The Tasting Panel magazine

Nov 09

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Page 49 of 92

"I guess it was my wild behavior," says Edmeades winemaker Van Williamson, reflecting on how he got his nickname, "The Vanimal." Wil- liamson, who has just completed his 15th harvest at Edmeades, Mendocino County's celebrated Zinfandel-only winery, was working in Napa Valley when he obtained the moniker. Behav- ior aside, it probably also has some- thing to do with the fact that Williamson lives exclusively by hunting, fishing and foraging. "I eat only what I've caught and gathered," says The Vanimal. That includes bringing back a hundred pounds of salmon and halibut from Alaska, diving for abalone off the California coast and gathering mushrooms from local Mendocino woodlands. Wild boar is also a favorite. "They taste better after they've been eating acorns," advises the seasoned hunter-gatherer. Plentiful in Northern California, the wild pigs love to eat grapes, and they seem, like Williamson, to prefer Zinfandel; before fences went up, boars did extensive damage to an 1878 Zin vineyard from which Ed- meades sources fruit. Appropriately, Zinfandel is the ideal wine to accompany the kinds of food- stuffs that Williamson loves, including venison, goose and duck. Although the Edmeades marketing team recently featured a barbecue that included rattle- snake, the huntsman is so-so on serpent ("it tastes like chicken") unless it's spiced up with his special teriyaki sauce. Edmeades produces seven different Zinfandels, includ- ing the Mendocino County blend, several vineyard-desig- nates and a late-harvest version (SRP$15–$35). "Zinfandel is great for pairing with unusual food," says Williamson. "It has a fruitiness and bright intensity." We think of it as a bit wild—not unlike The Vanimal himself. —David Gadd Vanimal Attraction Edmeades winemaker Van Williamson goes wild Van "The Vanimal" Williamson, the wild man of Zinfandel. november 2009 / the tasting panel /  49

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