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…

About the Wine: The Withers 2015 Peters Vineyard Chardonnay is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, Dijon 4 clone, from Peters Vineyard, located just south of Sebastopol. Interesting fact: This vineyard site, originally planted to apple orchards, was slowly re-planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the early 1980s, making it one of the first plantings of these two varietals in the southern Sebastopol Hills. Here, the southern slopes form the northern edge of the Petaluma Gap — the funnel that pushes cool marine air from the Pacific Ocean toward the inland vineyard sites.

After harvest and immediately after crush, the grapes were put in seasoned French oak barrels to engage in initial malolactic fermentation using all native yeast. The malolactic fermentation 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.

13.6% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open the bottle and breathe in aromas of apple butter and fresh cut wood.The Withers Peters Vineyard Chardonnay is a light, watered-down amber and, as it pours from bottle to glass, there is the most delicate floral aroma. Once in the glass, the scent of malolactic fermentation — that kind of milky, sour cream smell — is, surprisingly, a dominant one. Swirl, and the Chardonnay releases green grassy notes, cold crisp apples, kiwi fruit, citrus zest, fresh sea breeze and water. Move the nose to the top of the glass to find where those shy flowers along with their stems and leaves hide. A deep breath in reveals a thin, but confident line of acidity and very subtle hints of butter.

On the palate, The Withers Peters Vineyard Chardonnay has an extremely crisp acidity. The initial flavor is a combination of both baked and fresh apples, strong notes of citrus zest, some pineapple zing, and a beautiful soft background of cream. There’s almost a sourness on the tongue that crescendos toward the finish, leaving a lingering heat-tingle sensation on the tongue and cheeks and a warmth in the heart — and, honestly, this is the star of this Chardonnay’s show.

Food Pairing: I paired The Withers Peters Vineyard Chardonnay with a roasted bell pepper flat bread garnished with black olives, and a light tomato sauce and cheese. The soft texture of the cheese actually softened the wine a bit, muting some of that acidity and giving the fruits a more round feeling (more stone fruit than citrus fruits as when tasting the wine by itself). Meanwhile, the bell peppers, with their combined bitter-sweetness, pulled out the hidden grass and floral notes in the wine. Perfect pairing? Well, I sure enjoyed it.

More Info: Learn more about The Withers Winery story.

I received The Withers 2015 Peters Vineyard Chardonnay as a sample for review (Cheers Andrew!) Retail: $36. For more information and to purchase wines directly, please visit The Withers website.

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