Bright and dark ruby in color with aromas of briar, tobacco, and brandied black fruit with a hint of older oak. Black plum flavors with sage and black and white pepper notes. Earthy and full, with a tannin understructure that hints at a black tea component. Full and pleasureable. Very broad with plenty of muscle, juiciness and silk. Still evolving. Should cellar well, drinking window through 2015. Or, drink now, of course. – Nikolai Stez, winemaker & owner of Woodenhead
Only 254 cases produced.
The Russians from Russian River Valley
Nikolai Stez and Zina Bower
Woodenhead Vintners was created by two first-generation Americans of Russian heritage. Nikolai Stez is a ruggedly handsome guy with a ponytail, which should tell you volumes about his fierce independence and how he came to get the affectionate nickname "Woodenhead" from a previous girlfriend. He's passionate about his trade.
Zina Bower is part owner of Woodenhead, in charge of marketing, sales, tasting room operations and the wine club. She's warm and vivacious, and no less passionate about the wine making business. Having moved to the wine country in 1992 from Southern California, she took viticulture and wine production classes from Satna Rosa Junior College and worked at Williams Selyem, Hop Kiln, Vigil Vineyards and Diamond Creek Vineyards.
Interestingly, both Zina's and Nikolai's fathers picked grapes in the Central Valley circa 1950 as one of their first jobs when the two brothers came to the New World from Russia. Born in San Francisco, Nikolai spent many summers at the family "dacha" (vacation home) at Russian River. Nikolai's and Zina's parents often made Kvas, a popular fermented drink in Russia, made from dried bread and sometimes apples or other fruit. Nikolai started making wine in college, and his fervor never stopped. "Living in the area, I was always around it and I wanted to know how to do it."
A career in carpentry and contracting was shortened by a back injury, which led Nikolai making wine full time. He took classes in horticulture, viticulture and winemaking from Santa Rosa Junior College as well as UC Davis. In 1982 he began helping with the crush at Williams Selyem Winery and eventually worked as the assistant winemaker there.
In 1985 Nikolai won a wine tasting championship at Greenwood Ridge Winery, which affirmed he has the palate of a true wine aficionado. He learned his winemaking skills from Burt Williams, a legend in the world of California Pinot Noir. In 1998 Williams Selyem was sold and in 1999 Woodenhead Vintners was born. Nikolai took to heart what he learned from the master and has since gently added his own touches to that style. His wines have focused on Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, but he has also made some truly memorable and different kinds of wines. For example, his French Colombard is a treasure and is poured at many oyster houses along the coast. His wines have received critical acclaim from many, including the much coveted Pigs and Pinot championship at Dry Creek Kitchen that is sponsored by the Wine Spectator. These wines have wone numerous gold medals from the San Francisco Chronicle and the Sonoma County Harvest Fair.
Nikolai is happy to be one of those winemakers flying below the radar: He doesn't seek the spotlight; he even shies away from it. He excels in finding great sources of grapes and, in many cases, vineyards that were totally unknown in wine circles. As the "grape whisperer" that he is, he then knows how to listen to the grapes and coax out the perfect expression, resulting in wines of great personality.The Russians from the Russian River Valley are making great wines that have been acclaimed by wine peers, those lucky to be members of the Woodenhead wine club or to have visited their beautiful tasting room overlooking the scenic Russian River Valley. These wines will always be scare because the goal is not to make quantity, but to make wines that make you sit up and notice that something really special just happened when you took your first sip.
We do have a tasting room with a beautiful view of the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. The address of the tasting room is 5700 River Road, Santa Rosa, California and we are open to the public Thursday thru Monday, 10:30 to 4:30. Our mailing address for billing purposes is PO Box 1448, Forestville, CA 95436.