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.”


Pinot Days San Francisco 2009 by valleyfog
Pinot Days San Francisco 2009

Pinot Days San Francisco 2009

Thousands of Pinot Noir lovers rallied on an unusually hot day in San Francisco yesterday to try over 400 different Pinot Noirs (yes, apparently that was the number of Pinots being poured) at the Grand Festival Public Tasting at Pinot Days San Francisco 2009.

The majority of these Pinot Noirs were from California, as well as Oregon producers and New World producers from New Zealand and Australia. As a small lot producer pouring for the first time at Pinot Days San Francisco (we poured at Pinot Days Chicago last year), we were the relative unknowns, but saw a steady stream of traffic and made some new friends. That’s the best thing about these tasting events: meeting new people and having free reign to talk about Pinot Noir for four hours straight.

Many people mentioned to us that they were drawn to our table because our label photography stood out to them. We were told that the foggy black and white photography was reminiscent of Ansel Adams and many seemed to get transported to another place just by looking at our label and poster. Most notably, one person said, “I don’t want to drink it, I just want to look at it.” Another said that they were attracted to our table “like a bee to a flower.” Being both intrigued and interested by a label is certainly the first step, so we were really happy to hear that design and imagery is helping to capture the romance of our wines.

Waits-Mast Signage

Waits-Mast Signage

Luckily those at Pinot Days seemed to dig not only the label, but also the wine inside the bottles. We poured two: our Waits-Mast 2006 Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley and the  Waits-Mast 2007 La Encantada Vineyard Pinot Noir from Sta. Rita Hills. The two wines are very different based on their vintage and appellation, so we knew that it would be a dramatic side-by-side tasting.

We poured the Hein first, and think that it’s really come into its own after two years in the bottle. Tasters seemed to like it too! We heard a lot of comments about the nose, including that it was “very aromatic,” “floral” and “perfumy.” In terms of the taste, we were excited when a non-Pinot lover (although she admitted that she was open enough to go to a 100% pinot noir event) told us, “I don’t normally like Pinot Noir, but I like this.” Others commented that the wine had “more earth, “silky tannins” and bracing acidity. One taster was intrigued by the wine’s complexity, noting that nose led him to expect one thing, but when he tasted the wine he was taken down a “different path,” one that was quite enjoyable.

Waits-Mast 2006 Hein Between Tastes

Waits-Mast 2006 Hein Between Tastes

Others (perhaps a 50/50 split), were taken by the La Encantada’s more powerful “spicy,” “coffee-like,” and “heavy toast” aromas. One person commented, “wow, this is really smoky.” They also spoke of the heavier, fruity taste with intense cherry (one called it a “sour cherry note”) and “sauvage” berry fruit on the palate. This wine inspired the most colorful praise, including remarks like: “It’s meaty,” “It’s really got some character,” and “It’s dirty.” Our former winemaker Scott Shapley said that he detected some nice herbal qualities too.

And then there were quite a few that liked them both (ourselves included). One taster who liked both said that that he’d drink a big glass of the La Encantada on a sunny day and that for the Hein he’d have “lots of friends over….and many glasses.” We were gratified to hear from several people that our wines were their favorites of the day, with one man boldly stating, “These are the best wines here.” Wow.

When the day was over, there were tired feet, broken wine glasses, and wine-stained literature; but hopefully also a few more Waits-Mast fans.

Pouring at Pinot Days San Francisco this Sunday by Jennifer
June 22, 2009, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , ,
Brian Pouring at Pinot Days Chicago

Brian Pouring at Pinot Days Chicago

It seems like only yesterday that we were pouring at Pinot Days Chicago, our very first public tasting, back in November. It was lots of fun and we’re excited to be participating this year in our own backyard in San Francisco.

We’ll be on the bill this Sunday, June 28th at Pinot Days San Francisco during the Grand Festival Tasting (look for us at the Crushpad table). If you’re a pinot nut like we are, you should peruse the full calendar of events taking place Wednesday through Sunday. Included in the lineup are a winemaker dinner, special focused and regional tastings, and lectures from hot shot producers.

To gear up for Pinot Days you may want to do some research in advance, as it’s rumored that there will be around 200 Pinot Noir producers in attendance. To get a glimpse of one Pinot enthusiast’s thoughts about the 2006 vintage, take a look at one of the festival founder’s top 25 Pinot Noir picks for domestic wines released in 2008. It’s an entertaining and informative read, especially in the way she depicts the 2006 vintage (which makes up the majority of the list):

“2006 is an odd vintage for California pinot because it has no distinction…2006 tends to be the Peter Brady vintage; there is nothing at all wrong with it, but it just doesn’t stand out. True, there were botrytis issues, but if you survived that the grapes just seemed ‘normal.’ And that is not a bad thing. I think the vintage was unfairly maligned, as it produced many balanced and ageworthy pinots. With that said, since it is sandwiched between two of the more outstanding vintages (2005 and 2007), my guess is it will go down in the annals as an ‘off year.’ It’s a shame to label it as such; there are plenty of 2006 shining stars out there for the drinking…”

It’s always fun to see these “top” lists, especially when they contain beloved regions, producers, and vineyards. Anderson Valley got some well-deserved attention and one of the top wines was from Wentzel Vineyard. Nice work.