Cellars 33 2016 Clay Station Vineyard Grenache Blanc

Jon Fones, co-owner and winemaker of Cellars 33, says that when starting a winery, one tends to grab at the fruit they can get their hands on — vineyards with available, affordable contracts with fruits you’re able and willing to work with. After working with Napa-based Chardonnay for a number of years, Fones — through a tip from a fellow winemaker — turned his sights to Lodi where, he found, the Grenache Blanc in Clay Station Vineyard grew just beautifully (and, yes, affordably). It may have been a bit experimental at first, working with a new grape variety within his portfolio, but now Cellars 33 is focused on Grenache Blanc as their white wine. “With the fruit from Clay Station,” says Fones, “We can express the source through our wine. And that’s really what we’re all about.” 

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The Withers 2016 Rhône style Rosé

As a vintner, when you find a vineyard site you love, it’s truly something special. You come to know the lay of the land, the quality of the fruit, and can taste — even at bud break — the potential for the wine you want to create. As a vintner, when you find a vineyard site you love, you’ll do everything in your power to keep the relationship with the landowner, ensuring that year after year you can keep on creating. As a vintner, when you find a vineyard site you love and the landowner decides to sell — this can be a tragic change of events. Unless you decide to purchase it. Which is exactly what Andrew Tow did.

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The Withers 2015 Peters Vineyard Pinot Noir

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.

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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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