Category: Wine

wine reviews, wine events, and all things wine related

The Withers 2015 Counoise

Counoise is a rare varietal to find as a 100% bottle. It is a dark-skinned grape used primarily for blending, adding a slight peppery note to a wine when combined. It’s one of the Rhône grape varieties allowed in a Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine, where some producers will use up to 5% in their blend. Not a lot in the scheme of things. So, often, grape-growers will plant just enough to satisfy this need. But every once in awhile, you’ll come across someone with the patience to grow a few more acres, enough to source out to a vintner crazy enough to turn it into a 100% varietal wine. And patient and crazy they must be: Counoise is one of the, if not the, last grapes picked at the end of harvest; as a single-varietal wine it’s lack of tannins can lend itself to a flat flavor and flabby texture. But The Withers works with vineyard manager Ron Mansfield of Goldbud Farms, who produces some of the most critically acclaimed fruit in the region. Mansfield provides the patience while Tow and team provide the crazy. And guess what? It just works…

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The Withers 2015 Peters Vineyard Chardonnay

I recently had a week-long focus on Chardonnay. It’s a malleable grape in that the resulting wines have very little to do with the vineyard setting and everything to do with the winemakers choice during the winemaking process. I wish I had tasted The Withers Peters Vineyard Chardonnay in conjunction with that feature, as winemaker David Low implemented some unique choices when creating this wine — the result of which is pretty much unlike any other California Chardonnay you’re likely to try from the Sonoma Coast.

That being said, The Withers Winery also sourced these grapes from a unique location. And although the vineyard setting may have little to do with the resulting wines, there’s no denying that cool and coastal makes for some pretty special fruit. And so, to quote Jancis Robinson (again) “Wherever coastal fogs reliably slow down the ripening process, extending the growing season of this early ripening variety, and yields are kept in check, then California can produce some very fine wines indeed, with considerable Burgundian savour to them.” Such is the case with The Withers Peters Vineyard Chardonnay…

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The Withers 2014 Bel Canto Rhône style red blend

You can’t claim to make Rhône-style wines without at least one GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) in your portfolio. Well, The Withers has not one, but three, each highlighting one of those core ingredients. A traditional GSM will always have more Grenache than either of the other two varietals, though exact percentages will vary from vintner to vintner (based on yields, the grapes’ flavors, and the resulting wines of each varietal before blending). The reason it’s called GSM is because that’s the order, from highest to lowest, of percentages of each varietal. But every once in awhile, a winemaker will mix it up. Again, this could be because of the success of certain grapes (or lack of it) during harvest; it could be that once all the individual wines were created, they just blended better “out of order;” or it could be that the winemaker is looking for a specific flavor profile in the blend. And so, I present to you, The Withers “GMS”…
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The Withers Winery Week

The Withers Winery: a story of passion, perseverance, and people

“I never wanted to own a winery,” says Andrew Tow, and yet he also claims The Withers Winery as a passion project 35 years in the making. It’s a process that, through a series of fortunate events, both chance and purposeful encounters, and good old-fashioned hard work, has evolved as organically as The Withers wines themselves.

The Withers Winery logo, courtesy of thewitherswinery.com

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Ramey Wine Cellars 2014 Platt Vineyard Chardonnay

If given the chance to taste a single vineyard bottling of Platt Vineyard Pinot Noir or Chardonnay — take it. Located just 5 miles from the Pacific Ocean along the Sonoma Coast, this 31-acre vineyard is one of the coolest grape-growing sites within the whole AVA. Sitting at about 800 feet in elevation on a south-facing slope, above morning fog level, the land receives maritime air from both the ocean and the Estero Americano — a “fjord-like” funnel that moves marine air through the Petaluma gap and toward the Sacramento delta. The result of this constantly cool climate: small crops with intense fruit flavors, strong levels of acidity, and lower sugar levels.

The vineyard itself is owned by Flanagan Wines, but they source out the fruit to other major players like Radio-Coteau, Littorai, and, of course Ramey.

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