The Withers Winery crafts some bodacious (yes, I just used that word) Chardonnays and some elegant Pinot Noirs. But their passion — if not their claim to fame — are Rhone-inspired wines from the self-proclaimed “Rhone Zone” of El Dorado County. They craft some excellent single varietals including the somewhat obscure Counoise, but I just love how they play with the classic GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blend. In fact, when I received my shipment of The Withers wines, I was delighted to see three different takes — each one highlighting a different grape. So while the previously reviewed Bel Canto was more of a GMS, this 2014 Ruben is more of a MSG (but the good kind) — highlighting my favorite of the three ingredients, Mourvedre.

About the Wine: The The Withers 2014 Ruben Rhône Red Blend is made of 82% Mourvedre, 12% Syrah, 6% Grenache harvested from vineyards within California’s El Dorado AVA.

13.9% ABV

Flavor Profile: Out of the bottle comes wet dirty grass at midnight — it’s the funk after a heavy rain as mist settles into dewdrops. The Withers 2014 Ruben Rhône Red Blend is a light, dusty purple-rose shade of red on the pour, settling into the glass with a tad more rouge, fading out toward a petal-pink on the perimeter. It’s very light — you can see right through the red wine even at its very core.

Initial aromas are of boysenberry on a brambly bush, while plump plums hang in the background. There’s an underlying essence of eucalyptus and pine leaf. Swirl, and the wine releases more of that wet soil and the dank scent of wet tree bark. The pine needle scent is now more pronounced and, if you pull away slightly, you’ll find a soft milk chocolate aroma intermingled with incense.

The palate of the Withers 2014 Ruben Rhône Red Blend is dark, dark and earthy, dark and funky, with a strong line of acidity that keeps the fruits fully alive. Dominant flavors are of black plums, boysenberries, potpourri, and an almost Christmas-y branchiness. There’s just a tease of smoke lingering in the background that appears about 3/4 of the way through the tasting, giving way to a bit of “meatiness,” but the soft meatiness more akin to a mushroom than an animal. The tannins here are firm, structural — as in, there’s a good weight and body to the wine, but there’s no tannic texture to the tongue. Well balanced, well rounded, and this is all straight from bottle to glass.

Food Pairing: I paired the Withers 2014 Ruben Rhône Red Blend with a mushroom risotto, tossed with fresh green peas, and seasoned with black truffle. Loved this pairing. The earthy pop of sweetness from the peas perfectly pulled out some brightness from the fruit notes in the wine. The mushrooms and the truffle played up those wet soil and wet wood aromas and flavors in the blend, which ultimately gave it this “Old World,” classicism.

More Info: I received The Withers 2014 Ruben Rhône Red Blend as a sample for review. (Cheers Andrew!) Retail: $39 for the 2015 vintage. For more information about The Withers, please read The Withers Winery: a story of passion, perseverance, and people. Of course for even more information about The Withers, their wines, and to purchase wines directly, please visit The Withers Winery website.

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