Braving the elements for Pinot Days Chicago 2013 by Jennifer

Pinot Days Chicago 2013 sign

It’s been a year and a half since the last Pinot Days Chicago, so we were looking forward to the opportunity to pour Waits-Mast wines for our Chicago fans once again. During a particularly crazy weather week, we headed to the Navy Pier for yesterday’s event. Luckily the rains/snow/flooding of the previous few days had subsided, although we were alarmed to see black smoke emanating from a fire at the O’Hare airport (apparently just an emergency training exercise) as we drove to the tasting. After safely arriving at our destination (a gorgeous room at the Navy Pier with a lake view), we set up our signage, bottles, and literature for the expected crowds of Pinot Noir consumers and industry folks.

Tasting glasses at Pinot Days Chicago 2013

Tasting glasses at Pinot Days Chicago 2013. Photo credit: J. Waits

Although this is the 5th time that we’ve poured our wines at Pinot Days Chicago, it had been a year and a half since the last event in November, 2011. Traveling to Chicago had become a fall tradition for us, so it was strange to not be there last November. Thankfully the event still took place, moving to April this year.

During this year’s Pinot Days Chicago we poured three of our more recent releases, including our recently bottled 2012 Waits-Mast Rosé of Pinot Noir from Mendocino County as well as our 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Londer Vineyard and our 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Wentzel Vineyard.

Waits-Mast Rosé of Pinot Noir

Brian shows off the new Waits-Mast Rosé of Pinot Noir. Photo: J. Waits

It was exciting to launch our brand new rosé at Pinot Days. Bottled on March 30, this is our very first rosé. Crafted from fruit from some of our favorite vineyards in Anderson Valley and Mendocino, we think it’s pretty delicious and were looking forward to hearing what others thought of this wine. We only made 24 cases of our 100% Pinot Noir rosé, so we only brought a few bottles to the tasting for the rosé’s public debut. Despite the chilly spring weather in Chicago, tasters were quite complimentary about the rosé (although some inevitably declined to taste it, preferring to stick to full-on Pinot Noir). In addition to the rosé, we also poured two other wines from Mendocino County – our 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Londer Vineyard and our 2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Wentzel Vineyard. Here are some tasting notes from some of the attendees who stopped by our table:

2012 Waits-Mast Rosé of Pinot Noir, Mendocino County:

“fine mineral quality” (from a non-rosé fan)

“I wouldn’t send this back”

would be “great with Chilean sea bass – best of both worlds, taste of red, refreshing [quality of a] white”

“nice and refreshing”


“my favorite of the day”

“this is the best thing here”


Pouring at Pinot Days Chicago 2013.

Pouring at Pinot Days Chicago 2013. Photo: J. Waits

2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Londer Vineyard, Anderson Valley:

“love the smell, can’t place it”

“smokiness on the nose”

“earthy smell”

there’s a “very feminine grace to this”

“dances across your tongue”

“violets on the nose”

“fruit forward”




“almost like tangerine” (on the tongue as a top note)

“red fruit in nose”

Waits-Mast table at Pinot Days Chicago 2013

Waits-Mast table at Pinot Days Chicago 2013. Photo: J. Waits

2010 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Wentzel Vineyard, Anderson Valley:

“smells awesome”

“dryer finish” (than Londer)

“rich, nice structure”

“fruitier smell” (compared with Londer)

“denser, richer”

“good with salmon, it would stand up to the fat”

“black cherry”

“beautiful acidity”

“such a great expression of Pinot”

“my favorite”


Pinot Days Chicago 2013 end of day

Pinot Days Chicago 2013 at the end of the day. Note the half-eaten sandwich. Photo: J. Waits

All in all, Pinot Days Chicago was great fun for us. We saw many old friends (fans, family, industry folks, and fellow winemakers) and were also happy to introduce our wines to many people who had never tried our wines before. We did miss seeing our #1 fan, Luke – we waited patiently for him to arrive at our table, hoping for some poetic pronouncements about our wine. Alas, we hope to see him next year. But, perhaps one of my favorite moments was when renowned winemaker Brian Loring of Loring Wine Company complimented us on our wines and applauded us for our small production, saying, “dare to be small.”


Exit 2012, Welcome 2013 by valleyfog
Deer Meadows Vineyard, Anderson Valley

Deer Meadows Vineyard, Anderson Valley

With 2012 barely a glimmer in our rear-view mirror, we’re excited about all that 2013 will bring. 2012 was a good year in many ways, so we thought we would take a quick look back at some of the highlights of the year for our little winery and provide a brief preview of what to expect in 2013. Here are four things, in no particular order, about 2012 that made the year in winemaking for Waits-Mast Family Cellars a great one, plus a preview of things to come:

1. The 2012 Vintage: the growing season this year was consistent and cool with minimal disruptions. A few heat spikes here or there, but nothing to worry about. In 2012, we became more focused on Mendocino County and decided to only use pinot noir fruit sourced from that region, working with vineyards from Anderson Valley to Mendocino Ridge to Comptche. We worked with a total of five different vineyards this year, continuing with Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley and Oppenlander Vineyard in Comptche. We returned to Deer Meadows Vineyard, 1600 feet above Anderson Valley and worked with two vineyards for the first time: Nash Mill in Anderson Valley and Mariah in the Mendocino Ridge appellation. Besides being in Mendocino County, what these vineyards also have in common is that each is independently-owned, small and well managed. We just barrel tasted the 2012s the other day and we’re excited for this vintage – but patience will need to prevail as the wines will be in barrel for a number of months (except for a rosé…wait, did we say rosé? Look at the 2013 preview for more info.)

2. Tasting Events: 2012 was a year where we poured at more events than ever. We continued to pour at our favorites, like the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival and Pinot Days, but also tried out some new events like Taste of Mendocino and Winesong. And every once in a while, a special opportunity comes along. Being able to pour our wine at Sideways the Play in Santa Monica this past summer was a blast. The play naturally drew a crowd of Pinot Noir fans and it was a treat for Brian to meet Rex Pickett, author of Sideways and Vertical. The best thing about all of these events is seeing old friends and meeting new ones. We’re always up for talking about wine, whether we’re geeking out about clones or cold soaks or just enjoying the wine and trading stories with our visitors. Inevitably, a colorful remark or gesture arises and our day is made.

Wine & Spirits Best 100 Wines 2012

Wine & Spirits Best 100 Wines of 2012

3. Accolades: our wines continued to garner strong trade press and blog reviews. Each of our 2009 vintage Pinot Noir wines received good reviews in outlets like Wine Enthusiast, PinotFile, Wine & Spirits, Daily Sip and more. The inclusion in Wine & Spirits’ “Best 100 Wines of 2012” was definitely a highlight. We were honored to have the 2009 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Deer Meadows Vineyard featured among some of the best wines across the world. In the PinotFile newsletter, our 2009 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Oppenlander Vineyard in Mendocino County received a Pinot Geek rating from the Prince of Pinot and made his 2012 California Pinot Noir All-Americans list (honorable mention).

4. Restaurants and Wine Shops: we’ve been working hard to get our wines in restaurants and wine shops to make it easier for people to try and buy our wines. It was great to have the support and response from wine stores like Wine Club Santa Clara, K&L Wines, SF Wine Trading Co, Canyon Market, Wine Exchange, Robert’s Market, and Little Vine. And we’re thrilled to be placed on some incredible wine lists at restaurants like Kokkari, Michael Mina, Brasserie S&P, Liberty Cafe, The Hobbit, moto, L2o, Acadia, Boonville Hotel, MacCallum House and more. For a full list of restaurants and wine stores that carry our wine, go to the News section of our website.

2012 Waits-Mast Rose of Pinot Noir

5. 2013 – a preview: Okay, so here is a short list of things we’re excited about in 2013:

  • Releasing our other two 2010 wines from Oppenlander Vineyard & Archer Family Vineyard (RRV) this Spring
  • Releasing our first rosé of Pinot Noir this Spring  (see photo above)- wine club members will get it first. It is a saignée of the fruit from three different vineyards and it is tasting great already. More to come.
  • Bottling our 2011s and tasting them along the way to see which ones will be ready for a Fall release
  • Pinot Days Chicago – it used to be in November, but now is in April. We love the “home crowd” here as Brian’s Midwestern roots harken him back home.
  • The 2013 vintage – so hard to think about the next vintage when we feel like we just wrapped up 2012, but harvest will be here before you know it.
  • Hopefully seeing and hearing from you, our fans, along the way. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all of these updates and more.

With that, we wish you the happiest of New Year’s and a bountiful and peaceful 2013.

Pinot Days Chicago Tasting Brings a Waits-Mast Customer to Tears by Jennifer
Brian at the Waits-Mast table at Pinot Days Chicago 2011

Brian at the Waits-Mast table at Pinot Days Chicago 2011

We had an incredible time participating in Pinot Days Chicago on Saturday. It was our 4th time pouring at the event, and as in previous years, it was great to catch up with old friends and fans of Waits-Mast Family Cellars.

Each year has been memorable, in 2008 we met some folks who have become regular customers, in 2009 we were told that we had “bangin’ juice,” and last year we heard that the wine tasted like “fall in a glass.”

This year, we poured a selection of our 2009 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir releases throughout the day. Most who stopped by our table got to try our wines from Anderson Valley (Hayley Vineyard), Russian River (Amber Ridge Vineyard) and Mendocino (Oppenlander Vineyard). After we poured through those wines, we had visitors sample our release from Deer Meadows Vineyard in Anderson Valley and from La Encantada Vineyard in Sta Rita Hills.

Response to the wines was amazing and we experienced a first for us when a new fan actually started tearing up after trying our wine from Deer Meadows vineyard.

Here’s a quick sampling of some of our favorite reactions to the wines:

2009 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir, Hayley Vineyard (Anderson Valley):

Tasters called this wine “elegant,” said it had eucalyptus characteristics, and described it as “earthy” on the nose, yet “California” upon tasting. One person said, “this is a revelation” and remarked that it has “fabulous complexity in the nose.” Another said, “I’m an Oregon guy…that’s exciting.” Others said that it had a “roundness” and was “velvety” and “delicious” with hints of “strawberry.”

2009 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir, Amber Ridge Vineyard (Russian River):

One of the tasters inhaled this wine deeply and said he was “just getting high” off of the nose and said that it had a “hint of creme brulee,” and was “nice and soft.” He added that, “I’ve been to every Pinot Days from the beginning and this was definitely way up there.” Another person said that it was like a “blast off in your mouth.” Someone else said it was “smokier” than our other wines and that it had an “interesting finish.”

2009 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir, Oppenlander Vineyard (Mendocino):

Folks who came by our table and tried our Oppenlander Vineyard Pinot Noir described it as “tart,” with a “little more acid” than our releases from Hayley and Amber Ridge Vineyards.  Another said that it was “earthy” and would pair well with steak. Someone else noted that it had an “unexpected dryness.” One person said that initially there’s a burst of fruit, followed by “tannins at the end” with a nice finish. At least one person said that it was their favorite wine.

Waits-Mast "super-fan" Luke

Waits-Mast "super-fan" Luke

2009 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir, La Encantada Vineyard (Sta Rita Hills):

We only brought a few bottles of this wine to taste. The few who were able to sample it had nice things to say. One taster said that it tasted of “burnt cranberry, orange and raspberry” with “not a lot of earth.” Another person exclaimed that this wine was an “orgasm in my mouth.”

2009 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir, Deer Meadows Vineyard (Anderson Valley):

As with the La Encantada, we were only able to bring a few bottles of this wine to Pinot Days. This was the wine that made a taster cry and that others described as being like “velvet.” Waits-Mast “super fan” Luke (amazingly not the taster who was brought to tears) explained his love for the wine, saying, “I don’t want to stop drinking [it] with my nose.” He told us that tasting the wine was akin to listening to the “Star-Spangled Banner” in that it produced “goosebumps.” Luke added, “You saved me months of meditation.”

Thanks to everyone who stopped by our table at Pinot Days Chicago. It’s always a fun event for us, largely due to the warmth of the crowd.

Waits-Mast Pouring at 2011 Pinot Days Chicago by Jennifer
November 6, 2011, 5:36 pm
Filed under: Events | Tags: , ,
2009 Pinot Days Chicago

2009 Pinot Days Chicago

It’s hard to believe that our first public wine tasting happened 4 years ago at Pinot Days Chicago.

I vividly remember setting up our table and anxiously awaiting customers. As one of the newest labels at the event in 2008, we weren’t sure that people would even stop by the Waits-Mast table. Our fears were unfounded, as plenty of people sampled our 2007 vintage at that event and we ended up making quite a few friends who we look forward to seeing at Pinot Days Chicago every year.

We’ll be pouring for the 4th time at the Pinot Days Chicago Grand Festival this Saturday, November 12, 2011 from 1pm to 5pm. At the tasting you’ll get a chance to sample a selection of our 2009 releases. If you are planning to attend, you can use the discount code WAITSCH11 to get 10% off your ticket. We hope to see you there.

“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!

Pinot Days San Francisco 2010 and Waits-Mast Event Calendar Updates by valleyfog
June 15, 2010, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Events | Tags: , , ,

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summer is almost here and that means Pinot Days San Francisco. Attendees will be awash in the noble grape, with over 220 producers pouring over 500 pinot noirs from North America (and beyond). In other words,  a pinot noir lover’s dream.

Waits-Mast Family Cellars poured at Pinot Days SF last year for the first time and we had a blast. Because we’re a relatively new boutique/small lot pinot noir producer, we get a chance to meet and pour our wines for engaged and enthusiastic wine lovers that are looking for the undiscovered gem. And we appreciate those that sift through the rivers of pinot to seek out our small lot, hand-crafted wine.

Pinot Days San Francisco 2009

We will be pouring at the Pinot Days San Francisco 2010 Grand Festival from 1pm to 5pm on Sunday, June 27th at Fort Mason. There are a number of smaller events in the week leading up to the Grand Festival, so check out the full schedule here.

If you’re not on our mailing list or a fan on Facebook, join now, as we are rumored to have a Pinot Days special running concurrent with the event.

We also have a couple of other events lined up for the rest of 2010, and will likely add to this list as the year progresses:

Tasting Events:

July 11, 2010, 4:00 — 7:00pm

Waits-Mast Spring Release Party — in Summer! We released our 2008 Amber Ridge Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley in the Spring, but never held a coming-out party, so better late than never. We’ll be pouring this new release at our favorite local wine bar, Red + White in Glen Park. Stay tuned to this blog for more details on the event.

November 13, 2010

Pinot Days Chicago 2010. Yes, one Pinot Days event is not good enough for us. In fact, every day is Pinot Days in the Waits-Mast household. Pinot Days Chicago combines our love for pinot noir and Brian’s midwestern roots into what is now becoming a wonderful November homecoming. It’s a great opportunity to meet new friends and re-connect with our family in the Midwest. Please join us at this smaller version of Pinot Days, which usually has under 100 producers pouring their fine wines at Navy Pier.

SF Chronicle Top 100 and other recent press by valleyfog

Our first commercial releases, the 2007 Wentzel Vineyard Pinot Noir and 2007 La Encantada Pinot Noir continue to get positive feedback, and this week we were floating on air after being included in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Wines 2009 issue. If you weren’t the recipient of fervent Facebooking and torrential Tweeting from us on Sunday, read on about this review and a couple of reviews from our Pinot Days Chicago visit:

SF Chronicle's Top 100 Wines 2009 issue

San Francisco Chronicle Top 100 Wines 2009 (12/6/2009): Waits-Mast Family Cellars 2007 Pinot Noir from Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley is included in the San Francisco Chronicle’s annual list of top 100 wines. Jon Bonne writes:  “Jennifer Waits and Brian Mast found a style that invokes old-fashioned Anderson Valley Pinot, full of woodsy conifer aromas, with a lighter touch and rhubarb-like highlights.”

It is gratifying to see our longtime passion for Anderson Valley pinot noir recognized, especially in the company of other incredible West coast pinot noirs. Alas, we must admit that we are now sold out of the Wentzel, but for SF locals, you can have one last sip of this amazing wine at Red + White wine bar, opening soon in Glen Park. Stay posted here for opening festivities featuring Waits-Mast wines.

Broke Wino (11/24/09): Regarding our 2007 Pinot Noir from La Encantada Vineyard in Sta Rita Hills, Broke Wino writes, “Their 2007 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir is what stole me, its nose had this crazy mushroom, sawdust play that not only do I adore, but almost makes me forget to sip.” It’s true – the aromatics on this wine are haunting and brooding, but Broke Wino sez it better!

Chicago Food Whores (11/17/09): On Twitter they cited our 2007 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from La Encantada Vineyard in Sta Rita Hills as their top pick from the Pinot Days Chicago tasting: “Favorite wine pick from Pinot Days- Waits-Mast 2007 Santa Rita hills, organic!” and wrote on their blog recap that it is “one outstanding wine.”