The 2015 Vintage
As California’s lengthy drought deepened, the 2015 vintage was another example of a warm, very dry vintage. By this point in the drought, vineyard soils were quite dry and the vines reacted by growing smaller canopies and grapes with very thick skins, but the most defining characteristic of the vintage came from the one month all year in which the weather was actually cooler than normal, the month of May.
After a very warm spring, our vine’s growing schedules were advanced by nearly a month compared to normal, and atypically, flowering occurred almost entirely in the month of May. May is usually significantly cooler than June, but in 2015 the weather in May was nearly 5 degrees cooler than average. This extraordinarily cool flowering weather lead to a great deal of “shatter” which causes flowers to fall off. The grapes that are produced are typically quite small. The French term for this condition is “millerandage” or what we call “hens and chicks” which means that clusters have an array of grape sizes both small and large, in a loose configuration. This condition is also known to be quite positive for Pinot Noir quality as it results in increased concentration from a much higher ratio of skins to juice. This extremely unique combination of small grapes and very thick skins resulted in the most concentrated wines we have produced to date. Unfortunately, these same conditions also greatly reduced our production in 2015.
What about the wines?
The short answer is 2015 is a “good news, bad news” vintage. The good news is that the quality of the wines is extraordinary while the bad news is that quantities are quite low and we did not have enough grapes to produce some of our favorite bottlings such as Skyline and Swan Terrace. Even a large vineyard like Horseshoe produced only 6 barrels or a little over 2 tons of grapes from 10 acres of Pinot Noir. This is a miniscule 1/4 ton per acre. For this reason, we must apologize for the low allocations of some of the 2015 wines. While we felt the quality of 2015 merited the production of Alpine and Horseshoe Hillside wines, we did not have enough wine to make Hillside bottlings without eliminating the regular Alpine and Horseshoe bottlings. This means that the Alpine and Horseshoe bottlings are essentially of Hillside quality in this vintage but there will be no 2015 Hillside offering next summer.
Bearwallow vineyard was a real bright spot in this otherwise devastatingly low production vintage. While yields were the lowest we have experienced, the large size of this 31 acre vineyard means that we have reasonable quantities of Bearwallow, Porcupine Hill and Anderson Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir bottlings. Even more importantly, the quality of the 2015 Bearwallow wines is the best we have seen to date. In particular, don’t miss the 2015 Porcupine Hill bottling as we feel it is a truly stunning rendition of Pinot Noir from this beautiful and remote region.
2015 Rhys Anderson Valley Chardonnay
2015 Rhys Anderson Valley Chardonnay 750ml $39/btl
2015 Rhys Anderson Valley Chardonnay Magnum $89/btl
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (August 2017) Looking at the releases from Mendocino County, the 2015 Chardonnay Anderson Valley offers a riper, slightly tropical style in its aromatics and possesses lots of caramelized pineapples, orange blossom, and honeysuckle nuances, with some toasty, nutty notes developing with time in the glass. With terrific mid-palate depth and fat on the palate, as well as bright acidity and a great finish, it’s what I call a Smoking Value! It’s already impossible to resist, with a rounded feel, yet I suspect it will keep for a decade. 93.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2017) The 2015 Anderson Valley chardonnay from Rhys Vineyards is nicely cool in this vintage, coming in at a svelte 12.5 percent octane and offering up a really vibrant bouquet of apple, pear, fine soil tones, gently musky floral tones, a touch of fresh nutmeg and a discreet base of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is medium-full, crisp and very transparent, with lovely focus and grip, bright acids and excellent length and grip on the poised and complex finish. This is very tasty out of the blocks, but has the requisite balance to age long and gracefully as well. 2017-2030+.92.
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (August 2017) The 2015 Chardonnay (Anderson Valley), all from Bearwallow, is soft, pliant and accessible, all qualities that make it an excellent choice for drinking now and over the next few years. Apricot, lemon confit, white flowers, along with a distinct tropical note, give the wine considerable near and medium-term immediacy. Hints of baked apple, brioche, chamomile and wild flowers develop later. There is lovely brightness to play off some of the riper elements. 90.
2015 Rhys Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
2015 Rhys Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 750ml $45/btl
2015 Rhys Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Magnum $99/btl
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (August 2017) Leading off the wines from Mendocino, the straight 2015 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley is terrific. Black raspberries, singed herbs, earth and sappy flower notes all emerge from this supple, textured 2015 that’s already a joy to drink. It’s certainly one of the more approachable in the lineup, yet like all the wines from this estate, it’s going to keep nicely for a decade due to its balance and classic style. 93.
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (August 2017) The 2015 Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley), the second selection from Rhys’s Bearwallow vineyard, is gorgeous. Sweet red cherry, hard candy, wild flowers, mint and rose petal notes are pushed forward in a pliant, supple Pinot that will drink well right out of the gate. There is so much to like here, including the wine’s engaging, up-front personality. This stellar appellation-level wine overdelivers big time. Don’t miss it. 92.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2017) Rhys Vineyards’ 2015 Pinot Noir “Anderson Valley” bottling is really lovely and will drink with plenty of style right out of the blocks. The deep and classy nose wafts from the glass in a mix of black cherries, a touch of plum, dark chocolate, a fine base of soil, woodsmoke, a dollop of chicory, a touch of exotic botanicals and a really suave framing of new oak. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied and focused, with a nice sappiness at the core, a fine soil signature, suave tannins and a long, tangy and nascently complex finish. This has the balance to age very nicely, but it is so good to drink out of the blocks that it is going to be very hard keeping one’s hands off of bottles! 2017-2035+. 92.
2015 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir
2015 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir 750ml $59/btl
2015 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir Magnum $139/btl
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (August 2017) The 2015 Pinot Noir Bearwallow Vineyard is a total knock-out. Rich, explosive and forward, the 2015 possesses striking fruit intensity and purity in every dimension. Dark red and bluish-hued fruits and ripe, silky tannins add to the wine’s immediacy. This is an especially plush style for Rhys, but it works beautifully. The 2015 will be even better in another few years, but it will prove virtually impossible to resist young. 94.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (August 2017) The larger production 2015 Pinot Noir Bearwallow Vineyard offers a classic bouquet of ripe red fruits and dried cherries, loads of spice and earth, medium-bodied richness, and a terrific savoriness that keeps you coming back to the glass. It’s another wine from this estate that blossoms with time in the glass, is impeccably balanced and will impressive for 10-15 years. 93.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2017) The 2015 pinot noir from the Bearwallow Vineyard is a lovely wine in the making, with its octane just a touch lower than the two single vineyard bottlings from San Mateo, as this wine tips the scales at 13.6 percent. The bouquet delivers a fine, youthful constellation of dark berries, black plums, balsamic tones, a solid base of soil, lovely spices and a bit of cedary oak. On the palate the wine is full-bodied, ripe and nicely transparent, with a good core, ripe, gently chewy tannins, fine focus and grip and a long, nascently complex finish. This will be a very good bottle once it has some time in the cellar to blossom. 2022-2055. 92+.
2015 Rhys Porcupine Hill Pinot Noir
2015 Rhys Porcupine Hill Pinot Noir 750ml $79/btl
2015 Rhys Porcupine Hill Pinot Noir Magnum $179/btl
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (August 2017) From the same vineyard as the Bearwallow cuvee, the 2015 Pinot Noir Porcupine Hill comes from newer, high density plantings checking in at a seriously packed 17,000 vines per hectare. It’s one of most seamless, sexy, yet still balanced and classic wines I’ve tasted from Kevin and his team. Black raspberries, framboise, rose garden, violets and loads of spice all flow to an incredibly textured, seamless, perfectly ripe Pinot Noir that has silky tannin and a great finish. The tannin quality is what really separates this cuvee from the straight vineyard release, and it’s a more polished, elegant wine that’s going to age beautifully. Drink it anytime over the coming 15+ years. 96.
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (August 2017) All of the qualities of Bearwallow come through in the 2015 Pinot Noir Bearwallow Vineyard Porcupine Hill, but in an amped up manner. Plush and intense, but also massively tannic, the 2015 is going to require quite a bit of patience. Here, too, the flavors are on the darker end of the spectrum. This is a gorgeous wine in the making. The core of Porcupine Hill is composed of newer, high density plantings, but the wine itself is best defined as the very best selection of Bearwallow. 95+.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2017) The portion of very densely-planted vines in Bearwallow that make up the Porcupine Hill bottling seem to have weathered the vintage very well, as there is an excellent sense of detail and future complexity presented here on both the nose and palate. Like the regular Bearwallow pinot, this is 13.6 percent octane and delivers a fine, youthful nose of sappy blackberries, black cherries, espresso, a refined signature of dark soil tones, cola, singed earth and a touch of new wood. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied and utterly seamless, with a superb core of fruit, fine-grained tannins and excellent length and grip on the very well-balanced finish. This is more polished structurally than any of the other single vineyard pinots up to this point in the lineup. 2022-2060. 94.
2015 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay
2015 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay 750ml $79/btl
2015 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay Magnum $179/btl
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (August 2017) One of my favorite Chardonnays from this team is always the Alpine Vineyard and it’s a classic, pure expression of Chardonnay that ages beautifully. The 2015 Chardonnay Alpine Vineyard is certainly one of the great examples of this terroir and it shows terrific concentration and viscosity, while staying elegant, pure and perfectly balanced. White peach, citrus oil, tangerine and white flower characteristics give way to a medium to full-bodied, tight, backward Chardonnay that has racy acidity, more than enough fruit, and a great finish. Give bottles 2-4 years and enjoy over the following decade or more. 97.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2017) The 2015 Alpine Vineyard chardonnay from Kevin Harvey and his very talented team at Rhys is a beautiful young wine, beautifully managing its thirteen percent octane to retain boatloads of precision and vibrancy on both the nose and palate. The bouquet wafts from the glass in a nascently complex meÌlange of pear, just a touch of nectarine, complex soil tones, apple blossoms and a whisper of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is deep, pure and full-bodied, with bright acids, laser-like focus, a lovely core and outstanding length and grip on the still quite youthful finish. This is all too easy to drink out of the blocks, but it is still a puppy and I would not touch a bottle (if I could help it!) until the wine has had at least three or four years in the cellar, as there are simply too many good things still to come here to be leading bottles to slaughter before the wine has really had a chance to blossom! 2020-2040. 94.
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (August 2017) Rich, honeyed and oily on the palate, the 2015 Chardonnay Alpine Vineyard is also the most overt Chardonnay in the Rhys lineup. Orange peel, crème brulée, spice and butter notes fill out the wine’s ample frame effortlessly. This is a decidedly flamboyant, extroverted style. The 2015 can be enjoyed with minimal cellaring. 93.
2015 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Pinot Noir
2015 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Pinot Noir 750ml $79/btl
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (August 2017) One of the highlights in this range, the 2015 Pinot Noir Horseshoe Vineyard takes over all the senses and never lets up. The aromatics alone are extraordinary. Powerful and yet also beautifully layered in the glass, the 2015 exudes raciness. In this vintage, the Horseshoe has a Syrah-like intensity and spiciness that is impossible to miss. The Horseshoe was done with fully destemmed fruit. Yields were a paltry 0.25 tons per acre. In a word: magnificent! 97.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2017) What a difference location makes! The 2015 pinot noir from Horseshoe Vineyard is a cool and buttoned up 12.7 percent octane and is far removed stylistically from the single vineyard bottlings from San Mateo County in this vintage. The wine is still quite reticent on its youthful nose, offering up scents of black cherries, espresso, a bit of youthful stems, lovely minerality, pepper, chicory and a topnote of fresh thyme. On the palate the wine is fullish, tangy and beautifully balanced, with tangy acids, lovely mineral drive, moderate tannins and a long, primary and very promising finish. This is still a very primary wine and will take several years in the cellar to lose a bit of its youthful herbaceousness, but it will be an excellent middleweight in the fullness of time. 2025-2055. 92+.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (August 2017) Leading off the two Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot Noirs, the 2015 Pinot Noir Horseshoe Vineyard is tight and closed, with a mineral, savory quality to it red currants, spice and dried herbs aromas and flavors. Medium-bodied, concentrated and with a solid core of sweet fruit, it needs a year of bottle age and will keep for a decade. 92+.