyard on Saturday morning and owners Dan and Vicki Dooling told us that it was the first fog that they’d seen in about two months. We walked the rows with them and based on the color (there were still some green berries), taste of the fruit and sugar measurements (our winemaker Shalini brought along her portable refractometer), the Doolings are estimating that harvest for us is about 2 to 3 weeks away. Continue reading

2014 Harvest Begins by Jennifer
September 15, 2014, 12:01 am
Filed under: Events, Winemaking | Tags: , , , , , ,
Wentzel Vineyards Pinot Noir arrives

Wentzel Vineyard fruit arrives

It’s only mid-September and we are more than halfway through harvest at Waits-Mast Family Cellars. In addition to being in constant communication with our growers and our wine making facility about pick logistics, we’ve also been out doing tasting appointments, pouring at events, and scrambling to buy more barrels to hold our increasingly growing production (we plan to surpass 500 cases this year!). Our first harvest of 2014 was at Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley on September 4. We greeted grower Roland Wentzel when he delivered the fruit to the winery in San Francisco that evening (after braving city traffic jams) and then raced home to pack for a trip up to Anderson Valley and Mendocino the following day.

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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


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Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival 2009: Day 1 by valleyfog
BOONVILLE, CA — May 15, 2009. As we’ve mentioned before, Jennifer and I have been attending the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir festival for a number of years now. We have such an affinity for the valley because of the remoteness, the tight-knit community and of course, for the amazing wines, specifically Pinot Noir, made there. Now that we’re making Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley, it is a thrill for us to actually pour our wines for the first time at the festival’s Grand Tasting this year.

Mendocino County Fairgrounds, home of the AV Pinot Fest Technical Conference

Mendocino County Fairgrounds in Boonville, home of the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival Technical Conference

There are many events at the festival, which runs from May 15 – May 17. Day one kicks off with a technical conference at the Mendocino Fairgrounds for winemakers, grapegrowers, industry folk and the wine geek in all of us consumers. It is something we attended years ago as a lark (okay, we’re kind of geeky that way), and we really enjoyed it, even though we may not understand everything being discussed. The agenda is usually a selection of presentations on oenology and viticulture, some wine tasting and a presentation on marketing to consumers. This year, the growing and winemaking themes were on water use, native fermentations and native microflora and clonal selections in Burgundy. The tastings focused on different appellations and vineyards in and around Anderson Valley.


The first tasting of the day - a clean tasting mat!

The first tasting was focused on Greenwood Ridge. Greenwood Ridge actually overlaps between the Anderson Valley appellation and the Mendocino Ridge appellation. The Mendocino Ridge appellation is further west and runs along the coast. To be appellation-designate, vineyards must be above 1200 feet, which is necessary to stay above the fogline and get enough sunlight and warmth for the grapes to gain full ripeness. The conditions are probably similar to the true Sonoma Coast vineyards like Hirsch Vineyard. While it would seem that the temperature would be cooler closer to the coast, the grapes in Mendocino Ridge get more hours of sunshine because they are above the fogline, while the valley floor gets fog rolling in early in the evening, making for shorter days of sun. I tried two Pinot Noirs from Greenwood Ridge and one from Ferrari-Carano and they all had good structure – medium tannins, with the F-C exhibiting darker fruit characteristics than the Greenwood Ridge wines.

We broke for “A Very Good Lunch,” which was indeed very good: huge lamb burgers on delicious ciabatta bread. This paired well with the BYOB selection of Pinot Noirs available at the gazebo on the grounds. I brought two bottles of our 2007 Wentzel Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley to share with any takers and both were quickly consumed with lots of nice compliments like “great depth and complexity,” “long finish,” and “great mouthfeel.” Remember, this is a tough crowd – local growers and winemakers.

My lunchmate Colin and local winemaker Mary Elke holding forth over lamb burgers

My lunchmate Colin and local winemaker Mary Elke holding forth over lamb burgers

Lunch was followed by a flight of Goldeneye vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs from up and down the valley. Winemaker Zach Rasmussen walked us through the climate variations that along the valley, from Boonville to the “deep end”, the area adjacent to the redwoods that separate it from the coast.  The group tasted Goldeneye wines from the Confluence, Gowan Creek and Narrows vineyards. They were all lush, yet showing good structure and owner Dan Duckhorn made no apologies for the more forward (yet restrained by California standards) style of Pinot Noir they make.

Later in the afternoon, photographers Andrea Johnson and Bob Holmes walked through some of their photos from their recently released book, Passion for Pinot, co-authored by Jordan Mackay. Jennifer actually poured our wines at a Passion for Pinot book event at Omnivore in San Francisco, an event which I was unable to attend. So it was nice to introduce myself to Bob and Andrea and hear their stories about traversing the West coast and meeting the growers and winemakers behind some of the best Pinot Noirs in America.

The last tasting of the day was led by a Master Sommelier from the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Joe Phillips led a tasting of three different Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs to demonstrate how a sommelier will describe these to customers at restaurants like Michael Mina in the Bellagio. Phillips noted that the Bellagio has 11 fine dining establishments, in addition to 20 other food and beverage outposts and buys over $40 million of wine every year. As he described it, “the Bellagio is like a village.” In the tasting, he pointed out the distinct elements of Claudia Springs, Handley and Foursight wines. He described the Foursight wine as “Flintstones Vitamins” and that apparently was a good thing. The wine showed different fruit flavors that you would find in those vitamins (cherry, lime, orange, etc.) and had the minerality you would get such daily supplements. After hearing that description, I could totally see the parallel. When I was a child, I almost had to get my stomach pumped from eating too many Flintstones vitamins in one sitting, so that description may not be the most positive one for me.

Copious tasting notes for copious amounts of wine...

Copious tasting notes for copious amounts of wine...

After consuming copious amounts of information and wine, I wrapped the day with the BBQ social at Husch Winery. Jennifer and I had never been to this event in the past, so it was fun to hang out with the locals and visitors and down some good pulled pork sandwiches and Pinot Noir. At a certain point, a few of us were ready to diverge from Pinot and try some of the other wines at the BYOB table. I had a glass of the Cole Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon from Esterlina and it was excellent: lush, rich blackberry and blueberry fruit with wonderful toasty vanilla and cocoa. Finally, the few of us hanging at the outdoor bar decided it was time to go and rest our palates for the big grand tasting the next day.