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Harvest 2016 Begins by Jennifer
September 6, 2016, 3:55 pm
Filed under: Vineyards | Tags: , , , ,

And we’re off…On Labor Day, the 2016 harvest began for Waits-Mast Family Cellars. We brought in our first pinot noir pick from our little section (the Clos) in Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley yesterday. As predicted, we were exactly one week later than our first pick (also from that vineyard) in 2015.

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Wentzel Vineyard pinot noir grapes. September, 2016. Photo: J. Waits

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Summertime Peek at our Vineyard Sources: Part 3 – Wentzel by Jennifer
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Wentzel Vineyard in July, 2016. Photo: J. Waits

Harvest is getting closer, so I wanted to wrap up my series of vineyard visits from last month. On July 23, we took a trip through three of the Anderson Valley Vineyards that Waits-Mast sources from. I’ve already covered our visits to Deer Meadows Vineyard and Nash Mill Vineyard and in this post I’ll focus on Wentzel Vineyard.

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Harvest 2015 Starts in August – Our Earliest Ever by Jennifer
rain on wire at Wentzel Vineyard. Photo: J. Waits

Rain on a wire at Wentzel Vineyard. Photo: J. Waits

On Saturday, August 29 we got up bright and early and headed over to the Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley for the first Waits-Mast Family Cellars pick of the year. A small amount of rain fell as dawn approached and the sky was still shrouded in fog. The vines glistened with tiny rain drops and just after sunrise, workers were in the fields harvesting grapes.

just-picked Pinot Noir at Wentzel Vineyard in 2015. Photo: J. Waits

Just-picked pinot noir grapes at Wentzel Vineyard during 2015 harvest. Photo: J. Waits

We’ve never picked that early from that vineyard and it’s the first time that Waits-Mast has ever harvested in August. Every year our picks seem to be getting earlier and earlier and many of our growers and winemaking friends in California are reporting that the 2015 harvest seems to be about a week earlier than last year.

Wentzel Vineyard on day of harvest 2015. Photo: J. Waits

Wentzel Vineyard on day of harvest 2015. Photo: J. Waits

So far that is ringing true for us, with our Wentzel Vineyard pick this year occurring 5 days earlier than in 2014. For comparison, we picked Wentzel fruit on September 24 in 2012 and on September 8 in 2013.

On Wednesday, our fruit was harvested at Deer Meadows Vineyard (also in Anderson Valley), exactly a week earlier than in 2014. Looking through our records, it’s a bit of a shock to see that back in 2012, we picked Deer Meadows on September 24 and in 2013 we picked on October 10th.

View from Deer Meadows Vineyard less than a week before harvest 2015. Photo: J. Waits

View from Deer Meadows Vineyard less than a week before harvest 2015. Photo: J. Waits

Sometimes vineyards in nearby locations seem to track with each other as far as ripening and pick dates, but, as we saw in 2013, there are oddball years where our expectations about the order that our vineyards will be picked are completely blown by what we actually see and taste on the vines.

At this point in the season, we are in regular contact with our three remaining growers about where things stand with harvest. It’s likely that we will have at least one more harvest this week and will probably be done completely within the next few weeks, perhaps before we would have even started our first pick back in 2012. It’s hard to believe…



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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2013 Harvest is On… by Jennifer
Wentzel Vineyard Harvest 2013

Harvest 2013 at Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley (photo: J. Waits)

Just when 2013 seemed like it would be an uneventful, dare we say, “normal” growing season, we were tossed a few interesting twists. It got me wondering if there really is such a thing as a normal year. Certainly 2013 is less stressful than some other years in which we had atypically cold summers. Rather than waiting and waiting for fruit to ripen this year, we ended up harvesting 2 weeks earlier than last year in some cases. But some of the odd twists include bringing in fruit from our coolest vineyard (always last to pick) prior to fruit from one of our warmer sites.

Our first Waits-Mast harvest of the year was from Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley. In a nice bit of serendipity, we were up in Mendocino County to participate in WineSong and the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir kick-off tasting the weekend of September 7-8. In the course of our vineyard checks that weekend, we learned that we’d be in the area on the day of the Wentzel pick. Continue reading



2012 Harvest Begins in Anderson Valley by Jennifer
Fruit on the Vine at Deer Meadows Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

Fruit on the Vine at Deer Meadows Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

Over the weekend we made a trip up to Anderson Valley and Mendocino to check in on some of the vineyards that we source fruit from for Waits-Mast Family Cellars. We figured that harvest was getting close, but we didn’t realize just how close. Based on visits to two of the vineyards, we decided that Monday, September 24 was the day to start harvesting some of our fruit.

On Saturday we toured through Deer Meadows Vineyard with owner Rich Savoy. We are thrilled to be working with Deer Meadows again after crafting an amazing wine from the vineyard in 2009. It was a toasty warm day when we visited and we heard throughout the weekend that this warm-up came after some recent cool weather. As we drove up to see the vineyard at 1600 feet above Boonville, we passed a trio of vultures. Two of them looked quite dramatic, with their wings spread far apart. We assumed they were guarding a fresh kill, but Rich said that they were probably just sunning themselves.

Collecting Samples from Deer Meadows (Photo: J. Waits)

Collecting Samples from Deer Meadows (Photo: J. Waits)

When we got to the vineyard, Rich was out pulling cluster samples from various sections of the vineyard. We met up with him to continue the process and taste some berries. After pulling samples of the various clones of Pinot Noir that we get from his vineyard, we convened in his outdoor lab in order to check out sugar and acid levels for the fruit. First we measured the weight of various cluster sizes, then we took a look at sugar levels of the samples. Finally, by using Rich’s small manual grape press, we combined all of the grapes in order to get overall readings for acid and sugar.

Brian's new refractometer (Photo: J. Waits)

Brian’s new refractometer (Photo: J. Waits)

Brian recently purchased a shiny new refractometer, so we were able to use it for the first time, comparing its readings to those obtained by Rich’s optical refractometer. Our daughter, who has been learning all about measurement in her first grade class, was also put to work. Although she complained vociferously about the heat, the bugs, and about being hungry; she enjoyed tasting the sweet grapes and relished getting an opportunity to squeeze juice onto the refractometers.

Oppenlander Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

Oppenlander Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

On Sunday we made it to three more vineyards: Oppenlander, Nash Mill (a new vineyard for us this year), and Wentzel. After driving out to Comptche and tasting the grapes at Oppenlander (and getting confirmation from our 6-year-old super taster), it was clear that they still had a ways to go. Our sugar readings confirmed that. Brian walked the vineyards and tasted through the rows at Nash Mill in Anderson Valley and was confident that the fruit there still needed more time to ripen as well.

Wentzel Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

Wentzel Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

Our final stop of the weekend was Wentzel Vineyard, up in the hills above Philo. Our very first commercial release was from Wentzel Vineyard fruit in 2007 and it was magnificent, even grabbing a spot in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Wines of 2009 feature. We didn’t have access to the vineyard in 2008 and 2009, but have been thrilled to be sourcing from Wentzel again since 2010.

Owner Roland Wentzel was there when we stopped by on Sunday afternoon and he drove us out to see the fruit. When we got to the section of the vineyard that we source our fruit from, we were startled by what sounded like gun shots. Roland explained that he had a propane cannon set up to scare off bears. Set on a timer, the cannon emitted loud blasts every 5 minutes that definitely made us jump every time we heard them.

Roland also showed us additional bear-proofing in the form of a solar-powered electric fence that had peanut butter slathered on it. Last year a bear showed up for the first time at Wentzel Vineyard and made off with a bunch of the harvest. When the grape-loving bear returned again this year for a small snack in the vineyard a few weeks ago, Roland decided to employ the cannon and electric fence in order to keep the vineyard safe from predators.

Peanut Butter on Electric Fence at Wentzel Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

Peanut Butter on Electric Fence at Wentzel Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

While walking through the rows and tasting the fruit at Wentzel (our daughter was dying to eat an entire cluster), we collected samples to take back to Roland’s kitchen lab. After doing a bunch of readings, it seemed clear that we should harvest the following day.

Brian samples Wentzel fruit (Photo: J. Waits)

Brian samples Wentzel fruit (Photo: J. Waits)

So, on Monday, we had our first harvests of the year. We picked one clone of Pinot Noir at Deer Meadows and picked the entire field blend that we use from Wentzel Vineyard. Both picks arrived in San Francisco late in the afternoon on Monday looking beautiful. We hand-sorted all of the fruit and both sorts were fast and easy. We picked out leaves and an occasional raisin, but for the most part the berries were gorgeous and delicious.

Bin full of fruit from Deer Meadows Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

Bin full of fruit from Deer Meadows Vineyard (Photo: J. Waits)

We’re not sure what next week will have in store, but we’re carefully monitoring all of the remaining vineyards. We’re expecting additional clones from Deer Meadows and are still waiting to begin harvesting from our blocks at Oppenlander, Nash Mill, and Mariah Vineyards (a Mendocino Ridge vineyard that is new for us this year).



Barrel tasting 2010 vintage Pinot Noir by valleyfog
pinot noir barrel tasting

Barrel-tasting the 2010 vintage

The time is nigh – we’re getting ready to bottle our 2010 vintage at long last. As you might remember, 2010 was a very cool vintage, with late spring rains and a cool summer. There were a couple of heat waves in August and then in September and October, which caused a bit of a scramble to pick the fruit before sugars spiked. After closely tracking Brix and pH, visiting the vineyards and poking, pulling and tasting the berries, in the end it came down to a nod and a smile between us and each grower – “let’s pick!”

16 months later, after the wines have gone through fermentation, racking from new to neutral barrels and resting comfortably in the winery, they are ready. Before bottling, we do a final barrel tasting to see how the wines taste and if any final blending is necessary to round out any rough edges.

The challenge when you make small lot, single-vineyard Pinot Noir – lots of either two or four barrels like we do – you don’t have that much to blend in or out. You’re really banking on the vineyard to provide interesting, unique and desirable characteristics – it was even more of a gamble when only made one barrel of a particular vineyard. As we tasted through each of the barrels across the four different vineyards and three different appellations of Pinot Noir, each tasted different, displaying variations on the Pinot Noir theme, and really didn’t require any blending.

In fact, we’re going to leave them as is. That’s our goal in the first place with making single-vineyard Pinot Noir – to retain the site-specific characteristics of each wine, rather than try to blend together the perfect Pinot Noir. We are extremely pleased with all of our 2010s and feel like they are ready for bottling, and soon after going through bottle shock, ready for our fans to enjoy. Here are the tasting notes for the different wines:

2010 Wentzel Vineyard, Anderson Valley: We’re excited for the return of Wentzel, our 2007 effort being the only other vintage we had made from this organically-farmed Anderson Valley vineyard up in the hills above Goldeneye. And a winning effort at that – it was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top Wines of 2009. We worked with Roland Wentzel to acquire some fruit from a small hillside parcel called “the clos”, which has a mix of Dijon clones 114, 115, 667, 777. From our tasting today, we picked up on aromas of toast, sweet cherry and raspberry with a bright cherry and juicy palate, lively acidity making it dance along to the finish. There is a purity to this wine and is very much reflective of that red-fruit driven Anderson Valley Pinot Noir that we love. Read more about our harvest and crush of this wine here.

2010 barrel tasting notes

Random scribblings on the 2010s

2010 Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County: this is our second vintage from Oppenlander, a small vineyard situated northwest of Anderson Valley, closer to the coast. It has much cooler daytime temperatures and is harvested later than most Anderson Valley wines. This one also has great acidity to it – that oceanic acidity we’ve picked up on before with Oppenlander – and also feels slightly denser than the Wentzel. The wine is a beautiful violet and crimson color and is showing some nice earth and spice notes on the nose, with a sweet cherry palate that has some tannins and chewiness to it. The Oppenlander and the Wentzel will do well with age and we’ll likely release them later in the fall. Read more about Oppenlander and the 2010 harvest here.

2010 Archer Family Vineyard, Russian River Valley: formerly owned by the late Gary Archer, this vineyard is close to Amber Ridge, another Russian River vineyard with which we’ve had great success. We worked with the Dijon 828 clone from this vineyard; 828 tends to have a more dense color pigmentation and lower pH (= higher acids). This wine is ready to come out of its shell – nice herbal and red-fruit notes on the nose, clean cherry and strawberry on the mid-palate and a juicy finish. Expect to see this released in the Spring/Summer timeframe.

2010 Londer Vineyard, Anderson Valley: we made four barrels total from Londer, with a mix of 115 and Swan clones. As we tasted through each glass representing each clone and new(since racked to neutral) and neutral oak barrels, each was displaying an interesting component, from earthiness to tea leaves to chalkiness to bright and pretty flower petals. In the fifth glass, we combined all four barrels and this wine really comes together beautifully. Each of those elements, and others, mix together well to create a Pinot Noir with bright red fruit and a depth of character. Read more about the 2010 harvest and crush of our Londer Vineyard Pinot Noir here.

Jennifer Waits barrel tasting

Jennifer searches for the right adjective

Wow. As we’ve said before, the waiting is the hardest part. You can do your best to respect the fruit in the winemaking process, let the wine take its course and hope everything turns out right. Especially after a stressful vintage due to the cool weather, these wines strike a wonderful balance and have turned out really well.

The 2010 Pinot Noir will continue to evolve, of course, and on release of each vineyard-designate wine, we’ll go into more detail and description in our tasting notes. Until then, we’re thoroughly enjoying our 2009 vintage, as our many of our customers, restaurants, retailers and the press. Head to our web store to see what strikes your fancy and order some Pinot Noir today. After reading all these tasting notes, you must be thirsty!