2011 Witching Stick Pinot Noirs

As VINO regulars well know, we have been HUGE fans of winemaker Van Williamson over the years & his tenure at Edmeades Winery.  He made some superbly vinous, beasty, yet well textured, surprisingly balanced Zin behemoths which displayed the raw character of some interesting Old Vine Mendocino vineyards, such as Ciapusci, Zeni, Piffero & Eaglepoint Ranch, just to name a few.  From 1994 to 2007, it really was an era of Van Williamson in all his glory.

At the same time, what most people do not really know or remember, Van also crafted some really terrific Pinot Noir from the Edmeades estate vineyard in Anderson Valley, from the 1994 vintage, with 2000 being his last.  In their youth, these were very masculine, hard, provocative, firmly structured Pinots, which came alive with several years of bottle age.  They too were full of character & therefore were some of the most interesting Pinots out of California.  AND they got better with age.

I was quite saddened when their parent company decided to have Van concentrate on Zinfandel…only, hence 2000 being the last vintage for Pinot, 1999 for Chardonnay, 1999 for Syrah & 2000 for Petite Sirah.

Now, however, that Van Williamson is on his own & making wines under his own label, Witching Stick, he thankfully is again making Pinot Noir, starting with the 2011’s.

zab 001

 2011 Witching Stick Pinot Noir “Cerise Vineyard”

The Cerise vineyard is located on a hillside, I would say roughly between 600 & 1000 feet in elevation on the eastern hills of the Anderson Valley above the town of Booneville.  Business entrepeneur, Peter Knez, purchased both the Cerise (& the adjacent Demuth) vineyards a few years back.  Heading his operation is Anthony Filiberti (of Anthill Farms fame).  In 2011, Anthony graciously sold Van some Pinot grapes….a mix of clones/selections–Pommard, 2A, 115 & Martini.  Van fermented (using wild yeast) the grapes 5 different ways…..50% of the 115 batch, using 15% whole cluster……..50% of the 115 with 50% whole cluster, laying 50% of the Pommard on top with 50% whole cluster……..50% of the Pommard with 20% stems…….the 2A with 30% whole cluster…….the Martini with 30% whole cluster.  The wine finished at 12.8 alcohol naturally, was aged for 16 months in French oak, 40% new.  The resulting wine, though still VERY youthful, tight & lean, is VERY pretty, soft on the entry, though masculine in character & with good structure & superb balance.  One just needs to give it some time to open up.  I really like it.  211 cases produced.

zab 0022011 Witching Stick Pinot Noir “Gianoli Vineyard”

The Gianoli Vineyard is located roughly 1800 feet up in the Mendocino Coastal Ridge, somewhere between Zeni & Ciapusci ranches.  This hillside parcel was planted to an unknown clone/selection (though probably Dijon) & is farmed by Steve Alden, a long time friend of Van’s.  This wine was also wild yeast fermented, saw 25% stems & 70% new oak.  It finished at 14.1 alcohol naturally.  In comparison to the Cerise, this one is rounder, broader, darker, more masculine, juicy, riper flavors & therefore more showy out of the gates.  It will also probably get higher scores & ratings.  77 cases produced.

It is great to see Van Williamson making wine again…..AND….his way.  Whether it is his Zinfandel (Fashauer Vineyard), Pinots, Chardonnay (Durell Vineyard) or Dry Rose…..his style has really changed….without compromising the wonderful character & artisan, handcrafted qualities he has been known for.

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