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”…
About the Wine: The Withers sources their Rhône varietals predominantly from the Sierra Foothills’ El Dorado County, where varying steep elevations and volcanic soils create intense concentration in fruit and a distinct minerality. Vineyard sources for the The Withers 2014 Bel Canto Rhône style red blend include Fenaughty, Futernick, Skinner, Von Huen, and Wylie — the latter of which boasts Syrah plantings at 2,800 feet elevation.
The Withers 2014 Bel Canto Rhône style red blend is made from 73% Grenache, 22% Mourvèdre, and 5% Syrah. These grapes are harvested from the Sierra Foothills at night to keep the fruit cool, as they are transferred to Healdsburg for the actual winemaking process. Here, the grapes undergo an initial cold soak before fermenting in small lots, using all native yeast and 40% whole cluster. Each wine ages in neutral French oak for 18 months with the final blend created 2 – 3 months before bottling.
Flavor Profile: Pop the cork and immerse yourself in dark, plump fruits, damp, dirty earth — you are walking in a dense forest at midnight. The Withers Bel Canto pours out of the bottle like dusty river water, tainted with rusty-red rock solids — you can see right through this red-meets-purple liquid. The wine pools into the glass like a luminescent garnet jewel; tilt the glass to find where that rusticity is hiding: at this angle, the color dulls ever so slightly.
Deep breath in and you can smell those fruits you sensed from the very beginning: plum, blackberry, currents — all fully-plumped, all fallen onto that fertile forest floor beside dried eucalyptus and sage leaves. Swirl, and the wine releases a floral element of soft red rose petals and brighter fruits like black cherry. Move the nose to the top of the glass to further engage in the fullness of those fruits; pull the nose slightly out of the glass to find those dried green herbs. There is a solid level of acidity that carries throughout the nose, wherever you go.
On the palate, The Withers Bel Canto is round, juice filled, with an acidity that crescendos. The tannins are like suede, gently coating the tongue and providing structure, backbone, purpose. Primary flavors are of blackberries, currents, leather, dried eucalyptus, and black cherry cola. Hold the wine in the mouth to taste the dirt, the grind, the rusticity you expected from the visual.
The finish is simultaneously long and short. There’s a tingle that encompasses the entirety of the mouth, reminiscent of the same sensation one feels with a medicinal cough drop (note: the wine is not medicinal in flavor). However, those tannins solidify on the finish, coating the tongue, providing a sense of closure.
Food Pairing: I paired The Withers Bel Canto with a medium-rare filet mignon, fried purple green beans, and a salad of fig, blue cheese, fennel, and almonds dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette. The green beans highlighted some of that forest floor earthiness; the fig amplified the fullness in those fruit flavors; the fennel pulled out an otherwise hidden umaminess; the balsamic paralleled that bright acidity. But get a little bit of everything on the fork, taste, and sip — this meal celebrates the freshness of the fruits and simply melts away those tannins. This was the perfect pairing.
More Info: Learn more about The Withers Winery.
I received The Withers Bel Canto as a sample for review. (Cheers Andrew!) Retail Price: $36. For more information and to order wines directly, please visit The Withers website.
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