ValleyFogBlog


2017 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival and an Early Peek into the Vineyards by Jennifer

One of our favorite wine events is the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival. Brian and I started going to the festival probably around the year 2001 and began pouring Waits-Mast Family Cellars wine at the event’s Grand Tasting in 2009, so it’s always a great opportunity to see many friends and fans and meet other Pinot Noir lovers.

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The big tent at Goldeneye Winery during set up for the 2017 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival Grand Tasting. Photo: J. Waits

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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).