The story of The Withers winery is one of a small-time dream turned big-time success. Across the board, The Withers wine portfolio is made up of single-vineyard bottlings from both the Sonoma Coast and El Dorado. While the two may seem quite disparate, it is for a reason. While some of the most nuanced Rhones come out of California’s inland El Dorado County, there’s no denying that Sonoma is home to some of the finest Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Thus, they have a portfolio that — I would say — speaks of California’s greatest wine successes. And, what I particularly love, is because they’re all single-vineyard bottlings, one can really taste the fingerprint of time and place with each sip.
Read more about The Withers Story: The Withers — passion, people, and perserverence
About the Wine: The Withers 2015 English Hill Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes harvested from the English Hill Vineyard located just southwest of Sebastopol in the Sonoma Coast AVA of California. The vineyard lies 9.2 miles from the Pacific Ocean at 650 feet of elevation with poor-draining sandy-loam soils. The nine blocks of Pinot Noir is a field blend of Dijon clones 115 and 667 as well as Vosne Romanee.
Consistent with The Withers winemaking style, the grapes were cold soaked, then left to ferment with partial whole cluster inclusion. The wine then aged in French oak barrels (15% new) for 10 months. The wine is unfiltered, unfined, and was only racked once prior to bottling.
Flavor Profile: Straight out of the bottle you can smell the foggy Sonoma Coast — damp wood after a humid rain, wet eucalyptus leaves, hints of anise, and the looming presence of a seaside salinity. This Pinot Noir is quite a light and dusty shade of purple on the pour, settling into the glass in a cloud-like shade of rouge — meaning, though it’s a dirtier shade of red, you can still see right through it.
Initial aromas are of a field of wildflowers with just a few boysenberry bushes scattered throughout the scene. Swirl, and the Pinot Noir releases a bit more earthiness with herbs like mint or basil, black cherries, and — I couldn’t help but think — specifically purple flowers.
The palate has a full, plush mouthfeel with tannins that just disintegrate seamlessly. There’s the thinnest line of acid that keeps the flavors alive, the palate awake. Dominant flavors are of cedar wood, black cherry, sweet cigar smoke, dried herbs — all in all more earthy than fruity to be sure. Indeed, there’s a bit of a lingering woodsiness that stays on the breath, bringing to mind the flavor of freshly foraged mushrooms.
Food Pairing: I paired the The Withers 2015 English Hill Pinot Noir with a classic salmon salad — seared salmon filet on top of a bed of spinach, tomato, almonds and cranberries, sprinkled with a bit of feta cheese and tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette. As the wine opened up throughout the evening, I noticed that the herbal, cigar-like perfume became more prevalent — which I absolutely loved with this meal. The spinach, though cruciferous in nature, did well to highlight the innate earthiness of the wine, bringing some brighter notes to its “garden.” Meanwhile, the salmon — a naturally oily fish — played against the textural components of the wine, rounding out the mouthfeel of the meal as a whole. Lastly, if missing the fruit element of the wine, take a bit of a juicy cherry tomato and then take a sip of wine: say hello to those initial aromas of black cherries.
More Info: I received the The Withers 2015 English Hill Pinot Noir as a sample for review. (Cheers Andrew!) Retail: $44. Be sure to read more about The Withers Winery. Of course for even more information and to purchase wines directly, please visit The Withers Winery website.
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