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by Ken Zinns

Ken is a Bay Area architect with a passion for wine. After taking a few wine courses through UC Extension, he started becoming more "serious" about wine in the early '90s. Ken has been taking wine-tasting trips to the Central Coast since early '92, and has come to love the area - not only for the wines, which just get better year by year, but also for the people. Ken's interest in wine is more than passive, and he's been volunteering his help at several urban East Bay wineries since 2001 - and in fact was recently named assistant winemaker for both Eno Wines in Berkeley and Harrington Wine in San Francisco.

A Visit to Woodenhead Vintners - August 8, 2008


Visit to Woodenhead Vintners – August 8, 2008

I had a bit of spare time in the Sebastopol area in early August and decided to make the short drive to River Road to stop in at the Woodenhead tasting room there. Woodenhead is known mainly for their fine Pinot Noirs and Zinfandels, and there are few other wineries that do as good a job with both varieties. While I was hoping they would have their new vintage of Wiley Vineyard Pinot Noir (from Anderson Valley), Larry at the tasting room told me that it would not be released until early September…..a good reason to visit again soon! I did taste through the winery's current releases, and have some brief impressions.

Current Releases:

  • 2007 "Half Shell White" French Colombard: This is the first French Colombard that Woodenhead has released. Made in 100% stainless steel, it's very small production and I believe it may only be available at the tasting room. Very light straw color, delicate citrus aromas, this had a smooth, creamy texture with mineral notes on the palate and a crisp finish – should be a perfect accompaniment to oysters!
  • 2006 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley: A blend from three vineyards (two of which are about 35 years old), this had medium-light color, red fruits, tea leaf, and a touches of vanilla and spice. It also displayed some cola and earth notes in the flavors. Still showing some youthful tannins, it should mellow out nicely over the next few years.
  • 2006 Pinot Noir, Humboldt County: A bit darker in color that the Russian River bottling, this also showed raspberry and darker fruits in the nose. A "prettier" wine than the Russian River, more fruit-forward and slightly floral, it also had some intriguing hints of dried herbs and earth. Lively and lush at the same time, the soft tannins led to a long and tasty finish. An excellent Pinot from a surprising source.
  • 2005 Syrah, Russian River Valley: Another small production wine, this is the winery's first Syrah. Sourced from a vineyard on Laguna Road, this has 17% Zinfandel blended in. Medium red-purple color, this had both the darker fruit character of Syrah and the brighter berry aromas of Zin. Medium-bodied and not tannic, this was an interesting blend – the Zin component was very apparent.
  • 2006 Zinfandel, Braccialini Vineyard, Alexander Valley: Sourced from a vineyard in the northern part of Alexander Valley, the vines for this wine are around 30 years old. Medium-light color, bright red fruits, anise, and a touch of smoky oak, this wine was refreshingly light and lower alcohol for a Zin. Moderate tannins did not intrude on the lively and particularly long finish.
  • 2006 Zinfandel, Martinelli Vineyard Old Vine, Russian River Valley: Showing the other end of the Zinfandel spectrum, this wine comes from vines over 120 years old. Darker color than the Braccialini, this also featured darker fruit aromas along with big black pepper and spice components. Very rich and mouth-coating, this also carried higher alcohol than the Braccialini, but the dense fruit handled it easily. Big and ripe but not over-the-top, this was a sensational old-vine Russian River Zin.

As expected, a fine line-up of wines from Woodenhead – definitely worth a stop when traveling in Russian River Valley.


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