Welcome to the Fall 2020 release!

Our autumn release this year is the first offering to focus on the single vineyard wines from the highly anticipated 2018 vintage. From the beginning its seemed that this was a special vintage and, after time in cask, it became clear that it was a benchmark vintage for California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In this offering we are excited to highlight the wines of Alpine and Bearwallow vineyards, as well as some of our rarer small-production wines, including our 2017 Mt. Pajaro Chenin Blanc. Continue reading below for a recap of the 2018 growing season, about our recent, complete retrospective tasting of the Rhys library, and for information on the individual wines in this release, including notes from the critics.

The 2018 Vintage –
It’s interesting to look back and consider what exactly made 2018 so special. The winter prior to the 2018 growing season was dry with only about 60% of normal rainfall but the vines were not overly stressed as the soil was still holding moisture from the very high rainfall of 2017. Uncharacteristically for our mountain vineyards, the hottest month of the year was July. This early season heat and dry soil conditions encouraged the grapes to develop thick skins. After July the growing conditions were very mild and in particular a we had wonderful September weather without any excessive heat which allowed the grapes to slowly finish ripening. The resulting wines are exceptionally balanced with terrific intensity and an unusual fresh fruit character that is really something special.

Updates to the Rhys Vintage Chart –
We recently sat down and tasted through the entire Rhys library back to our first vintage. This was quite the undertaking, but we wanted to completely refresh the vintage chart and provide current information about every wine we’ve made. We’ve also made the vintage chart printable, making for a handy cheat sheet for your cellar. You can see the updated chart HERE. Tasting through these wines was enlightening for us and we found quite a few pleasant surprises, especially with some of the older and more difficult vintages. Here are a few takeaways that we hope will help in deciding which wines to open.

  • We were quite happy to see how fresh and resolved the vintages prior to our move to the cave in 2010 were. These wines have begun to take on some secondary characteristics and are drinking very well.
  • Difficult vintages like 2007 and 2010 have resolved beautifully and we generally encourage customers to not to be afraid to open any wines from 2011 back to 2004.
  • While structured vintages like 2014 are still shy, vintages like 2012, 2013, and even 2016 are drinking beautifully right now and we encourage exploration of all three of these years.
  • In recent vintages we’ve really begun to see the rewards of vine age and much more experience in making wines from these estate vineyards. Our newer wines show remarkable balance and freshness when young while maintaining the age-worthiness of some of the more structured older vintages.
  • In general, we continue to think that our Pinot noirs will age a minimum of 15 years and most will improve for double that.

Bearwallow Vineyard

Bearwallow Overview

2018 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Chardonnay

Rhys Bearwallow Chardonnay

Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (September 2020) The 2018 Chardonnay Bearwallow Vineyard is endowed with tremendous poise and balance. Light tropical notes, marzipan and lemon oil open up first in a Chardonnay loaded with character. Bright acids play off a creamy expression of fruit. Rich and textured yet also light on its feet, the Bearwallow Chardonnay has a ton to offer. It is another brilliant wine in this lineup from Rhys. 94.

Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (September 2020) Coming from a site in the Anderson Valley, the 2018 Chardonnay Bearwallow Vineyard shows its normal Burgundian style and has a gorgeous perfume of crushed citrus, lemon curd, white flowers, and salty minerality. Complex and nuanced aromatically, it hits the palate with a racy, steely texture that carries good concentration and mid-palate density, bright acidity, and a saliva-inducing finish. As with the 2017, it needs a solid 3-4 years of bottle age and should drink nicely over the following decade or more. 92+.

John Gilman, ViewFromtheCellar.com (May/June 2020, #87)The 2018 Bearwallow chardonnay from Rhys Vineyards comes in at a cool and classy 12.5 percent octane this year and offers up a simply stellar aromatic constellation of apple, pear, a gorgeous base of Mendocino soil tones, gentle notes of honeysuckle and white lilies, citrus zest, a hint of more savory elements (wild fennel?) and a refined framing of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is bright, full-bodied, focused and very energetic on the backend, with a superb core of fruit, lovely soil signature and grip and a very, very long, lifted and complex finish. This seems to me to be the best vintage of Bearwallow chardonnay I have yet tasted from Rhys! 2020- 2045. 94.

2018 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir

Bearwallow Vineyard Soil

Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (September 2020) The 2018 Pinot Noir Bearwallow Vineyard marries the forward fruit that is so typical of this site with the brisk acids and freshness that are such signatures of this great Pinot vintage. Sweet floral and spice notes lead into a core of red berry fruit as this polished, classically built Pinot reveals its considerable charms. The 2018 has plenty to offer. I wouldn’t be in a rush to open it, but for readers who can’t resist, it is the most approachable of these wines. 94.

Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (September 2020) Always one of the lighter colored wines in the lineup, the 2018 Pinot Noir Bearwallow Vineyard comes from an estate vineyard in the Anderson Valley. Classic notes of dried cherries, cranberries, loamy earth, and savory herbs all give way to a bright, medium-bodied, elegant Pinot Noir that has a solid sense of minerality, present tannins, and a good finish. I never find the same level of class or elegance from this cuvée compared to the Santa Cruz Mountain releases, yet it’s a character-filled, satisfying Pinot Noir to enjoy over the coming decade. 93.

John Gilman, ViewFromtheCellar.com (May/June 2020, #87) The 2018 vintage of Bearwallow pinot noir is again pretty ripe for Rhys, but that is the nature of the vintage, coming in at 13.8 percent octane, but still offering lovely purity and bounce. The nose wafts from the glass in a refined and already quite complex constellation of red and black cherries, a touch of raspberry, black tea, a beautifully refined base of soil tones, truly gorgeous spice tones from the whole clusters and a very suave framing of spicy new oak. On the palate the wine is bright, full-bodied, balanced and plush on the attack, with an excellent core of fruit, fine soil signature, ripe, seamless tannins and outstanding length and grip on the nascently complex and very well-balanced finish. 2028-2065. 92.

2018 Rhys Porcupine Hill Pinot Noir

Rhys Porcupine Hill

Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (September 2020) The 2018 Pinot Noir Porcupine Hill emerges from a block of densely planted vines that lies apart from the rest of the property, on its own ridge. Weightless and ethereal, the 2018 stands out for its aromatic presence and finely sculpted, detailed profile. Interestingly, the fruit is much less overt here than it is in the Bearwallow. There is something elusive in the Porcupine Hill’s ethereal personality that is absolutely compelling. 96.

Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (September 2020) Kirsch, mulled cherries, leather, flowery incense, and minty herbs are all displayed in the 2018 Pinot Noir Porcupine Hill, a medium-bodied, elegant, seamless Pinot Noir from the Anderson Valley. Showing classic Anderson Valley savoriness and mineral notes, it has ripe yet present tannins, a focused texture, and a crisp, clean finish. It needs 2-3 years of bottle age but will be a complex, elegant Pinot Noir to enjoy through 2030. 94.

John Gilman, ViewFromtheCellar.com (May/June 2020, #87) The Porcupine Hill bottling of pinot noir from Rhys hails from the only parcel of the Bearwallow Vineyard that is planted to high density, making this quite unique than the other Bearwallow fruit (above and beyond the differences of terroir of this section). The 2018 Porcupine Hill cuvée comes in at the same octane level as the Bearwallow, 13.8 percent, but it seems just a touch more precise and soil-driven. The bouquet delivers a superb combination of sweet dark berries, black plums, raw cocoa, lovely whole cluster spice tones, a complex base of soil, woodsmoke, cardamom, gently savory elements and a discreet framing of new wood. On the palate the wine is full-bodied, focused and very refined, with a great core of black fruit, excellent mineral drive and grip, fine-grained tannins and a long, tangy and youthfully complex finish. This is deeper, tighter-knit and even more defined by its underlying soil tones than the very good Bearwallow bottling. Outstanding juice. 2028-2065. 94.

Alpine Vineyard

Alpine Vineyard Overview

2018 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay

Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay

Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (September 2020) The 2018 Chardonnay Alpine Vineyard dazzles from start to finish. Tangerine oil, matchstick, wild flowers, sage, chamomile and pineapple are some of the many notes that grace the 2018. In the glass, the 2018 is focused and taut, with striking richness that is just waiting to emerge. In a word: Superb. 94+.

Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (September 2020) While from a site not far from the Horseshoe Vineyard, the 2018 Chardonnay Alpine Vineyard is distinctly different. Where the Horseshoe Chardonnay is exotic and more masculine, this is more seamless, elegant, and classic. Chassagne-Montrachet-like notes of orchard fruits, citrus blossom, toasted bread, flowers, and spice as well as some classic Santa Cruz Mountains minerality dominate the bouquet, and it’s medium to full-bodied, beautifully textured, and has a great finish. It’s already approachable, yet its spine of acidity as well as its mid-palate depth all suggest a solid 10-12 years of prime drinking. 97.

John Gilman, ViewFromtheCellar.com (May/June 2020, #87) Rhys’ 2018 Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay is beautifully expressive on both the nose and palate this year- right out of the blocks, though it is certainly built for the long haul! The wine comes in at a refined 12.8 percent alcohol and offers up a lovely, sophisticated bouquet of apple, pear, lemon blossoms, fresh almond, salty minerality, citrus zest, vanillin oak and a touch of acacia blossoms as well in the upper register. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied, balanced and just a touch reductive for cellaring, with a marvelous core, stunning mineral drive and grip, ripe, buried acids and laser-like focus on the long, complex and utterly refined finish. I love the backend lift here! Great juice. 2023-2045+. 94

2018 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Pinot Noir

Alpine Vineyard Soil

Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (September 2020) The 2018 Pinot Noir Alpine Vineyard opens with striking, floral-infused aromatics that give the wine presence and structure. Savory and finely cut, with superb delineation, and tons of depth, the Alpine is positively stellar today. Layers of fruit enshroud the tannins, making them barely perceptible. The 2018 is a stunning Pinot from Alpine, a site originally planted with 17 heritage clones. 95+.

Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (September 2020) Redcurrants, flowers, chalky minerality, spice, and loamy soil notes all emerge from the 2018 Pinot Noir Alpine Vineyard, which is medium-bodied and has a supple, elegant texture, no hard edges, and a great finish. It shows more and more minerality with time in the glass and is a classic expression of this steep, southwest-facing vineyard. It has plenty of upfront charm and accessibility yet still has ample underlying tannins. My money is on it benefiting from 2-3 years of bottle age and evolving nicely for a solid decade. 94.

John Gilman, ViewFromtheCellar.com (May/June 2020, #87) The 2018 Alpine Vineyard bottling is perhaps the lowest octane pinot noir in the Rhys lineup this year, tipping the scales at a svelte 12.6 percent. The bouquet is extremely precise and flat out gorgeous, wafting from the glass in a mix of sweet dark berries, black cherries, raw cocoa, beautiful minerality, woodsmoke, a touch of incipient cola notes, sweet stem notes of fresh nutmeg and Ceylon cinnamon and a discreet foundation of cedary oak. On the palate the wine is deep, pure, full-bodied and pulled taut across its structural skeleton, with a lovely core of black fruit, great transparency and grip, suave buried tannins and a long, tangy and very complex finish. I love the backend energy and lift here! 2028-2065+. 95.

2018 Rhys Swan Terrace Pinot Noir

Rhys Swan Terrace Pinot Noir Overview

Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (September 2020) The 2018 Pinot Noir Swan Terrace emerges from a steep, east-facing parcel within Alpine planted with a number of different versions of the Swan clone Pinot. It is one of the most ethereal, perfumed wines in the range. Crushed rose petal, blood orange, sweet red berries, pine and mint give the Swan Terrace its signature aromatic profile. This is such a nuanced and totally distinctive wine. 96+.

Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (September 2020) The 2018 Pinot Noir Swan Terrace comes from a tiny 1.5-acre terrace in the Alpine Vineyard and is all Swan clone of Pinot Noir. It offers more stemmy notes of red and black fruits, smoked herbs, and forest floor and mushroom nuances. As with all of these 2018s, the level of nuance and complexity is incredible, and this develops and changes with air and has that classic Pinot Noir mix of sweet fruit and earthy, underbrush, and sous bois character that keeps you coming back to the glass. Medium to full-bodied, silky, and elegant on the palate, it has solid underlying structure and is going to drink fabulously well for 15 years or more. 97.

John Gilman, ViewFromtheCellar.com (May/June 2020, #87) The tiny subsection of the Alpine Vineyard, Swan Terrace, is one of the stars of the 2018 lineup of pinot noirs from Rhys. The wine is deep, pure and shows perfect ripeness (coming in at 13.1 percent octane) in its black fruity aromatic constellation of black plums, sweet dark berries, a superb base of minerality, woodsmoke, black tea, raw cocoa, cedar and lovely spice tones from the whole clusters in the upper register. On the palate the wine is very pure, full-bodied and very promising, with excellent mid-palate depth, bright acids, fine-grained tannins and excellent nascent complexity on the very long and soil-driven finish. This is perfectly balanced, but will still want plenty of bottle age to let it completely blossom and show all of its myriad layers of complexity in total harmony. 2028-2065. 95.

Home Vineyard

Home Overivew

2018 Home Vineyard Pinot Noir

Rhys Home Vineyard Pinot Noir

Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (September 2020) The 2018 Pinot Noir Home Vineyard is bright, punchy and so expressive. Black cherry, plum, leather, cedar, menthol and licorice infuse the 2018 with striking darkness and an element of sepia-toned mystic beauty that is compelling. Ample in feel and broad, with striking energy, the Home Vineyard Pinot is such a complete wine. 96.

Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (September 2020) The 2018 Pinot Noir Home Vineyard comes from the northern sector of the Santa Cruz Mountains and has a complex, earthy bouquet of black cherry and raspberry fruits as well as notes of forest floor, new leather, and spice. More floral and sassafras notes develop with air, and this medium to full-bodied beauty has an incredibly seamless texture and a great finish. It has plenty of structure, but it’s buried under the fruit at this point. This pure, fleshy, beautiful Pinot Noir will shed some baby fat over the coming 3-5 years and drink brilliantly for a decade. 95.

John Gilman, ViewFromtheCellar.com (May/June 2020, #87) The 2018 Home Vineyard cuvée of pinot noir from Rhys is beautifully expressive on both the nose and palate this year. The bouquet jumps from the glass in a refined mix of black raspberries, black cherries, bitter chocolate, incipient notes of cola, dark soil tones, notes of sweet stems from the whole clusters, exotic spice tones and a touch of new oak. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and perfectly balanced, with a lovely core of fruit, great soil undertow, fine-grained tannins and a long, vibrant and very classy finish. This is stellar. 2028- 2065. 93+.

Mt. Pajaro Vineyard

Mt. Pajaro Overview

2017 Mt. Pajaro Vineyard Chenin Blanc

Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (Oct 2019) First made in 2016, the 2017 Chenin Blanc Mt. Pajaro Vineyard is another stunning example of this variety that readers should snatch up. White peach, spiced citrus, salty minerality, and sappy flower notes all emerge from the glass of this beauty, which is medium-bodied, with plenty of mid-palate concentration and a great finish. It’s a brilliant wine.93.

John Gilman, ViewFromtheCellar.com (July/August 2019, #82) The 2017 Mount Pajaro Vineyard bottling of Chenin Blanc from Rhys Vineyards is a more forward wine than last year’s version, with lovely plumpness to the fruit component, a fine base of soil and still the fine structural chassis of chenin blanc. The bouquet delivers a classic varietal blend of ripe quince, a touch of pineapple, lanolin, lovely soil tones, a wisp of bee pollen and a topnote of white flowers. With a bit of air an exotic touch of bergamot also develops in the upper register. On the palate the wine is crisp, full-bodied, focused and juicy on the attack, with a fine core, excellent soil signature, bright acids and lovely focus and grip on the long and complex finish. Part of the reason for this wine’s greater personality out of the blocks vis à vis the 2016 version is the style of the two vintages, but I have the impression that the 2017 also marks a step of progression for the team at Rhys with this varietal and vineyard. Fine, fine juice. 2019-2040+. 91+

Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (October 2019) The 2017 Chenin Blanc Mt. Pajaro Vineyard is open-knit, textured and beautifully inviting. Orchard fruit, lemon confit, almond, dried flowers and sage are all wonderfully alive in the glass. The 2017 is a bit softer and more lush than the 2016, but it is nevertheless absolutely delicious and distinctive. 91.

Horseshoe Vineyard

Horseshoe Vineyard Overview

2017 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Syrah

Horseshoe Vineyard Soil

Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (September 2020) The 2017 Syrah Horseshoe Vineyard is remarkably elegant. The red fruit character almost recalls Pinot Noir, but a backbone of firm tannins brings the mind immediately back to Syrah. Flowers, black pepper, game and leathery notes all develop with a bit of coaxing. The Syrah is maybe just a bit less varietal than it often is, but that does not detract from its immeasurable beauty. 95+.

Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (September 2020) I’m always thrilled to see a Syrah from this estate, and the 2017 Syrah Horseshoe Vineyard comes from a great vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Beautiful Northern Rhône-like notes of black raspberries, bacon fat, spring flowers, and cracked black pepper all emerge from the glass, and this Côte-Rôtie look-alike is medium-bodied, has solid tannins, good acidity, and a great finish. It’s a beautiful, complex, yet still nicely concentrated Syrah that’s going to evolve for 10-12 years. 94.

John Gilman, ViewFromtheCellar.com (May/June 2020, #87) Sometimes I feel like syrah is the great, forgotten variety at Rhys Vineyards, as it has had to play second fiddle to pinot noir (and chardonnay?) since day one here and is probably moving further back in the pack as the new Italian project really starts to gain steam. But, I truly love what the Rhys team has done over the years with syrah and some of my most-prized bottles in my cellar are their syrahs, which I am doing my best to keep my hands off of while they climb to cruising altitude. The 2017 Horseshoe syrah is a stunning wine in the making, offering up a pure and classic nose of cassis, black raspberry, pepper, grilled meats, great whole cluster spice elements, stony soil tones, bonfire and a touch of new wood. On the palate the wine is deep, pure, full-bodied and perfectly balanced, with a superb core, great soil drive and grip, ripe, buried tannins and a long, complex and extremely promising finish. This is (yet again) another truly great bottle of syrah in the making. 2030-2075. 94.