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.
The Withers estate vineyard has special meaning for Andrew Tow. When he first decided to purchase a piece of vineyard property 15 years ago in Sonoma County’s Knight’s Valley, a series of unfortunate events took that opportunity away from him. Fast-forward to 2015 when a beloved piece of El Dorado county, where Andrew and The Withers team had been sourcing Rhône grapes for their Rhône-style blend and rosés for the past few years, suddenly went up for sale. The land was not only more affordable than Napa or Sonoma, but had become more important to Andrew — for the grapes it grew, yes, but also because of the relationships he’d formed in the area. Good grapes, good vineyard workers, reliable vineyard manager. Why wouldn’t he jump at the opportunity to finally own a little piece of wine country?
About the Wine: The Withers 2016 Rhône style Rosé is made from 61% Mourvèdre and 39% Grenache grapes harvested from both The Withers estate vineyard (located in near Swansboro, just east of Placerville) and the David Girard vineyard (located just 8 miles northwest of Placerville) — both of which are located in the Sierra Foothills’ El Dorado County, featuring sandy loam soils, and elevations as high as 2,200 feet.
Vineyard lots were kept separate. After harvest, the grapes were transferred immediately to Healdsburg for direct press (skin contact only) into neutral French oak barrels where the juices underwent initial fermentation using all native yeast. Malolactic fermentation was suspended at 30% for both varietals. The final blend was created just 2 – 3 months before bottling.
Flavor Profile: Open The Withers Rhône Rosé and it smells like a classic rosé should, with whispering wafts of fruits and flowers, nothing too distinguishing at this point. Pour the wine into the glass to realize this is no classic rosé at all. Instead of a pink hue, this Rhône-style rosé is more of an orange-meets-peach, who happened to be kissed by a shy shade of red.
Deep breath in and initial aromatics are reminiscent of strawberries, watermelon, raspberries. Swirl, and add just a touch of citrus zest from a blood orange and a small bouquet of wild flowers whose scent has drifted toward you from a faraway field. On the palate, The Withers Rhône Rosé is quite juicy with flavors more akin to pomme and stone fruits: apples, peaches, apricot. As juicy as this rosé is, it’s also full-bodied and textural. Hold the wine in the mouth almost “too” long and get an almost tannic sensation on the tongue. Here, too, you’ll find the floral notes — and they are notes of the whole flower: from petal to pollen, stem to root. The finish is simultaneously refreshing and filling, with enough zip of acidity to invite another sip.
Food Pairing: I enjoyed The Withers Rhône Rosé chilled as an aperitif on a summer afternoon and it was, indeed, the perfect pairing. Although, as I discover these more full-bodied, and somewhat savory rosés, I’m realizing that they can hold their own up against a proper meal. For this wine I imagine a seafood salad or even pasta would pair perfectly. Although, if doing it again, I’d make my salmon en croute.
[Note: if pairing this wine with a main meal, I recommend having it at cellar temp and not full-on chilled, as this will allow you to enjoy those more textural elements in the wine and provide an overall fuller-bodied sensation on the palate.]
More Info: I received The Withers 2016 Rhône style Rosé as a sample for review. (Cheers Andrew!) Retail: $22. For more information and to purchase wines directly, please visit The Withers website.
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