I bought this book because, as a writer, I want to make sure I never run out of words — and also, I want to make sure I have a keen understanding of all the wine words that are out there. There are loads of wine reference books in the world, but I figured that something called The Wine Bible was bound to be one of the most complete. And it is — in more ways than one. Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible is a book for wine study and for wine fun.
Andrew Tow, found and owner of The Withers Winery, wasn’t always a fan of California wines. Instead, he gravitated toward the more traditional wines of France and Italy. Here, he felt, the wines were more authentic, with hands-off winemaking methods, and resulting wines that are less about alcohol and texture but more of a celebration of real fruit. Now that he has his place in the California winemaking scene, his goal is to bring that “Old World” style to this “New World” regime. “The ‘New California’ is the ‘Old California,” says Tow. And so it is with his 2015 Peters Vineyard Pinot Noir: a California “classic” that expresses all the nuances that the land, the fruit, and the gentle hands of the winemaker has to offer.
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.
Vermentino — a grape predominantly celebrated in Italy, is a rare find in the New World of wine. Although a few West Coast producers (Bailiwick, Tablas Creek, and Uvaggio to name a few) are beginning to see the benefits of working with this sturdy grape variety. A vigorous grower, Vermentino does well in warmer climates: it’s resistant to drought, thrives on less fertile soils, and usually ripens at the peak of the harvest cycle. Vermentino vines are often planted along slopes facing a major body of water so they’re exposed to additional light and warmth due to the reflected light. In fact, if you look at those three major producers previously mentioned, you’ll notice that they source their grapes from similarly situated terroir, despite the fact that one sources from Lake County, while the others source from Sonoma Coast.
Troon Vineyard, located in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon also benefits from ideal Vermentino conditions. Situated amongst the Siskiyou Mountains, the lowest of Troon Vineyard’s vines sits at 1400 feet. Here, where the soil is predominantly granitic in nature, the vines will receive even more warmth, as granite is heat-absorbent. All this elevation and warmth is balanced by Troon’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean in relation to their position near the Rogue River Valley: the cool marine air funnels through the valley, decreasing the temperature of the vineyard up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit during the nights. Thus, the grapes are allowed to ripen while still maintaining a naturally high level of acidity.
I’m not going to lie, besides the chance to taste my first single varietal Tannat, one of the things that drew me to Troon Vineyard was the opportunity to taste my first “orange wine.” This, of course, refers to the wine’s color, achieved by keeping the grape-skins on during fermentation — much like the process used for making red wine. This can be done with any white grape, most commonly Pinot Gris, but Troon Vineyard takes an interesting approach with their whole grape fermented Riesling.