This autumn’s release celebrates the first of the 2019 vintage wines, focused on the single vineyard wines from Alpine and Family Farm and the hugely popular Chenin Blanc from Mt. Pajaro. After the benchmark 2018 vintage, we’re thrilled with just how worthy of a successor the 2019 vintage is. The 2019 wines have fantastic depth and intensity with a slightly more approachable character compared to 2018. Longtime customers might find similarities with the 2013 and 2016 vintages, although we find the 2019s show a bit more concentration. It should be a vintage that drinks well throughout its life while effortlessly ageing for decades.
The 2019 Vintage –
The winter preceding the 2019 growing season brought well above average rainfall which was quite welcome after the very dry 2018 vintage. This rainfall set the stage for a beautiful growing season with little struggle. Budbreak began early with a warm spring followed by excellent flowering. The mountain weather during flowering can be quite capricious but 2019 brought excellent weather which helped set a perfectly sized crop. After a summer that featured both hot and cool periods, harvest began slightly early with mild weather which allowed us to harvest the grapes at perfect ripeness.
The 2020 disaster-
As we begin to offer the 2019s, we thought we should alert customers to our situation regarding the 2020 vintage. While we will all remember 2020 for the pandemic, California grapegrowers faced a second disaster during this miserable year. After managing our way through wine production and grape growing amidst the pandemic, in late August, at the beginning of harvest, California experienced a rare lightning storm during extremely dry conditions. While the Santa Cruz Mountains is often safe from wildfire, the lightning ignited enormous fires on the edge of our mountain vineyards. We were forced to evacuate our vineyards as well as the Skyline cave. For a time it seemed that our vineyards and winery might be lost but luckily we suffered no injury or direct fire damage and for that we feel quite fortunate. However the intense smoke from the adjacent fires tainted the grape crop and we chose not to harvest the Home, Family Farm, Skyline, Alpine and Horseshoe vineyards. The silver lining, if there is one, was that we had begun harvesting grapes at Mt. Pajaro prior to the fires and Bearwallow vineyard was not affected. Overall, we lost over 80% of the crop and will have very small amounts of wine to offer from this infamous year. Given this, we will release the 2019 wines in three tranches over 18 months rather than our standard 12 month release schedule. With great wines from 2019 and only a couple of bottlings in 2020, we recommend stocking up!!
2019 Rhys Mt. Pajaro Chenin Blanc
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (July 2021) The 2019 Chenin Blanc Mt. Pajaro Vineyard is light, airy and gracious. Orchard fruit, white flowers, mint, white pepper and crushed rocks lend brilliance to this finely sculpted, chiseled white. For readers who enjoy Chenin, Rhys has another three on the way. 93.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (July 2021) One of the finest expressions of this variety in California, the light gold-hued 2019 Chenin Blanc Mt. Pajaro Vineyard offers lots of tart pineapple and citrus fruits, notes of savory herbs and loamy earth, medium body, bright acidity, and a clean finish. This beautiful Chenin Blanc will drink nicely for at least 7-8 years. 92.
John Gilman, ViewFromtheCellar.com (May/June 2021, #93) The 2019 vintage of Mount Pajaro Chenin Blanc from Jeff Brinkman and the rest of the team at Rhys is quite low octane this year, tipping the scales at 12.25 percent alcohol. The wine is beautifully defined by its soil elements on the nose, wafting from the glass in a mix of quince, tart pear, salty minerality, white lilies, lemon peel, hints of the beeswax to come and just a touch of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is vibrant, fullish and beautifully transparent, with a fine core, excellent girdle of acidity, impeccable balance and a long, nascently complex and zesty finish. I love the structural tension of this wine on the backend, which augurs extremely well for its evolution in bottle. This is quite drinkable out of the blocks, but I would opt for tucking it away in the cellar for a few years and really let it blossom. 2024-2045. 93+.
2019 Rhys Family Farm Pinot Noir
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (July 2021) The 2019 Pinot Noir Family Farm is bright, forward and seductive, as it so often is. Sweet floral aromatics meld into a core of red/purplish berry fruit, blood orange and star anise. In 2019, the Family Farm has an exotic quality that is hugely appealing. The 2019 was done with all destemmed fruit (a first for this wine) and aged mostly in neutral oak. 94.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (July 2021) The 2019 Pinot Noir Family Farm Vineyard is another savory, mineral-laced wine in the lineup. Black cherries, baking spices, dried earth, leather, and savory herb notes all emerge from the glass, and it’s medium-bodied, with a layered, rounded texture and outstanding length. It’s not for those looking for up-front fruit, but it’s nuanced, balanced, textured, and lengthy. It should keep for 7-8 years, if not longer. 93.
John Gilman, ViewFromtheCellar.com (May/June 2021, #93) The 2019 Family Farm pinot noir is another one of the riper cuvées in the Rhys lineup this year, coming in at 13.8 percent alcohol in this vintage. The wine delivers a beautiful aromatic constellation of pomegranate, black cherries, complex soil tones, a touch of coffee bean, gentle smokiness, just a whisper of sweet herb tones, black tea and a lovely framing of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is ripe, focused and full, with an excellent core of black fruit, fine soil undertow, fine-grained tannins and a long, beautifully balanced, tangy and complex finish. This is a very lovely wine in the making, which will be approachable earlier than the Home Vineyard bottling, but really will need at least as much time in the cellar to really start to blossom. Fine juice here! 2026-2055+. 93.
2019 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (July 2021) The 2019 Chardonnay Alpine Vineyard is a drop-dead gorgeous beauty. It offers an enticing combination of energy and mid-palate sweetness that only grows with time in the glass. Bright saline underpinnings lend striking tension to the citrus fruit throughout. This classically built, sculpted Chardonnay will have plenty to say in another few years’ time. Readers should be in no rush. 96.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (July 2021) I loved the 2019 Chardonnay Alpine Vineyard, a complete, balanced, incredibly elegant Chardonnay that has everything you could ask for. Pure citrus, white flowers, chalky minerality, and tart white peach notes all emerge from the glass, and it’s medium-bodied, with terrific overall balance and a lengthy, salty finish that keeps you coming back to the glass. It should benefit from a year in bottle and drink nicely through 2029+. 95.
2019 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Pinot Noir
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (July 2021) The 2019 Pinot Noir Alpine Vineyard is a wine of nearly indescribable finesse. The sweet floral and savory bouquet alone is so enticing. Bright beams of minerality give the 2019 a feeling of energy that builds with time in the glass. The Alpine is not terribly forthcoming today, but it is clearly a long distance runner. Give it time in bottle. The 15% whole clusters are nicely integrated. 96.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (July 2021) I loved the 2019 Pinot Noir Alpine Vineyard, a spicy, perfumed, more ethereal Pinot Noir from a great vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Revealing a translucent ruby hue as well as notes of ripe cherries, strawberries, sappy flowers, spice, and sappy underbrush, it hits the palate with medium-bodied richness, silky yet building tannins, no hard edges, and a great finish. It’s one of the most balanced, complete wines in the lineup and will keep for 10-15 years. 96.
John Gilman, ViewFromtheCellar.com (May/June 2021, #93) The 2019 Alpine Vineyard bottling of pinot noir from the Rhys team is an excellent bottle in the making. The wine offers up a precise and nascently complex bouquet of red and black cherries, a hint of beetroot, sweet stem tones, woodsmoke, pigeon, a gorgeous base of soil, dark chocolate and a discreet foundation of new oak. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, focused and plush with ripe fruit at the core, with still plenty of whole cluster influence, ripe, seamless tannins and a long, tangy and complex finish. This is a touch riper than the Swan Terrace bottling this year (not surprisingly, as the Swan Terrace faces due east), but at 13.3 percent octane, it is perfectly ripe and beautifully expressive of its underlying terroir. All this beautiful wine needs is time in the cellar to blossom. 2031-2075. 94.
2019 Rhys Swan Terrace Pinot Noir
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (July 2021) The 2019 Pinot Noir Swan Terrace emerges from 1.5-acre parcel in Alpine planted with the Swan clone of Pinot Noir. It is, as always, distinguished by bright, red-toned fruit. In 2019, the Swan Terrace has a bit more tannic grip than is often the case, mostly a reflection of a cooler year. That won’t be an issue in time, but it does rob the wine of some of the charm it often has in its youth. The 100% whole clusters are not especially evident, as all the elements are so harmonious in their balance. 95.
John Gilman, ViewFromtheCellar.com (May/June 2021, #93) The 2019 Swan Terrace bottling from Rhys, which hails from a parcel of vines in Alpine Vineyard with an easterly exposition and loads of morning sun, is simply gorgeous in this vintage. The wine is perfectly ripe at 12.8 percent and already very expressive aromatically, offering up a beautiful constellation of dark berries, black cherries, a touch of pomegranate, a complex base of soil tones, bitter chocolate, sweet stem tones, gamebird, a touch of cedary oak and plenty of smokiness in the upper register. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied and extremely elegant in profile, with a plump core of fruit, outstanding mineral undertow, ripe, firm tannins and a long, tangy and nascently complex finish. This is going to be simply stunning pinot when it is ready to drink, but it will need a nice sojourn in the cellar to soften up and start hitting on all cylinders. Great juice in the making! 2031-2075. 95.