What a strange year. The first Waits-Mast Family Cellars harvest for the 2017 vintage was on September 15 and then we ended up with an 11 day break, while waiting for fruit to develop further. On September 26, we brought in Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc from Mariah Vineyard in Mendocino Ridge. Two days later, we were done; with Pinot Noir picks from Oppenlander Vineyard and Nash Mill Vineyard arriving in the winery on September 28.
Waits-Mast winemaker Shalini Sekhar loads empty bins onto Mariah Vineyards’ owner Dan Dooling’s truck. Photo: J. Waits/Waits-Mast Family Cellars
On the day that our Mariah Vineyards fruit arrived, we ended up processing fruit a little differently than last year. Although white wines typically go straight into the press, we did a quick hand sort of the Sauvignon Blanc fruit, removing some purple berries that were a sign of possible botrytis. Whole clusters of grapes …
At last, 2017 harvest is underway for Waits-Mast Family Cellars, as our first pick of the season took place at Wentzel Vineyard on Friday, September 15. It’s been a weird few weeks of weather and due to high temperatures, many of our winery friends are much further along with their harvests; some have picked fruit from all of their vineyards already.
Pinot Noir clusters from Wentzel Vineyard from September 15, 2017 pick. Photo: J. Waits/Waits-Mast Family Cellars
Our theme this week seems to be “hurry up and wait,” as we’ve had estimated harvest dates shifting on seemingly a daily basis. We had expected to be bringing in some fruit today, but now that’s up in the air after a crew canceled. A major challenge this year is labor, with many of our growers talking of difficulties in finding people to work harvest, particularly due to a decrease in …
Our house is finally cooling down to the 70s after several weeks of hot September weather in San Francisco. It has been much the same up in Mendocino County, although there are already signs of fall, with a smattering of leaves starting to change color in the vineyards.
Leaves changing color at Oppenlander Vineyard on September 9, 2017. Photo: J. Waits/Waits-Mast Family Cellars
While up in Anderson Valley and the Mendocino-area for the Winesong tasting events last weekend, we did our final pre-harvest check-ins for the year at our Waits-Mast Family Cellars vineyard sources. The hectic (but fun) few days started with the Winesong Pinot Noir Celebration in Little River, California on Friday, leading into the Winesong tasting at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens on Saturday. Our wines were well-received and I was particularly pleased to hear from one taster, “this would be my porch drink,” when referring to the …
Over the past few days, a major heatwave brought 100+ degree temperatures all over the San Francisco Bay Area and up north into Mendocino County. San Francisco reached a record high of 106 degrees and friends in Anderson Valley reported that the mercury topped out at more than 110 degrees. During our visits to all four of our Waits-Mast Family Cellars vineyard sources in Mendocino County a week ago, the weather was already hot, even at our traditionally cooler sites.
Anderson Valley on August 25, 2017. Photo: J. Waits/Waits-Mast
Grapes had matured considerably since our visit in July, although there was quite a bit of variation, even within one vineyard. As is typically the case, some Pinot Noir clones ripen more quickly than others.
Nash Mill Vineyard on August 26, 2017. Photo: J. Waits/Waits-Mast
Additionally, the geography and orientation of rows within a vineyard can lead to different timing for …
Before bringing some updates from our vineyard visits from last weekend (spoiler alert: things are heating up, with harvest drawing near), we wanted to flash back to our final late July vineyard tour. During a quick visit to Nash Mill Vineyard on Saturday, July 22, we continued with our series of check-ins at sites from which Waits-Mast sources pinot noir grapes. As we saw at Wentzel Vineyard earlier in the day, the fruit at Nash Mill has developed considerably since our trip to Anderson Valley in May.
Nash Mill Vineyard on July 22, 2017. Photo: J. Waits
On the May trip, the berries were tiny, contrasted with the July visit, when plump green grapes were visible, with much leafier canopies. As was the case at Wentzel, some vineyard work was taking place during our visit, with extraneous foliage getting pruned from each row.
On Sunday, July 23, we trekked up to Mendocino Ridge to take a look at the progress of the fruit at Mariah Vineyards, another vineyard that we source from for Waits-Mast Family Cellars. It was a rough, nearly hour-long journey there from Anderson Valley, as the mountain road was full of cracks and pot holes. One stretch narrowed to one lane, as a portion of the road had been washed out during the rainy year. While a harrowing ride for us city-dwellers, the beautiful and delicious grapes at Mariah’s 2400 foot elevation vineyard are well worth the trip.
Mariah Vineyards on July 23, 2017. Photo: J. Waits
Although we arrived at the vineyard before 11am, it was already a hot day. Owner Vicki Tomola met up with us, taking us through the blocks of the pinot noir and sauvignon blanc from which we get fruit. Similar to what we saw …
Seasonal changes are in full effect in Mendocino County as we hit the peak of summer. Temperatures are rising, the hills have gone from green to amber, and grapes are maturing on the vines. Looking ahead to harvest, this weekend was an excellent time to check in on a few of the vineyards that Waits-Mast sources fruit from.
Pinot Noir grapes at Wentzel Vineyard on July 22, 2017. Photo: J. Waits
When we stopped by Wentzel Vineyard in Anderson Valley back in May, flowering had begun and we spotted some incipient berries on the vine. The vineyards were growing vigorously due to a rainy season, with long, leafy shoots sprouting off the trellises. Checking back a few months later on the morning of Saturday, July 22, things are quite different, with large clusters of green pinot noir grapes on the vines and dry grass replacing the tall, verdant blades …
We’ve always said that Waits-Mast Family Cellars ONLY produces pinot noir, but that’s not entirely true. We love white wines and have been toying with the idea of expanding our repertoire for awhile, even dabbling in micro batches. Those non-pinot noir forays in 2009 and 2014 led to two interesting wines that were crafted for us by other talented winemakers.
Waits-Mast bottling, February 2017. Photo: J. Waits
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.
The big tent at Goldeneye Winery during set up for the 2017 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival Grand Tasting. Photo: J. Waits
At this year’s 20th anniversary event, held May 19-21, we not only shared our wines at the Grand Tasting, but also co-hosted a winemaker dinner held at Scharffenberger Cellars. Additionally, we visited a couple of the Anderson Valley vineyards that we source fruit from, including Wentzel Vineyard and Nash Mill Vineyard.
Bottle of Waits-Mast Pinot Noir at our table at the winemaker dinner at Scharffenberger Cellars. Photo: J. Waits
The rosé is a mere babe, crafted from a blend of luscious pinot noir juices harvested last August and September from some of our favorite Mendocino County vineyards. Nash Mill Vineyard, Mariah Vineyard and Oppenlander Vineyard make up the blend, which is being released just in time for this week’s heat spell. We only made 20 cases of this wine, so enjoy it while you can.
2016 Waits-Mast Rose of Pinot Noir just off the bottling line, February, 2017. Photo: J. Waits
Our other new release is the 2014 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Mariah Vineyard in Mendocino Ridge. It’s hard to believe that back in August, 2014, we were wandering …
On Thursday we had another Waits-Mast fruit pick, this time some Pinot Noir grapes from Mariah Vineyard in Mendocino Ridge. It was a jam-packed day at the winery (we make our wine at Roar Wines in San Francisco) and a particularly hectic day for our winemaker. She awoke in the wee hours for a grape pick for another winery (complicated by a tree falling in the vineyard too!) and spent the day sorting that fruit and doing other harvest work. She wrapped up in time to brave rush hour traffic, meeting us at our San Francisco facility by about 6pm.
Mariah grapes hanging out in the cold room before sorting on Sept. 15, 2016. Photo: J. Waits
After picking the fruit in the middle of the night, Mariah’s owner Dan Dooling delivered it midday and the staff at Roar greeted him and moved our bins of fruit into the winery’s cold …
We are just back from a long weekend in Mendocino/Anderson Valley for several Winesong-related tasting events. It’s also the thick of harvest, which necessitated a few vineyard visits as well as picks at another two. Meanwhile, Brian celebrated a milestone birthday, so we tried to squeeze in some cake amid all of the wine work.
Birthday sign for Brian at the Andiron Inn. Photo: J. Waits
We truly love crafting wine and it’s at this time of the year that we are particularly grateful to everyone who is helping to make that possible, including our dedicated grape growers, our talented winemaker Shalini Sekhar, the hard-working staff at the winery and everyone who has assisted with the never-ending logistics, including hauling fruit and pick bins for us. We couldn’t do it without any of you.
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.
Wentzel Vineyard pinot noir grapes. September, 2016. Photo: J. Waits
Owner Roland Wentzel kindly made the trek down from his Philo-based vineyard to San Francisco with two bins full of grapes for us and while we awaited his arrival, Brian and I realized that this will mark our 10th harvest as a commercial winery. Coincidentally, our very first commercial vintage in 2007 was also a pinot noir from Wentzel Vineyard. Time flies.
Waits-Mast winemaker Shalini Sekhar (on forklift) greeting Roland Wentzel. Photo: J. Waits
The fruit looked gorgeous and hand sorting it was a breeze, with just a …
Fruit at Wentzel Vineyard on August 28, 2016. Photo: J. Waits
Over the weekend we headed north to Mendocino County to see how all of the Waits-Mast pinot noir vineyard sources are doing. Harvest is in full swing for many wineries already and we are getting close to picking our first fruit. We trekked up to Mendocino Ridge first to visit Mariah Vineyard. Fog was rolling in as we arrived at the vineyard on Saturday morning and owners Dan and Vicki Dooling told us that it was the first fog that they’d seen in about two months. We walked the rows with them and based on the color (there were still some green berries), taste of the fruit and sugar measurements (our winemaker Shalini brought along her portable refractometer), the Doolings are estimating that harvest for us is about 2 to 3 weeks away.
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.
Located in the hills above Philo, Wentzel Vineyard is a magical place surrounded by woods. Touring our specific sites requires a short hike up a road and then uphill through vineyards. Along the way we passed the Wentzels’ chicken house and then journeyed near a tree stump that was riddled with acorn-stuffed holes. Nature was all around us, reminding us of the many inhabitants of the area, including lizards, hawks, coyotes, fox, and bears.
Acorn-stuffed tree trunk at Wentzel Vineyard. Photo: J. Waits
We were able to check in with three of our vineyard sources while we were up in Anderson Valley on July 23. After visiting Deer Meadows Vineyard in the morning and a necessary lunch break in Boonville, we headed over to see Nash Mill Vineyard, another of the fruit sources for Waits-Mast Pinot Noir.
Nash Mill Road sign. Photo: J. Waits
Owned by Husch Vineyards’ Zach Robinson and his wife Krista, Nash Mill is a 4 acre vineyard in the cooler, northern end of Anderson Valley. A few miles off of highway 128, it’s surrounded by woods. Because of the cooler climate, Nash Mill is typically one of our last harvests every year. As expected, we didn’t spot too many purple berries (an indication of ripening fruit) during our stroll through the vineyard.
White House menu for Singapore State Dinner, August 2016
We are beyond thrilled that a Waits-Mast wine is being served at the White House tonight during a state dinner in honor of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The 2012 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir from Deer Meadows Vineyard in Anderson Valley will be paired with the main course of American Wagyu Beef with Marrow Crust, Roasted Yam, Wilted Kale and Heirloom Carrots.
In an interesting coincidence, Singapore is the only country besides the United States where our wines are available in restaurants, as several Waits-Mast Pinot Noir wines (including the 2012 from Deer Meadows Vineyard that is being served at the White House) are at restaurants that are part of the Marina Bay Sands group, including Spago by Wolfgang Puck in Singapore.
As has been the case since the 1970s, all of the wines served at state dinners are American. We …
Visiting Deer Meadows Vineyard with Rich Savoy in July, 2016. Photo: J. Waits
A week ago, on July 23, we trekked up to Anderson Valley to take a look at how a few of the Waits-Mast vineyard sources are progressing. Although it was a warm weekend for us fog-loving San Francisco denizens, the heat was not as unbearable as it’s been in much of the country this summer. In fact, it’s been a relatively cool year in Anderson Valley, which means that harvest is likely later than it was in 2015.
Color starting to show on grapes at Deer Meadows Vineyard in July, 2016. Photo: J. Waits
Our first stop was to Deer Meadows Vineyard, which is a lovely drive up into the hills above Anderson Valley (the vineyard sits at about 1600 feet). Owner Rich Savoy met up with us and took us on a walk through the …
Within 10 days of the start of the Waits-Mast 2015 harvest, we are now 3/5th of the way through our picks. Mariah Vineyards in Mendocino Ridge was harvested on Sunday night and vineyard owner Dan Dooling hand-delivered the beautiful fruit to us in San Francisco yesterday morning before things really heated up in the city.
Pinot Noir grapes from Mariah Vineyards arrives on Sept. 7. Photo: J. Waits
Although it was a bit quieter in San Francisco due to Labor Day, the street that the winery is on was still full of activity, with local firefighters and emergency workers stopping for coffee at the newish Philz across the street and trash collectors picking up loads just as Dooling arrived with his large truck.
Truck arrives from Mariah Vineyards. Photo: J. Waits
Labor Day wasn’t a holiday at the winery, which was full of winemakers and harvest interns who were all …
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 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.