Andrew Tow, owner of The Withers winery, has a passion for the Rhone wines. In fact, much of his portfolio is dedicated to Rhones — single-varietals and both classic and innovative blends. And for those grapes he turns to what has become known as California’s “Rhone Zone,” El Dorado County. Here the rusticity of the Sierra Foothills absolutely influence the grapes grown and, thus, the wines produce. When it comes to California’s “classics,” however — namely Chardonnay and Pinot Noir — Tow knows there’s no better place to source than the Sonoma Coast. But his preference for big bold flavors shows no bounds. And so it is that he and winemaker David Low crafted this Big Boy Chardonnay.

About the Wine: The Withers 2015 English Hill Chardonnay is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes harvested from the English Hill Vineyard located just south west of Sebastopol along California’s Sonoma Coast.

After harvest and immediately after crush, the grapes were put in seasoned French oak barrels to engage in initial fermentation using all native yeast. The wine underwent malolactic fermentation, but was suspended at 30%. The wine then continued to aged, sur lie, for 16 months in barrel with no battonage. Learn more about Chardonnay winemaking.

14.5% ABV

Flavor Profile: Pop the cork of The Withers 2015 English Hill Chardonnay and there’s not much aroma that wafts out of the bottle — yes, a little bit of fermenting yeast scent, but that’s all. So, go ahead, pour. This Chardonnay presents a creamy Champagne color on the pour, settling into the glass just a bit denser, and yet quite jewel-like. Now breathe in the wine.

Initial aromas are of apples, soft peaches, and white flower perfume. Swirl and open up the acidity, which combines with those initial aromas, bringing together an almost comforting scent of buttermilk. The palate of The Withers 2015 English Hill Chardonnay is quite soft and creamy with just a thin line of acidity that bursts on the tongue at the very end for an explosive finish of spices that warm both the palate and the body. Dominant flavors are of poached apples and pears, agave, sour cream, fresh baked bread, baking spices (like nutmeg), and a cayenne pepper-like heat.

Food Pairing: I enjoyed the The Withers 2015 English Hill Chardonnay as an aperitif to my meal of grilled chicken served with roasted vegetables (butternut squash, brussel sprouts, and red onion) garnished with feta, cranberries, and pistachios, which I served with the The Withers 2014 Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir.

As much as I enjoyed this wine on its own, I will say that because of the fullness of its body and the higher alcohol content, this Chardonnay is best served with food. Actually, it made a wonderful white wine option to the meal described above. I’d also like to note that I served this white wine just slightly chilled (around 50 degrees Fahrenheit), but let it come up to room temperature as the evening progressed. As the wine warmed a bit, it presented some intriguing salinity and butter notes which, to my palate, again made it a wonderful meal-pairing wine.

More Info: I received the The Withers 2015 English Hill Chardonnay as a sample for review. (Cheers Andrew!) Retail: Currently unavailable. But check out this Peters Vineyard Chardonnay for $40. For more information about The Withers, their wines, and to purchase wine directly, please visit The Withers website.

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