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Rhys Vineyards produces an exquisite range of single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, and Syrahs from California. There is a precise minerality, focused elegance, and most importantly, definite sense of place that one finds in these wines. Without question, Rhys produces some of the best wines in the United States.
Kevin Harvey, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, became fascinated with wine in the early 1990s. His attention soon shifted toward Burgundy; several years later, he turned his fascination into a DIY project by planting some Pinot Noir vines in the backyard of his Woodside, California home, set in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. After vinifying those grapes in his garage, he realized the resulting wine was quite good, and subsequently began scouring the Santa Cruz region for potential vineyards.
Harvey would soon capitalize on his vinous serendipity: after tasting some older Santa Cruz bottlings, he realized that the cool climate and steep hillsides with thin, weathered soils of the region had much in common with many of the famed European vineyards he had visited. Between 2001 and 2005, he identified and developed four additional sites to go along with the one behind his house, and later added in 2008 a sixth vineyard, Bearwallow, located in the Anderson Valley on the western coast of Mendocino County. The site is located at 300'-600' at the deeper end of Anderson Valley, and is composed of shallow topsoils over fractured shale, quartz, and sandstone. We're proud to offer 2014 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Bearwallow's younger vines today.
Rhys' vineyards are farmed biodynamically; yields very are low; the grapes are hand-picked at night (to preclude further ripening by the daytime sun); each vineyard block is vinified separately in one-ton micro-fermentation tanks with native yeasts, followed by elevage with limited use of new oak. Winemaker Jeff Brinkman has eschewed newer Dijon clones and instead planted "suitcase" clones and heritage selections (borrowing from the playbook of Santa Cruz winemaking pioneers Paul Masson and Martin Ray who also imported clones in the first half of the 20th century).
In a lineup of well-renowned California Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays tasted last October, we were enthralled by Rhys' wines because of their tension, power, elegance, ageability, and sense of place. A bottle of 2011 Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir stood out due to its dark core of brambly black fruit, finely grained tannins, and lengthy, persistent finish.
We were happy to learn that Rhys started making wines from younger vines in this very same vineyard. The Anderson Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have precociousness and pedigree similar to Rhys' more expensive bottlings, and are immediately drinkable. We clamored to get as much as we could; we encourage you do do the same. -Jonas Mendoza
[Credit to Mike Steinberger's "Eureka! The pinch-me-brilliant wines of Rhys Vineyards" (Slate.com, 3/24/11) for background information on Kevin Harvey and Rhys Vineyards in this article.]
The 2011 Rhys Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Bearwallow Vineyard was one of the most enjoyable bottles that I've had from the US, and I'm rejoicing that Rhys has decided to make affordable, early-drinking Pinot Noir from this same vineyard. On the nose, the wine is quite expressive with ripe red cherry and raspberry fruit and elegant red floral notes reminiscent of Chambolle-Musigny or Volnay. The palate is equally expressive with black raspberry and cherry fruit, freshly tilled soil, and baking spice flavors. The lithe core of black fruit is surrounded by well-integrated tannins. Jonas Mendoza
This Chardonnay comes from younger vines in Rhys' Anderson Valley Bearwallow Vineyard, and aged for 14 months in 20% new French oak barrels. Like a riper Chablis, there are notes of zesty lemon, white nectarine, and just-ripe peach. On the palate, lemon juice, lemon pith, and saline flavors with bright acidity and a tight mineral core.A perfect introduction to Rhys' stunning Chardonnays. Jonas Mendoza