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 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.


2009 vintage almost there: August barrel tasting by valleyfog

Trying to keep track of all the wine during barrel sampling

One thing about being in the wine business and dealing with so many vintages is you start to forget what year it is. We’re in the middle of releasing and selling our 2008 vintage of pinot noir, the 2009s are still in barrel, and we’re finalizing our plans for 2010. All exciting stuff for us here at Waits-Mast and each vintage has its own story and requires its own focus.

We’ve written much about our 2009 vintage and its five different vineyards and we are really pumped about this wine. We recently tasted through all five vineyard-designate pinot noirs in barrel and the wines truly represent a broad portfolio of pinot noir. In barrel since October of last year, each one is distinct and supremely tasty in its own right. These are the type of wines that you could easily distinguish one from the other, because they are so site-specific. Here are some brief observations of each wine from this barrel tasting:

Hayley Vineyard, Anderson Valley: this vineyard on the valley floor gets a lot of morning fog and then warmer afternoons that combine to extend flavor development. Bright raspberry and coconut on the nose, bursting with red fruit on the palate with nice acidity and fine tannins on the finish.

La Encantada Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills: our third vintage with this Santa Barbara County vineyard, the La Encantada is delivering once again. The 2009 has a lot of exotic spices, firm tannins, and an intense core of red and black fruit.

Deer Meadows Vineyard, Anderson Valley: Rich Savoy’s upper (1600′) vineyard in Boonville is going to rock your world. A lighter touch than our other pinots, it has wonderful floral aromatics with bright cherry, orange peel and coriander. Intense red cherry and great acidity make the wine dance on the palate.

Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County (Comptche): this one is going to be coming out of its shell a bit later, but the potential that we’re tasting in this this wine is intriguing: dried lavender, purple-tinged color, earthy tones and firm tannins. Patience will serve you well with the Oppenlander.

Amber Ridge Vineyard, Russian River Valley: for those not wanting a wine that is playing hard-to-get, this pinot noir will be lush, flirty and seductive right out of the gate. Lots of cherry and raspberry, smooth tannins with a brightness to counteract the warm spices that this wine serves up. In a word: yum.

Ready to treat yourself to a flight of this amazing pinot noir? We are too, but we need to let these wines brood a little more, do a little blending and then get them in bottle. They’ve all been racked to neutral barrels. We’ll let you know about final bottling and the planned release dates, which will likely be in 2011.

2008 Amber Ridge currently on the shelves at Pleasant Hill Wine Merchant

We still have a handful of cases of our 2008 Hein Vineyard, Anderson Valley and 2008 Amber Ridge Vineyard (equally as flirty) left and will be releasing our 2008 La Encantada in September. All three of these wines are award-winning and continue to evolve beautifully, so treat yourself to one today.

Barrel Tasting the 2009 vintage: February Notes by valleyfog

After a busy holiday season and with our 2009 vintage resting comfortably in barrel for over four months, we were ready to check in on its progress. Each of the five different Waits-Mast vineyard-designate pinot noirs made in 2009 are doing quite well and each exhibits its own personality and distinctive flavor profile. Here are some tasting notes on how each is coming along, as of February 19, 2010:

2009 barrel tasting: five barrels, eight glasses, one spit cup

Amber Ridge vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County (clones: 115, 667, 777; two barrels, one new (Francois Freres), one neutral): the first word I wrote down was “awesome.” The fruit leaps out of the glass and is juicy and dark, with a candied raspberry finish. This will mellow, for sure, but this will definitely be a wine that will be very drinkable, very soon.

Deer Meadow Ranch vineyard, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County (clones: 115, Wadenswil; two barrels, one new (Cadus), one neutral): This is Rich Savoy’s higher elevation (1600 ft.) vineyard (official vineyard designation to-be-named) in Boonville. We’ve tasted this twice in the last month and we are very excited about this one. We feel it will deliver that complex, earthy Anderson Valley pinot noir that we love so much. Definitely some funky earth on the nose, with a mix of red and dark fruit. The tight-grained French Cadus oak is very restrained on the nose.

2009 Oppenlander vineyard from Comptche: vibrant and violet

Oppenlander vineyard, Comptche, Mendocino County (clones: 114; two barrels, one new (Remond), one neutral): Whoa! Crazy violet-tinged color on this one. I remember that color from the bottom of the bin after we dumped the grapes into the press. Chris Nelson, our winemaker, said the Oppenlander shows some of that classic “oceanic acidity.” Indeed, and some firm tannins, too. This will be a vibrant wine and we’re eager to see how it progresses as it comes together.

Hayley’s vineyard, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County (clones: 114; one barrel, 33% new French oak, Francois Freres): Hayley’s is on the valley floor, or benchland, where a lot of fog sits late into the morning. A lighter wine in comparison to some of the others, with nice red cherry fruit. Floral on the nose, with a distinct wild vanilla and coconut aroma, reminiscent of Malibu Rum (oh, the days of yore…).

La Encantada vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County (clones:115, 777; one barrel, 33% new French oak, Francois Freres): last but not least, this 100% organic vineyard always delivers beautiful and exciting wines. The 2009, our third vintage in a row with La Encantada, is showing an exotic herbal and spicy nose (consistent with previous vintages) and nice tannins. Should be another winner – so far, so good!

We’ll be back with more barrel tasting notes throughout the spring and summer and remember, we still have two different 2008 pinot noirs yet to be released. So stay tuned to our blog or sign up at our website to get on our mailing list for the latest news.

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!