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.


New Holiday Special: Waits-Mast 08 Appellation 3-Pack by valleyfog

Waits-Mast Pinot Noir Holiday Appellation 3-Pack

To keep things festive during this holiday season, Waits-Mast Family Cellars has put together a specially-priced three pack for California pinot noir fans, an appellation three pack. The three pack features a bottle of 2008 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from three different regions: Anderson Valley, Russian River Valley and Sta. Rita Hills.

Purchased separately, these three wines would total $135, but this special holiday pack is priced at $115 for all three bottles. Here’s the lineup of our 2008 pinot noirs included in the three pack:

2008 Hein Vineyard, Anderson Valley: from Mendocino County. Gold Medal, 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

2008 Amber Ridge Vineyard, Russian River Valley: from Sonoma County. Silver Medal, 2010 San Francisco International Wine Competition; 87 points, Wine Enthusiast.

2008 La Encantada Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills: from Santa Barbara County. Silver Medal, 2010 San Francisco International Wine Competition; 92 points, Wine Enthusiast.

Read more about each wine here. The Appellation Three Pack is available through December 31, 2010. This three pack also qualifies for our holiday shipping special, too. So order today, using the coupon code HALF, and you’ll get 50% off ground shipping. To order, go to our purchase page here. Cheers!

Fall Release: 2008 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir from La Encantada Vineyard by valleyfog
2008 Waits-Mast La Encantada Pinot Noir

The new Fall release from Waits-Mast Family Cellars

The Fall release from Waits-Mast Family Cellars is our second vintage from Richard Sanford’s La Encantada Vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills and the last of our three 2008 pinot noirs to be released. The 2008 La Encantada, bottled in September of 2009, is a well-structured wine. At first, it was tightly wound and needed some time. Now, a year later, it is unfolding and showing its colors and ready for your wine-drinking pleasure.

When we brought the grapes in from harvest they were probably the most perfect clusters we had ever seen. Small, tight clusters with small berries. We knew then and there that this wine was going to be a cut above.

No surprise, as this vineyard is well tended to by Sanford, and is certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). The hillside placement of this vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills and the proximity to a mountain gap that exposes it to coastal fog and winds produces a low-vigor environment that delivers a lush cherry, raspberry and dark berry mix.

Okay, so after all that build up, how does it taste? All in all, the best way to describe this wines is “well-rounded.” The aroma speaks of classic central/south coast pinot noir – cranberry, cherry, plum and a touch of forest floor. On the palate, an intense but brooding red and dark berry flavor unfolds, with fine tannins, slight minerality and nice acidity. At this point, all the flavors are starting to integrate quite well, so there’s a lot to ponder in that glass.

With this type of structure and balance, it begs for food. One of our favorite dishes is a skirt steak simply marinated in garlic, soy sauce, maybe a touch of brown sugar and thrown on the grill. We also think that with Thanksgiving not far away, the cranberry and cherry notes in this wine will sing with your favorite holiday meal.

2008 La Encantada Pinot Noir

2008 La Encantada Pinot Noir

Oh, and did we mention that this wine also won a Silver medal in the 2010 San Francisco International Wine Competition?

To avail yourself of such a wonderful wine, you can go online today and purchase it in our webstore. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can find it at Pleasant Hill Wine Merchants and soon, other local retailers and restaurants. We also still have just a couple of cases left of our 2007 La Encantada, so start building your vertical (yes, we have a 2009 La Encantada still in barrel) now.

Technical specifications:

Harvest: October 6, 2008

Clones: 115/667/777

Alcohol content: 14.2% by volume

Fruit: 100% whole berry (no stems)

Fermentation: RC212 yeast

Barrel aging: 12 months in French oak, 33% new (Francois Freres, MT)

Bottled: September, 2009

Production: 25 cases

Drink now through 2017

Price: $47/bottle (750ml)

Release date: September 16, 2010

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.

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.”

Waits-Mast Holiday Specials: Wine and Chocolates and Shipping, Oh My! by Jennifer

As we clean up the remaining dishes (and wine glasses) from Thanksgiving, our thoughts now turn toward the winter holidays, which are now just around the corner. As a little incentive to get you started on your holiday shopping, we’re offering a couple of specials:

Waits-Mast Pinot Noir and Recchiuti Chocolates for the Holidays

For a limited time only we are offering a Holiday gift pack of 2007 Waits-Mast La Encantada Pinot Noir, featuring a 4-piece varietal box from San Francisco’s renowned boutique chocolatier Recchiuti.

Celebrate the holidays by sending a wine gift-set to your foodie friends. The gift set includes one bottle of La Encantada Pinot Noir and one 4-piece box of chocolates, all for $49 + tax/shipping. You’ll find the gift pack listed in our webstore through the holidays.

To lighten the load on your holiday expenses, we’re offering two different specials on shipping: For 50% off shipping for any orders of 11 bottles or less, enter HALF in the coupon code box and hit “submit.” For free ground shipping on a case (12 bottles) or more, enter CASE for the code. The special applies to any products in our store including the Holiday Chocolate Gift Pack. The shipping special runs from November 30, 2009 through December 31, 2009.

As a reminder, if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area you can save shipping costs by picking up your wine. Just select “local pickup” during the purchase process. 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.

“Bangin’ Juice” at Pinot Days Chicago 2009 by Jennifer
Pinot Days Chicago 2009

Pinot Days Chicago 2009

After a busy harvest at the winery focused on sorting, crushing and pressing, we were ready to get out and pour our wines. It reminds us of why we do this – to see the smiles on people’s faces and enjoy the festive atmosphere at our table when people try our wine.

So this weekend, we traveled out for the 3rd annual Pinot Days Chicago to launch new wines and meet up with old friends. It was our second time pouring at the event, and once again it served up lots of happy Chicagoans and colorful compliments.

The event began with a tasting just for the wine, food and hospitality trade from 11 am to 1pm. It was a nice way to meet potential customers from wine shops, restaurants, bars and distributors.

But, since it was relatively mellow, it also was a great warm-up for the big public event and an opportunity for us to get out from behind our table to catch up with friends and try some wines before things got too busy.

The Calm Before the Storm

The Calm Before the Storm

The throngs headed in for the public tasting at 1pm and that’s when the fun really began. We met a bunch of really interesting folks and even saw some fans of our wine who we’d first met at the 2008 event.

We poured our 2007 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from La Encantada Vineyard (Sta. Rita Hills) and also debuted our 2008 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Hein Vineyard (Anderson Valley). We were particularly curious to hear feedback about our latest release as this was the first time that we’d poured it for the masses.

The feedback that we heard about our wines was beyond our expectations and we were delighted to have a bunch of return visitors to our table throughout the day. Like last year, our number one fan Luke ushered tasters over to us, rhapsodizing about our wines.  Thanks, Luke!

Grab a Glass

Grab a Glass

Despite all of the kind words and happy tasters, you never know what people will think and remember about the event after the buzz of the tasting fades. As we feverishly searched Twitter after the event for any mention of us, we couldn’t believe our eyes when we spotted that a food blogger from Chicago Food Whores deemed our 2007 La Encantada her top choice for the entire event.

And she wasn’t the only one enamored with the 2007 La Encantada. Another taster said that it was one of his three favorites at Pinot Days Chicago and a professed non-Pinot Noir lover was also a fan. People said that “it does a lot in your mouth” and “is a symphony on my palate.” We heard taste descriptions mentioning “spice” and “pepper” and a number of people mentioned that they struggled to find words to describe the nose. One guy detected a fungus smell, adding, “I could smell that all day.” Another said it was a “Burgundian nose.”

The Scene at Waits-Mast

The Scene at Waits-Mast

In terms of our new baby, the 2008 Pinot Noir from Hein Vineyard; we got equally glowing reports.

Someone pronounced that it was “by far my favorite” of Pinot Days Chicago. Many mentioned its earthy qualities, saying that “it explodes earth,” is “woody,” “dirty earth,” and “has a lot of pine.” Some detected a hint of cinnamon, calling it “spicy” with a “nice finish.” Like the La Encantada, we also heard that it “smells Burgundian.” Some Anderson Valley fans noted some similarities to Navarro’s Deep End Blend and also mentioned that they were pleased that we didn’t “overdo the oak” and allowed the Anderson Valley fruit to shine. We acknowledged that we were pouring a wine young and one taster respectfully characterized it as “young and rambunctious.”

But, perhaps Brian’s favorite compliment of the day (in regards to our wines overall) was “bangin’ juice!” Right on, Rich! Kind of reminds us of a trip to Napa when a young guy behind the bar proclaimed, “the chard’s the bomb!”

Beyond the love fest (we do have egos after all), we really enjoyed meeting a variety of folks and talking about our wines. More so than last year, we seemed to learn about a number of cool ventures related to wine. Andrew Stiles of Reel Pour is a Cinema Sommelier and Jennifer was intrigued to hear about his series of podcasts focused on pairing wines with films. Additionally, we got a visit from The Broke Wino‘s Samuel Klingberg. His website focuses on wine recommendations for young people and he seemed to have a really fresh, approachable take on wine.

At the end of the day we left Pinot Days with purple hands, a ball-bearing-less pour spout, wine-stained clothing, and a mailing list full of new names. Oh, and a lot of smiles – both ours and everyone else’s. All in all, it was a satisfying day in Chicago.