Woodenhead

Owner(s) Zina Bower, Nikolai Stez
Web site www.woodenheadwine.com
 
Link to this site
Woodenhead

My reverence for Burt Williams and Ed Selyem have led me to many spin offs such as WesMar, Brogan Cellars and Papapietro Perry, wineries that have achieved distinction with Pinot Noir on their own. Nikolai Stez owes his inspiration to Williams Selyem as well. He worked 17 harvests at Williams Selyem, and as an assistant winemaker for Burt Williams, learned from the master.

Growing up on the Russian River, Nikolai was drawn to wine at an early age and began some home winemaking while still in college. His formal winemaking education consisted of attending the Horticulture and Viticulture program at Santa Rosa Junior College and attending a few classes at UC Davis. He began to seriously make garage wines in 1986 while being mentored at Williams Selyem. With the sale of Williams Selyem Winery in 1997, he moved on and started his own label, Woodenhead. His domestic partner, Zina Bower, is equally passionate about wine, and is involved as well, handling the marketing and business side of Woodenhead. She also has a day job as business manager at Diamond Creek Vineyards in Napa Valley.

The name, "Woodenhead," was a name given to Nicolai by an old girlfriend who thought that he was very stubborn (which he is) and the name stuck.

Winemaking here is “Burgundian done in the California style.” There is no pumping, hand punch downs are employed, a gentle basket press is used, and aging is in French oak. Through his years of contacts in the Russian River Valley, Nikolai has been able to source fruit from some outstanding Pinot Noir vineyards. When you look back on the early success of Williams Selyem, one key that stands out was the quality of the vineyards from which the wines were made. You simply can’t make great wine unless you have exceptional grapes. The Woodenhead wines I tasted recently are proof of that tenant.

Vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs are crafted from Buena Tierra Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, Wiley Vineyard and Morning Dew Ranch Vineyard, both in the Anderson Valley, and Fruitland Ranch Vineyard in Humboldt County. His Russian River Valley appellation blend is one of the best examples made of the genre.

Woodenhead Russian River Valley Pinot Noir won the 2010 Pinot Cup as well as first place in the Pinot Smackdown in 2009 at Charlie Palmer's Pigs & Pinot event in Healdsburg.

The wines are sold through a mailing list, on the website, and through retail channels. Production of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel is about 3,500 cases per year. A tasting room in a converted home is open at 5700 River Road in Santa Rosa. The tasting room is adorned with woodenhead art pieces from around the world and a gorgeous jatoba and maple tasting bar. A deck provides spectacular views. 707-887-2703.

Reviewed Wines

2011 Woodenhead Wet Kiss Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., 397 cases, $52. First release of this wine comprised of 25% Ritchie Vineyard Martini clone (35 years old), 37.5% Cameron Vineyard Martini clone (30+ years old) and River South Vineyard Swan clone (3 years old). Retailers have avoided this wine because of its name which they consider lacks seriousness but this is a serious wine. It is very popular in the winery tasting room. · Medium reddishpurple color in the glass. Very aromatic featuring hi-tone scents of Bing cherries, baking spice and a hint of vanilla. Moderately light in weight but flavorful offering nicely composed notes of juicy dark cherries and berries with a subtle riff of oakdriven roasted nuts and vanilla, and a finishing thrust of lush cherry reduction sauce. Forward, soft and easy to cozy up to, with bright acidity adding to its refreshing appeal, this wine will have crowd appeal. Good (+). Reviewed June 23, 2013 ARTICLE »

2010 Woodenhead Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir

148 cases, $38. Sourced from the Valenti Vineyard. 60% of bud stock came from Morning Dew Ranch including a Rochioli selection with the remaining 40% clone 115. First crop from vines budded over to Pinot Noir from Zinfandel. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Unfolds slowly in the glass, offering fragrant notes of dark cherries and berries with a hint of oak and dried rose petals. On the lighter side, but very tasty and highly approachable, with flavors that echo the nose, finishing with a flourish of black raspberry aromatics. The tannins are dry and fine-grain, the acidity brings the fruit to life and the whole package is very smooth and dreamy on the palate. Very good (+). Reviewed June 23, 2013 ARTICLE »

2010 Woodenhead Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., $38. Sourced from David Bruce’s Kent Berry Vineyard. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Very shy upon opening, slowly revealing itself with a slightly roasted fruit profile and notes of earth, briar and old book. Juicy, rustic and rugged with concentrated flavors of blueberry, black plum and dark cherry with lacy oak in the background. Plenty of finishing tannin and a little heat shows up on the finish. Should benefit from more time in bottle. Good. Reviewed June 23, 2013 ARTICLE »

2010 Woodenhead Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 872 cases, $42. Sourced from three vineyards including Buena Tierra and Ritchie. Five clones. Woodenhead’s go-to-wine for everyday drinking. · This wine is true to its Russian River Valley heritage with aromas and flavors of cherries, baking spices and cola. Soft and easy to drink with supple tannins, this wine works beautifully at the nightly dinner table. Good. Reviewed June 23, 2013 ARTICLE »

2010 Woodenhead Wiley Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.55, 296 cases, $60. 28-year-old vines (Pommard 5 and Romanee-Conti 37). Unfined and unfiltered. This wine really caught my attention at the Grand Tasting at the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Definitely some pennyroyal on the nose with added scents of blackberries, tea, and spice. Very dark fruited, this wine is flush with black raspberry, black cherry and black tea notes that envelope the palate. The dreamy tannins offer a fine-grain texture and the oak hits all the right notes. This wine has the stuffing to age beautifully, but is very hard to resist now. A magnificent wine from one of Anderson Valley’s most esteemed vineyards. Score: 94. Reviewed July 28, 2014 ARTICLE »

2010 Woodenhead Ritchie Vineyard Cinder Cone Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 124 cases, $65. 30 to 35-year-old Pommard and Martini vines. · Medium reddish-purple hue in the glass. Aromas of cherry liquor, sassafras, spice and a touch of oak. On lighter side, but with impressive flavor and finishing intensity, offering tastes of black cherries, black raspberries and subtle oak. The sappy fruit core hits all the high notes while the balanced tannins keep the fruit in line. I sense this wine will become even more complex with more time in the bottle. Very good. Reviewed June 23, 2013 ARTICLE »

2009 Woodenhead Buena Tierra Original Planting Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

173 cases, sold out (look for retail availability). · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Charming in every way with alluring aromas of cherries, fresh berry jam and rose petals. Boldly flavored with black cherries and a hint of spice with complimentary cedar-toned oak treatment. The intense mid palate attack and brilliant finish reflect a wine of pedigree. The impeccable balance indicates accomplished winemaking. There is nothing quite like this wine. Reviewed June 23, 2013 ARTICLE »

2009 Woodenhead Buena Tierra Vineyard Original Planting Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., $53. From old vines planted on Eastside Road across the Russian River from Rochioli Vineyard. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of Bing cherries, baking spices and a dusting of oak. Very soft and seamless in the mouth, with modest, lacy tannins, offering flavors of cherry pie filling and spice with a hint of sandalwood in the background. Elegant, yet with noticeable finishing power. Very good. Reviewed February 27, 2013 ARTICLE »

2009 Woodenhead Wiley Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 296 cases, $60. Primarily Pommard clone with a little Mt. Eden selection. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. This wine is in a class by itself. The knockout nose is alive with flavors of fresh, perfectly ripe berries. Earthy and serious, with discreetly concentrated flavors of dark red and black berries that have a delicious sappiness that really sings. Beautifully balanced with well-honed tannins and a very long and generous finish. Many call this vineyard a California Grand Cru and that title is well earned. Reviewed June 23, 2013 ARTICLE »

2008 Woodenhead Buena Tierra Original Planting Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 198 cases, $60. Last vintage for this vineyard designate as the vineyard is dying out due to phylloxera. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Brooding aromas of cherries, spice, and oak vanillin. Delicious fruit bombast featuring perfectly ripe flavors of black cherries and black raspberries, with notes of sassafras, cola and exotic spices. Very broad in the mouth and distinctive, leaving a lovely cherry kiss on the lingering finish. Harmonious in every way. I guarantee you will love this wine. An All- American for sure. Reviewed November 2, 2011 ARTICLE »

2007 Woodenhead Humboldt County Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., $40. Unfined and unfiltered. · A fruity nose featuring fresh plums and boysenberries picking up intensity in the glass with oak dancing in and out along the way. Earth bound dark stone fruits with a wild quality. Nicely integrated oak with a hint of citric peel in the background. The tannins are well-structured and supple. Even better the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Humboldt County - who knew? Reviewed June 8, 2010 ARTICLE »

2007 Woodenhead Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $40. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy aromas of oak-infused cherry and berry fruits. Tasty cherry and berry essence with cola and oak in the background. Elegant with soft tannins and easy drinkability. A nice little wine for daily drinking. Good. Reviewed June 8, 2010 ARTICLE »

2007 Woodenhead Buena Tierra Vineyard Original Planting Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., $57. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose needs some time to express itself, offering aromas of black cherries, spice box and herbs. Charming essence of cherries and sassafras with a good dose of baking spice and juicy fruit flavors. This wine has a way of drawing you in to its charms. This bottle did not show quite as well as the one that won the Pinot Cup at this year’s Pigs and Pinot event in Healdsburg. Very good. Reviewed June 8, 2010 ARTICLE »

2007 Woodenhead Buena Tierra Vineyard Original Planting Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., $57. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate garnet hue in the glass. On the nose there is a lovely interplay of cherry pie filling, spice, pencil lead and oak char aromas. This Pinot is a delicious cherry bombast nicely spiced with crisp and bright fruit lifted by gleeful acidity that shows up on the finish as a citrus note. Very good. Reviewed November 24, 2010 ARTICLE »

2007 Woodenhead Troika North Coast Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., 75 cases, $70. Three of best barrels, one each from Buena Tierra, Wiley and Fruitland vineyards. 100% new French oak barrels. The last version of this wine as two of the vineyard sources are no longer available. Tasted briefly at the winery. · Ripe black fruit profile including blackberry and black currant flavors backed by healthy tannins and underlain with noticeable oak. The fruit core is concentrated and sappy. Decant if you must open now, but this wine will benefit from even more time in bottle. Good. Reviewed June 23, 2013 ARTICLE »

2006 Woodenhead Vintners Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Pinot

13.5% alc.. · A terrific Pinot brimming with spiced red fruits that are caressing in the mouth. Excellent balance and length with a long, powerfully aromatic finish. Clearly one of my standouts at the Festival. Reviewed June 9, 2008 ARTICLE »

2006 Woodenhead Vintners Wiley Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., 358 cases, $60. · This is as different from the Morning Dew bottling as night and day. A big, big wine, dark and brooding, loaded with tannin. Impenetrable now. Wiley Pinots from past vintages have been outstanding indicating patience is required with this one. Reviewed June 9, 2008 ARTICLE »

2006 Woodenhead Wiley Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., 358 cases, $60. When I tasted this almost a year ago, it was impenetrable and brooding. It has now opened up. · Medium ruby color. Flashy and expressive aromas of cherries and raspberries. Mouth filling richness with oodles of raspberry fruit, some Asian spice, and a long, chewy and aromatic finish. Really lovely wine with deft use of oak and impeccable balance. Expensive, yes, but worth it if you want the full experience. Reviewed June 5, 2009 ARTICLE »

2006 Woodenhead Wiley Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., pH 3.46, 358 cases, $60. Released in the fall 2008. 26-year-old vines. Pommard 5 and Romanee-Conti 37 clones. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately deep reddishpurple color in the glass. Polished cherry and stylish spice aromas. Delicious essence of fresh plums and black cherries with an underpinning of oak-driven root beer flavor with a potpourri of savory herbs. Impressive body and richness with nicely balanced tannins. Very good. Reviewed June 8, 2010 ARTICLE »

2005 Woodenhead Buena Tierra Vineyard Original Planting Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.6% alc.,180 cases, $45. Unfined and unfiltered. · Intoxicating scent of black cherry jam, cola, smoke and spice cabinet. Bright and fresh black cherries and summer berries nicely spiced and complimented by hints of loam, mushroom and citrus. A great expression of Pinot Noir that is seamless in every way and with lively acidity that will make it a perfect companion at the dinner table. Reviewed October 1, 2008 ARTICLE »

2004 Woodenhead Humboldt County Pinot Noir

112 cases, $32. Although Humboldt County is more well-known for an illegal mood-altering substance, there are several microclimates here that are ideal for Pinot Noir. One other producer from this region that stands out is Whitethorn. · Reviewed November 27, 2006 ARTICLE »

2004 Woodenhead Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 273 cases, $36. This wine is a combination of several vineyards, including Buena Tierra. · This medium-bodied Pinot has restrained but promising aromas of cherry, wet earth and Christmas spice. Burgundy-oriented pinotphiles, would be attracted to this understated wine which displays subtle flavors of cherry, clove, spice and oak with a generous acid backbone and dusty tannins on the finish. Reviewed November 27, 2006 ARTICLE »

2004 Woodenhead Vintners Wiley Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

15% alc., $45. · The subdued dark red fruits and subtle oak overtones in the nose are overshadowed by cinnamon-infused cherry, cola and baking spices on the palate. Despite the high alcohol, the fruit holds its own, and the whole package very enjoyable. This one grows in your mouth until you are smiling from ear to ear. Reviewed June 3, 2007 ARTICLE »

2004 Woodenhead Buena Tierra Vineyard Original Planting Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 193 cases, $46. This 26-year-old vineyard is “the bomb.” · This Pinot is the closest of the three to the early Williams Selyem style and is flat-out terrific. It is light in color and elegant in style. The nose-grabbing aromatics feature cherry pie and Asian spices with a hint of alcohol. The mouth feel is luxurious and the lingering finish leaves dreamy memories of spiced cherries which last until the next sip. Beautifully balanced. You will need a cold soak after drinking this one. Reviewed November 27, 2006 ARTICLE »

2004 Woodenhead Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

166 cases, $46. This producer was featured recently in the PinotFile. Nikolai Stez spent 17 years working crushes at Williams Selyem. He now crafts small production, artisan Pinot Noirs of great interest. Woodenhead wines may be purchased on the website. · The wine has a pure red fruit nose of great elegance. Very lush in the mouth with plenty of spice and vim. More fruity than complex, with plenty of power to thrill. A Lolita. Reviewed January 22, 2007 ARTICLE »

2004 Woodenhead Morning Dew Ranch Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 166 cases, $46. After selling Williams Selyem and retiring, Burt Williams planted his own vineyard in the Anderson Valley. He is prevented from making wine himself because of a non-compete agreement, but probably prefers not too, simply relishing in nurturing a young vineyard to excellence. Two other producers are allocated grapes from Morning Dew Ranch - Whitcraft in Santa Barbara County and Brogan Cellars in Healdsburg. · This is a prodigious wine that is as dark as Pinot gets. With coaxing, a rich nose of dark fruits, brown spice and pepper emerges. The wine is dense and chewy on the palate with oak and earth notes preempting the fruit. The finish is mildly tannic with lively acidity. It is very tight and concentrated at this point and I recommend decanting, or preferably, cellaring for a period. Reviewed November 27, 2006 ARTICLE »

2004 Woodenhead Wiley Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

305 cases, $46. The Pinot Noir grapes for this wine come from 24-year-old vines, Pommard (5) and Martin Ray (37). It is one of the Anderson Valley’s heritage vineyards, the fourth planted after Edmeades, Husch and Van Hoorn. This vineyard is the closest to the ocean of any valley floor vineyard resulting in a very long growing season. · Reviewed November 27, 2006 ARTICLE »

2003 Woodenhead Buena Tierra Vineyard Original Planting Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 86 cases, $45. Unfined and unfiltered. · Smoky black cherries, cola and mocha carry this smooth and nicely weighted wine. The flavors fan out nicely on the palate and the finish has a lively tangerine peel tang. Still plenty of life ahead. Reviewed October 1, 2008 ARTICLE »

2002 Woodenhead Elk Prairie Vineyard Humboldt County Pinot Noir

14.1% alc. Woodenhead is a small artisanal producer of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel sourced primarily from vineyards in the Russian River Valley and Anderson Valley. The owner and winemaker is Nikolai Stez. The phone is 707-887-2703. The wines are offered on the website at www.woodenheadwine.com. · The aromas trump the flavors here. The perfume of deep, dark cherries and spicy oak draw you in. Blackberry and black cherry compose the flavor profile accented with a char note. A touch of phenolic bitterness mars the finish. Reviewed May 7, 2007 ARTICLE »

2002 Woodenhead Buena Tierra Vineyard Original Planting Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 120 cases, $45. Unfined and unfiltered. · Rich and sensual aromas of black cherries, exotic spices, and smoke with a hint of raisin. Complex and compelling flavor profile of dark stone fruits and berries, almonds, mocha and earth. Supple and refined with angel hair tannins and a refreshingly tangy finish. A very seductive drink that is showing some aged patina. Reviewed October 1, 2008 ARTICLE »