Andrew Tow, found and owner of The Withers Winery, wasn’t always a fan of California wines. Instead, he gravitated toward the more traditional wines of France and Italy. Here, he felt, the wines were more authentic, with hands-off winemaking methods, and resulting wines that are less about alcohol and texture but more of a celebration of real fruit. Now that he has his place in the California winemaking scene, his goal is to bring that “Old World” style to this “New World” regime. “The ‘New California’ is the ‘Old California,” says Tow. And so it is with his 2015 Peters Vineyard Pinot Noir: a California “classic” that expresses all the nuances that the land, the fruit, and the gentle hands of the winemaker has to offer.

About the Wine: The Withers 2015 Peters Vineyard Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. Pommard, 777, and 115 clones were all harvested from Peters Vineyard along the Sonoma Coast — the same vineyard sourced for The Withers 2015 Peters Vineyard Chardonnay. These Pinot Noir grapes also grow along that cold south-facing slope, benefitting from the cool Pacific Ocean breeze funneled in through the Petaluma Gap.

The grapes were cold soaked, then left to ferment with 35% 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.

13.8% ABV

Flavor Profile: From the bottle you wouldn’t guess Pinot Noir, with strong aromas of plump black cherries, plums, and figs. On the pour The Withers 2015 Peters Vineyard Pinot Noir is a dusty, light purple with just the slightest hint of a maroon-shade of red, settling into the glass with the color of an old rose — completely see-through, 100% maroon in the center, and fading to nothingness as it flows toward the perimeter.

Initial aromas are more stereotypical Pinot Noir scents: bright red cherries, strawberries, and a background of dried bark. There’s a solid line of acidity that gives the nose a perfume-like quality, though the specific scent is just out of reach. Swirl, and the wine releases the soft scent of young rose bushes (ah! that’s the perfume), enlivens the fruit aromatics, and the wine suddenly becomes a burst of energy. Move the nose around, and find some vivacious green herbs, like sage or eucalyptus. If you pull the nose just slightly away from the wine, you’ll get the sweet sensation of fresh cranberry juice.

On the palate The Withers 2015 Peters Vineyard Pinot Noir is simultaneously full but light. There’s a strong use of acid, near negligible tannins — yet you know they’re there because of the soft, almost pillowy sensation on the tongue. Primary flavors are of red cherries, damp gravel, kale, green eucalyptus leaf, with an earthy background of old tree bark. This Pinot Noir is the perfect balance between fruits and floral notes. As the wine opens up, it softens ever so slightly: the oak awakens and binds all these flavors together and softens the combined palate. The finish is a lingering one, as the brightness of those fruits maintain just enough acidity to tickle the throat, inviting another sip.

Food Pairing: I paired The Withers 2015 Peters Vineyard Pinot Noir with a spinach and tomato salad alongside a mushroom and parmesan flatbread. The spinach — while it obviously engaged the tannins due to its cruciferous nature — also, in its darkness, made the bright fruit flavors that much brighter. Conversely, the tomatoes, with their acidic nature, actually canceled out those bright fruits and showcased the dark side of this wine. But the best part has to be the cooked mushrooms, whose meatiness called out that hidden oak, provided a firmer structure to the wine, and garnered an overall smooth, round feeling in the mouth.

Perfect pairing? I’d say so. Next time, though, I’d take it a step further and perhaps try this with a grilled portobello steak.

More Info: I received The Withers 2015 Peters Vineyard Pinot Noir as a sample for review. (Cheers, Andrew!) Retail: $46. For more information and to purchase wines directly, please visit The Withers website.

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