Nikolai Stez is the Woodenhead winemaker. He has been at fermentation since he was a boy making the traditional Russian drink "kvas" (a fermented bread or fruit drink) that his immigrant parents taught him to make. In college, he made wines for his biology and botany classes, and started making home wines in earnest since 1986. Nick worked for 17 years of crush fun for the famous "two guys in a garage cult winery" that put Russian River Valley Pinot on the map. Working for Burt Williams as an assistant winemaker confirmed his life's passion for wine. Born in San Francisco and living on the Russian River since age one, he considers the North Coast his back yard and knows it well, from Sonoma County north to Humboldt and Del Norte. The coast range is his playground. Nick also works as a building contractor in Sonoma County.
Zina Bower is the other part of the equation here, an escapee from L.A. and Nick's business partner. She was bitten by the wine bug in 1982 and has been intoxicated with passion for wine ever since. She started in the tasting room at Hop Kiln Winery, went to Williams-Selyem, then on to Vigil Vineyards in Calistoga and left her position as office manager of Diamond Creek Vineyards in Napa Valley. It's Zina's cheery voice you will hear on the phone when you call.