This is the final release of Chardonnays and Pinot noirs from the charming 2017 vintage. We are thrilled to debut the first vineyard designated wines from our newest Santa Cruz Mountain vineyard: Mt. Pajaro. This gem of a site is located just seven miles from the Monterey Bay in the southern end of the appellation. We think it is well on its way to becoming one of our star vineyards. For more information about the wines offered in this release and about Mt. Pajaro see below and the updated Estate Vineyards section of our website.
For more information about the 2017 vintage please click here.
Mt. Pajaro Vineyard –
While Rhys’ first five Santa Cruz Mountain estate vineyards are located in the northern end of the Santa Cruz Mountain Appellation, the southern region of the Santa Cruz Mountains also features some very interesting geology. While the clay topsoils and rocky marine subsoils that are perfect for producing great wines are found here, they are quite different from our existing vineyards. Our search for a site in this region, which is almost 30 miles south of Alpine vineyard, lead us to an area east of the town of Corralitos. Here the San Andreas fault splinters into smaller faults which has created a complex and varied geology with perfect slopes for hillside viticulture. A neighbor alerted us to an abandoned apple orchard at 900 ft of elevation and 7 miles from Monterey Bay, and knowing that this combination of altitude and distance from the ocean creates an ideal climate for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, we leapt at the opportunity.
This exciting site benefitted from the accumulated knowledge of our prior vineyard developments. In particular, we decided to plant the entire 18 acre vineyard with very dense, tightly spaced grapevines selected from our best experimental blocks at Alpine vineyard. Planting high density grapevines is much more expensive and time consuming but we have found that these blocks are more naturally balanced, need less rainfall, and produce grapes of higher quality. Prior to Mt. Pajaro, the only blocks in our portfolio planted with this density were Skyline vineyard and the Porcupine Hill section of Bearwallow vineyard.
The first wines from Mt Pajaro are intense and perfectly balanced with a unique, complex personality that stand alone in our single vineyard wines. The combination of tight spacing, low-yielding clones and the unique geology of the site gives the wines tremendous complexity, intensity, and depth. The Chardonnay showcases a terrific nose of lemon curd, honeysuckle and piercing minerality with a complex and tightly woven palate. The Pinot Noirs from Mt. Pajaro are equally captivating, featuring a concentrated and multilayered core of raspberry and cherry with a dusting of cocoa powder. Even at this early age, we think the wines of Mt. Pajaro will be every bit as rewarding and long-lived as our other Santa Cruz Mountain standouts.
2017 Mt. Pajaro Vineyard Chardonnay – Lemon curd, honeysuckle and piercing minerality on the nose, complex and tightly woven palate. This should unfold over the next few years in the cellar but is drinking very well right now.
2017 Mt. Pajaro Vineyard Pinot Noir –Fresh and energetic red fruit core of raspberry and cherry. The finish has a dusting of earthy cocoa powder with suave tannin. We’ve found the mocha/cocoa note on the Pinots to be a vineyard signature for Mt. Pajaro.
2016 Mt. Pajaro Chenin Blanc?! One of the many exciting things about Mt. Pajaro vineyard is the new high density block of Chenin Blanc. While the 2016 production is quite low, we are thrilled to introduce this completely dry, Santa Cruz Mountain rendition of Chenin Blanc. This debut release shows classic Chenin Blanc aromas and flavors of wet slate, white flowers, and lime seamlessly interwoven with racy acidity.
2017 Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay – Fresh and elegant, the 2017 shows the characteristic salinity and lemon oil notes that Alpine Chardonnay is known for. Long and energetic on the finish bolstered by terrific acidity.
2017 Alpine Vineyard Pinot Noir – This lower production vintage at Alpine produced a wine with gorgeous aromatics and charm. We expect this silky, beautiful Pinot Noir to always drink well. Lacey and elegant, the 2017 Alpine Pinot Noir displays nuanced red fruit and floral aromas and flavors balanced with lively acidity. A few years in the cellar will allow it to come together, but it should really drink well throughout its life.
2017 Porcupine Hill Pinot Noir – Our Bearwallow vineyard was a real star in 2017, producing delicious and compelling Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The 2017 Porcupine Hill is no exemption. This tiny selection takes the crunch red fruit and spicy earth notes of the Bearwallow single vineyard bottling to the next level. Concentrated but elegant and boasting tremendous depth and length, this will be a great wine with 5-7 years of cellaring.
2017 Skyline Vineyard Pinot Noir –
Like the other mountain vineyards in 2017, Skyline came in with reduced yields but made an excellent wine. This is a classic Skyline with aromas and flavors of crushed rock, forest floor and orange rind. The palate is almost weightless and it finishes with plenty of mountain vineyard tannin. Give this beauty 5-7 years in the cellar.
2016 Horseshoe Vineyard Syrah – The more bottles we open from the 2016 the more we find that we underestimated it early on. We expected more middle weight wines but the last year has shown them becoming increasingly complex and fleshed out. The 2016 Syrah is following suite, and has blossomed into a captivating Syrah. Hallmarks of cool climate Syrah are at the forefront here, with olive, violets, dark berry, and peppery spice evident. It’s deeply pitched and focused on the palate and finishes with plenty of earthy structure. As with all of our Horseshoe Syrahs patience in the cellar is needed.
Mt. Pajaro Vineyard
2017 Rhys Mt. Pajaro Vineyard Chardonnay
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (October 2019) The 2017 Chardonnay Mt. Pajaro Vineyard is soft, supple and engaging, with lovely tangerine peel, almond, dried flower and herb notes. This level of complexity is just remarkable for a wine from young vines in its first commercial release. I can’t wait to see what future vintages hold.92.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (October 2019) The 2017 Chardonnay Mt Pajaro Vineyard is also more reticent aromatically yet has beautiful purity and precision in its citrus blossom, salty minerality, and white flower-driven aromas and flavors. It’s another nicely textured, beautifully balanced Chardonnay with loads of potential, it just needs another year or two of bottle age. 93+.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2019) The 2017 Mt. Pajaro Vineyard bottling of chardonnay from Rhys Vineyards is nicely cool and solid-driven on both the nose and palate this year, with the shale mineral foundation giving the wine a nice backend transparency. The wine comes in at 12.7 percent and offers up a lovely bouquet of pear, fresh almond, white lilies, a dollop of orange zest, stony soil tones and a touch of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied and very elegant in profile, with a good core of fruit, bright acids and fine focus and grip on the nicely transparent finish. This is understated and very classy. 2019-2030+. 91.
2017 Mt. Pajaro Vineyard Pinot Noir
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (October 2019) The 2017 Pinot Noir Mt. Pajaro Vineyard is the first wine from new parcel planted with tight meter by meter spacing using a massale selection from Alpine. Dark, bold and punchy, the 2017 is decidedly exuberant. It will be interesting to see where the wines go as the vines become older. The 2017 is not especially complex, but it offers terrific intensity and fruit richness. Black cherry, menthol, new leather and licorice build into the voluptuous finish. This is a very strong debut, but clearly the best is yet to come. 93.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (October 2019) The 2017 Pinot Noir Mt Pajaro Vineyard is more upfront and expressive, with lots of bright cherry and raspberry fruit interwoven with notions of scorched earth, chocolate, earth, and dried herbs. It’s another medium-bodied, nicely textured, balanced, savory Pinot Noir from this team that’s going to benefit from short-term bottle age. 93.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2019) This is the first release of pinot noir from the Mount Pajaro Vineyard that I have seen from Rhys and it is quite lovely in 2017. The bouquet is a very classy blend of sweet dark berries, black cherries, a nice touch of Gevrey-like grilled meat, raw cocoa, dark soil tones and a bit of new wood. On the palate the wine is quite pure, fullish and complex, with lovely focus and grip, good, but not great depth at the core, fine-grained tannins and a long, vibrant and very classy finish. I assume this is younger vines and hence, the wine does not quite have the same mid-palate stuffing of some of the earlier-planted vineyards, but there is tons of personality here and this is a very welcome new addition to the Rhys pinot noir lineup! It will be a star in due course. 2019-2050+. 92+.
2016 Mt. Pajaro Vineyard Chenin Blanc
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (Feb 2019) I was blown away by the 2016 Chenin Blanc Mt. Pajaro (this is a new vineyard recently planted by Rhys) and this is unquestionably the finest expression of this variety I’ve tasted from California. From a site in the Santa Cruz Mountains, it boasts tons of flinty minerality and tart citrus to go with a concentrated, deep, medium to full-bodied vibe on the palate. With bright acidity and a great finish, it’s a serious Chenin Blanc that I suspect will have two decades of longevity. 95.
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (October 2019) The 2016 Chenin Blanc Mt. Pajaro Vineyard is the first wine off of this newly developed site, and it is gorgeous. Dried herb, pear, chamomile and lightly honeyed notes fill out the wine’s frame effortlessly. The Chenin has a phenolic-like character that is super intriguing. 92.
2017 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (October 2019) The 2017 Chardonnay Alpine Vineyard is all class. Brisk, salivating and delineated, with terrific cut, the Alpine shows just how pedigreed this site is for Chardonnay. Citrus, floral and mineral notes are all finely sculpted in a gorgeous, translucent Chardonnay that bristles with energy. Salivating acids punctuate the clean, bracing finish. In a nutshell, the 2017 Alpine Chardonnay is superb. Don’t miss it. 95.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (October 2019) The 2017 Chardonnay Alpine Vineyard checks in at 12.8% alcohol and has a classic Santa Cruz Mountain minerality and austerity as well as tight, vibrant notes of crushed citrus, lemon curd, white flowers, matchstick, and liquid rock-like minerality. With a Grand Cru Chevalier-Montrachet-like purity and focus on the palate, it’s medium-bodied, with vibrant acidity, flawless balance, and an awesome finish. I’d put this up with the best Chardonnays coming out of California and France today. Give bottles 2-3 years of bottle age and enjoy over the following decade or more. 99.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2019) Rhys’ 2017 Alpine chardonnay is a marvelous glass of wine and is already showing the first touch of candied lemon peel that I usually associate with the mature wines of Domaines Raveneau and Dauvissat in Chablis. But, here it plays a lovely supporting role in the aromatic constellation of pear, a touch of pineapple, complex, saline soil tones, acacia blossoms, a hint of vanilla pastry cream, vanillin oak and the aforementioned, incipient notes of candied lemon peel. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied, focused and complex, with excellent depth at the core, bright acids and superb focus and grip on the classy, vibrant and beautifully balanced finish. More complexity will come with bottle age, but this is not going to be an easy bottle to keep one’s hands off of in the cellar. This is flat out delicious! 2019-2045. 94.
2017 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Pinot Noir
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (October 2019) The 2017 Pinot Noir Alpine Vineyard comes from a mostly southwest-facing vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains (planted to a heritage selection of clones) and was brought up in a mix of new and used French oak. It offers a complex, nuanced style that carries lots of spiced red fruits, forest floor, smoked earth, potpourri, and a touch of sassafras and sagebrush. Complex, medium-bodied, silky, and beautifully balanced on the palate, it checks in behind the 2015 and 2016 but is nevertheless a beautiful, elegant, seamless Pinot Noir that’s going to evolve nicely for over 10-15 years. 94.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2019) The 2017 Alpine Vineyard bottling of pinot noir from Kevin Harvey, Jeff Brinkman and their team at Rhys is flat out gorgeous in this vintage. The bouquet is already hitting on all cylinders, wafting from the glass in a complex and elegant blend of black cherries, black plums, dark chocolate, complex soil tones, a touch of pigeon, lovely spice tones, a dollop of new wood and a smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is very pure, refined and full-bodied, with lovely sappiness down at the core, excellent mineral drive, blossoming complexity, fine-grained tannins and a long, vibrant and very classy finish. This is a great pinot noir in the making. 2024-2060.2022-2055. 94+.
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (October 2019) The 2017 Pinot Noir Alpine Vineyard is soft, open-knit and absolutely delicious. Crushed flowers, mint, blood orange, crushed red berries, chalk and white pepper are all very nicely lifted. The 2017 is airy and gracious, with lovely aromatic lift and tons of personality. The 2017 is especially suave. It is another pretty wine, very much in the lighter style of the year. 92.
2017 Rhys Skyline Vineyard Pinot Noir
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (October 2019) The 2017 Pinot Noir Skyline Vineyard is marked by a decidedly ripe profile. Succulent wild cherry, kirsch, hard candy, mint, leather, spice and sweet tobacco are given an extra kick of savory complexity from the 100% whole clusters. The 2017 offers quite a bit of aromatic and flavor complexity in the mid-weight style that is typical of the 2017 Pinots at Rhys. 93.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (October 2019) The 2017 Pinot Noir Skyline Vineyard is terrific stuff, but it’s going to need bottle age. Deep ruby/purple-hued with awesome notes of spice red and black fruits, sappy herbs, iodine, lavender, and crushed rocks, it hits the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, good concentration, building tannins, and a great finish. Do your best to hide bottles for a good 3-4 years and it’s going to knock your socks off over the following decade. 96.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2019) The 2017 Pinot Noir “Skyline Vineyard” bottling from Rhys Vineyards is just beautiful this year. It exhibits picture-perfect ripeness at 12.9 percent and delivers great vibrancy and purity in its aromatic constellation of sweet dark berries, black plums, raw cocoa, a hint of gamebird, lovely soil complexity, a bit of bonfire and a lovely foundation of new oak. On the palate the wine is suave, full-bodied, focused and beautifully transparent, with a sappy core, lovely structural tension, modest tannins and a very long, very pure and extremely classy finish. This is dynamite young pinot noir, but like many of the Rhys 2017s, it is not going to demand any extended period of hibernation before it becomes utterly riveting in the glass! 2021-2055. 94.
2017 Rhys Porcupine Hill Pinot Noir
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (October 2019) The 2017 Pinot Noir Porcupine Hill is built on a core of fruit from an east-facing hill that was replanted with tightly spaced rows in 2012. A wine of breadth and power, the Porcupine Hill has quite a bit of intensity to match its dark flavor profile. Black cherry, plum, spice, leather, earthiness and menthol add character. Today, the two Bearwallow Pinots are somewhat close in feel, but I imagine in time they will take more divergent paths.95.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (October 2019) The 2017 Pinot Noir Porcupine Hill, from the Anderson Valley, is up with the top releases here. Deep ruby/purple-hued with notes of black cherries, blackberries, sous bois, spice, and earth, it hits the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, beautiful purity of fruit, ripe tannins, and a great finish. It doesn’t have the minerality or structure of the Santa Cruz Mountain releases, but it has a terrific sense of elegance and purity. 95.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2019) The 2017 Porcupine Hill bottling of pinot is another of the riper wines in the Rhys lineup this year, coming in at 13.8 percent, as is the case with the Bearwallow Vineyard cuvée. The wine is very enticing on the nose, with just a touch of the exotic in its bouquet of black raspberries, black plums, chicory, lovely minerality, gamebird, woodsmoke, a hint of lead pencil and a deft base of new wood. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and nicely sappy at the core, with fine mineral drive, ripe, buried tannins, excellent focus and grip and a long, complex and very classy finish. Though this is exactly the same octane as the Bearwallow this year, it seems to me a touch more precise and pure on the backend. Fine juice that is approachable, but could do with at least a couple of years in the cellar to let the tannins fall away just a bit more. Fine juice. 2022-2060. 93+.
2016 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Syrah
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (October 2019) The 2016 Syrah Horseshoe Vineyard is incredibly elegant and finessed. Aging in 25HL cask give the Syrah striking translucence and energy, with less bombastic fruit than in the past, and far greater nuance. Crushed red berry fruit, rose petal, mint and sage are all lifted by the 100% whole clusters, while firm yet well-integrated tannins give energy and cut. I can’t wait to see how the 2016 ages. The 2016 spent 28 months in oak. 95.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2019) The 2016 Horseshoe Vineyard syrah from Rhys Vineyards is outstanding. The wine is 12.7 percent in alcohol and beautifully balanced, deep and refined. The youthful bouquet offers up a very complex blend of cassis, smoked meats, pepper, a bit of lavender, coffee bean, superb soil tones, a bit of bonfire and incipient notes of Hermitage-like straw elements in the upper register. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied, focused and shows off lovely depth in the mid-palate, with ripe, chewy tannins, excellent focus and grip and a very long, soil-driven and complex finish. This is stellar syrah in the making! 2025-2060. 94+.