Ten Minutes with Andrew Tow
A wine maker
Andrew Tow, who runs a ventures company by day, founded the Withers Winery five years ago. The lifelong Pound Ridger has rarely missed an Allman Brothers concert at the Beacon Theater; he will drop almost anything to flyfish; and he likes to roll up his sleeves in the kitchen. The one thing he
is not is a snob: he loves to share his wines, and to scandalize guests by serving cult cabernets with snack food.
How did you come to love wine?
I was a ski bum in Vail, working as a waiter at the Watch Hill Oyster Club. Customers left the ends of bottles, and I’d stick them out on the windowsill in the snow to keep them cool and have them at the end of the night. The owner saw me doing that and invited me to sit in when distributors came with samples of wine.
What did your first cellar look like?
It was a crawl space under the apartment building in Portland, Oregon. It was ideal: damp and dark and cool and no vibration.
What other wines were you squirreling away?
I bought some of the first Oregon wines—Eyrie Vineyards and Ponzi. From California, I bought Stony Hill wines, Dunn’s Howell Mountain cabernets, Beaulieu’s private reserve. I’d buy old Inglenooks and old Beaulieu Vineyards from the ’50s and ’60s, old Charles Krug wines, old Burgess wines, Spring Mountain cabernet, Silverado Cellars.
It’s a bit of a leap from collecting to making wine. How did you talk Dave Low at Anthill Farms into making wines with you?
I found Anthill through Allen Meadows at burghound.com. He would occasionally write up California and Oregon wineries. He was pretty abusive for the most part—I’d read those reviews more for chuckles. Anthill, starting with an “A,” was one of the first ones listed in one issue. Dave and one of his partners agreed to meet me. We became friends, and one night we started talking about things that we liked to do outside the office, and I told them I was an avid fly fisherman. Dave expressed an interest, and I said, “How about we make a trade? I’ll take you to Montana to fish, and you can help me make a few barrels of wine.” To my amazement, he said yes.
Tell me about that first wine.
After harvest and press, we had certain more feminine-style pinot-noir clones in two barrels. And another friend of Dave’s had four barrels that were Martini and Pommard clones, a little darker fruit. So we combined all of our juice to make a better wine. It was just the home brew and huge fun for us. But a few friends encouraged me to see if there was an opportunity there.
And from there?
While making our Anderson Valley Pinor Noir, we’d met a guy named Tyson Freeman who was making beautiful wines from Rhone varietals from the Sierra foothills. Once I was determined to start the winery, Dave Low joined me as consulting wine maker, and he encouraged me to bring in Tyson and his wines.
What style are you’re trying to get at?
Elegant, more balanced, more classically styled wines. We said, “Let’s make wines that we would drink ourselves and stick to that.”