Waits-Mast Wine Tasting Events: Spring/Summer 2012 by valleyfog

I was riding my bike to work the other day and smelled the aroma of fresh-cut grass. That smells like Spring to me. Growing up in Indiana, that smell becomes familiar usually in May or June. It’s still February, but Spring feels like it is around the corner, especially with a mild winter we have are having here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

We hope the mildness continues in your neck of the woods — apparently Chicago has no snow on the ground, which is quite odd for February — and throughout the summer and fall. To keep us all occupied until then, Waits-Mast has a number of tasting events across the Spring and Summer. Here’s the list of what we have lined up currently and when we have more, we’ll update this post:

Tasting Events:

March 25, 2012: 12 – 4pm, Reserve Room SF. Reserve Room SF is a tasting event at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio where you can taste and purchase wines that are hard to find or try anywhere else. Waits-Mast will be pouring our Pinot Noir at the event alongside famed Napa winemaker Heidi Barrett and a number of small and cult wine producers from Northern California. Try our Pinots and then sample the Cabernets and Bourdeaux blends of La Sirena (Barrett’s label), Fantesca, Troll Bridge Cellars and about 30+ other boutique wineries. We have arranged for a considerable discount on tickets for Waits-Mast fans. Go to this link to take advantage of this discount code:

Location: Golden Gate Club, Presidio of San Francisco

Tickets on sale now at:

Glasses at the ready in Anderson Valley

May 18 – 20, 2012: Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival. Waits-Mast returns to Anderson Valley for the fourth time to pour at the Pinot Noir Festival (read our recap from last year) and will be participating in more events this year. We are tentatively set to co-host a winemaker dinner on Saturday night the 19th – more to come in a future post. When it comes to Pinot Noir, our heart is in Anderson Valley and we’re excited to pour our 2009 vintage wines from this appellation and at least one 2010 vintage Pinot Noir that should be released by May. Tickets go on sale March 15 and we recommend that you purchase early as tickets for dinners and other events across the weekend sell out quickly!

Location: Anderson Valley (Boonville, Philo), Mendocino County, CA

Tickets: on sale 3/15/12 at

June 11, 2012: Taste of Mendocino. The second year of this tasting, Taste of Mendocino is hosted by the Mendocino Winegrape and Wine Commission (MWWC) and Visit Mendocino County and is focused on promoting America’s Greenest Wine Region to Bay Area trade and media and supporting and promoting the natural and agricultural heritage of the entire county of Mendocino. In addition to a long list of Mendocino-based and focused wineries, other exhibitors will include food, travel, lodging, and other local artisans and businesses.

Location: Terra SF Gallery, 511 Harrison Street, San Francisco


June 16, 2012: Pinot Days San Francisco. Gird your liver because at Pinot Days,  you will have the opportunity to sample Pinot Noir from over 200 producers including Waits-Mast Family Cellars. Get there early if you want to hit every winery on your wish list as smaller or more exclusive producers like ourselves tend to pour out our wines pretty quickly. Tickets are not on sale yet, but stay posted as time gets closer.

Location: Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, CA


There may be additional tasting events throughout the Spring and Summer, so keep an eye on our blog as well as our Facebook and Twitter pages for up to date info. We look forward to seeing you at one of these events!


“Tastes Like Fall in a Glass”: Pinot Days Chicago 2010 by Jennifer

Before the Crowds Arrived at Pinot Days Chicago 2010

After a cold summer and fall in San Francisco, it was a treat to fly into Chicago last week during their fall heat wave. The 70 degree temperatures when we arrived were a lovely welcome and were perhaps indicative of what a great weekend we had in store for us.

This was our 3rd time at Pinot Days Chicago and it’s always been one of our favorite events as we have family, friends, and a growing number of customers in the Chicago area. This year we decided to do a few more events than usual, and started things off with a distributor-only tasting on Thursday, Nov. 11th. We’re still not sure if we’re big enough for a distributor yet, but it was great to meet and greet and get some feedback on our wines. Following that event we headed over to the Eno Wine Room at the Fairmont Millennium Park for a special “Meet the Winemakers” tasting. Several wineries were dispersed throughout the lobby bar and folks were invited to stop by to taste the wines and chat with the winemakers. A few of our friends came to the Eno Wine Room tasting, so it was nice to see some familiar faces.

The Crew from the Chicago Food Whores blog

The big event was on Saturday, November 13th, with both the public Pinot Days tasting and trade tasting taking place at Navy Pier. We were floored by the number of people who came out for Pinot Days this year. For the first time ever, we completely poured through all of the sample bottles of wine that we brought. In case you’re curious, we poured our 2008 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir from La Encantada Vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills and our 2008 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir from Amber Ridge Vineyard in Russian River.

We got some great feedback on the wines, but things were so hectic that Jennifer wasn’t able to capture as many great quotes as in 2009 and 2008. Tasters seemed to enjoy both wines, saying that the 2008 La Encantada “tastes like fall in a glass,” with “great acidity” and a lovely aroma. One person said that the La Encantada was in their “top 3” wines of the entire day at Pinot Days, with others commenting, “this is my favorite so far.” In terms of the 2008 Amber Ridge, people said that it was “velvety,” had a “great aroma,” pointed out that “this could be a staple [wine]” and that it is “very food-friendly” and could pair with an entree right through to dessert.

Probably most gratifying of all, we had several people stop by at the end of the day (when things were starting to get sloppy at Pinot Days!) and said that after being around the entire room our wines were still their favorites.  It was equally satisfying to meet people who had been to our table in past years, several of whom had bought our wines before.

Jennifer, our #1 Fan Luke, and Brian (Photo by Paul Riismandel)

Our “#1 Fan” Luke came by again this year and greeted us by exclaiming, “These are Alchemists!” He’s a charmer and we swear we don’t have him on our payroll, although his pronouncements about our wine would make great ad copy. He also said to us that our winemaking project is “like a cause.” We couldn’t agree more!

After talking all day, Jennifer was also happy to have a taster tell her, “You don’t have to talk, the wine speaks for itself,” especially since she was choking on a chocolate-covered espresso bean at the time. Sweet!

Thanks to Luke and to everyone else for making us feel like rock stars this past weekend. We’re not sure that we’ll be able to quit our day jobs just yet (as one taster predicted), but all of the kind words at Pinot Days Chicago surely made our day.

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day In Napa Valley by valleyfog

Outside the Rutherford Grange

Waits-Mast Family Cellars (admittedly a non-Irish-sounding winery name) poured our Pinot Noir at “When Irish Wines Are Smiling,” a wine tasting — okay, really, it was a kick-ass St. Patrick’s Day party — held in Rutherford, Napa Valley, last Sunday.

The whole event was organized around California wineries with Irish heritage, inspired by the Wine Geese, a long tradition of Irish emigrants involved in winegrowing and winemaking ventures all over the world.

We both have Irish heritage, with the most immediate connection being from Brian’s late mother who was born and raised in County Louth, Ireland. We also had just recently been back to visit Ireland and learned all about the Wine Geese and vineyards and winemaking that currently exist in this small, perennially damp country. So as soon as we heard about this event linking two of our favorite things – Ireland and wine – we were all over it.

In addition to Waits-Mast (a very British and German name combination), 15 other California wineries with Irish heritage poured their wonderful wines. Included in the event were Fitzpatrick, Murphy, Sullivan, Taylor, Irish Vineyards, Harrington, Brown Estate, Roche, Twomey and other notable Napa and Sonoma wineries. Chefs Kelley MacDonald from the Napa Valley Wine Train and Bob Hurley from Hurley’s, along with Kerrygold (yum: Irish butter and cheese), kept our bellies full with hearty Irish sustenance.

The view from our table

We usually don’t do too much to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, despite our deep Irish connections. Not that we don’t like beer – the Guinness and the Harp are great – it’s just a mob scene in most of the pubs/bars in San Francisco. But this year, the Irish Wines event was a perfect match for us. Not only did we get to pour our wine for a great crowd of people, we got to celebrate ourselves by enjoying other “Irish” wines, great food from local Irish/American chefs, Irish trad music and step dancing. For a mini-tour of the event, click on the video below.

We took advantage of the event to preview two of our unreleased 2008 Waits-Mast Pinot Noirs (one from the Amber Ridge vineyard in Russian River Valley and the other from La Encantada vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills) in addition to pouring our 2008 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Hein Vineyard in Anderson Valley. It was helpful to get the early reaction on the two unreleased wines and get a sense for which one was ready for prime time. We’ll be revealing details on our Spring release soon, but in the meantime, here are some of the reactions that we heard about our wines at last week’s tasting. As always, there was almost an even split across tasters in terms of the wine that they preferred:

2008 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Hein Vineyard, Anderson Valley:

After winking at Jennifer, one taster said, “that’s really nice.” Others commented that it was “definitely the best Pinot I’ve had here,” “more Burgundian” and “earthy.”

2008 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Amber Ridge Vineyard, Russian River:

Tasters said, “this is the nicest one here,” mentioned its “pure Pinot fruit,” described it as a “Pinot for all occasions,” with “a really clean finish,” saying “it’s exquisite” and “spicier” than the others they tried.

2008 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, La Encantada Vineyard, Sta Rita Hills:

One taster called this the “wine of the day,” with others commenting “that’s dirty…that’s what I look for, that earthy component,” and pointing out its “bright cranberry acid,” saying it’s “a little more complex,”  and “stands out from nose to palate.” Another added, “that’s good hooch.”

While it was a great wine tasting event, in the end it was really about celebrating our Irish heritage in a way that was both close to the homeland and close to home. And true to the spirit of Ireland, the people — the organizers, the wineries, the food purveyors, musicians and dancers and most importantly the attendees with their bua na cainte (gift of gab) — made the event.

Special thanks to Andrew Healy of Three Rock Wine Co. and Becky Tyner of Small Lot Wine Tours who worked in their free time and overtime to pull the event together and make it such a smashing success. We can’t wait for next year’s Irish wines tasting!

“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.