The “Wild Ride” 2017 vintage!
After several very similar, warm, dry vintages, the weather in 2017 was quite different and memorable! Before the growing season began, Winter rains brought a welcome end to California’s long, five-year drought. This revitalized our parched vines after years of sub-average rainfall. The early growing season was warmer than average and relatively uneventful with good flowering conditions for a moderate sized crop. Harvest began about two weeks early in late August. Then things became more exciting. Around Labor Day an intense heat spike would set a new record of 105F measured on the chilly Golden Gate bridge! Harvest time heat spikes are quite common in California, but the vines reacted very differently to this unusually intense event. Instead of ripening the grapes quickly, the vines actually became dormant and it was important to wait a week or two before resuming harvest. And equally unusually, the resulting wines are low in alcohol with excellent balance. The Pinot Noirs feature a charming, silky texture while the Chardonnays are concentrated and racy. It is important to note that this growing season would also bring devastating wildfires north of San Francisco but fortunately we finished our harvest well before these terrible fires started.
We have some exciting new plantings at Horseshoe vineyard!
While the original vines at Horseshoe continue to mature and produce wines of increasingly high quality, we have been able to add significant new acreage under vine. Horseshoe’s diatomaceous shale and interbedded limestone soils are particularly gifted for both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. These extremely rocky soils produce some of our most complex and mineral driven wines so it is very exciting to expand the vineyard using our latest selections of vines in a very high density layout. On the rocky eastern slope, we have planted 3.5 acres of very high-density Pinot Noir. There are many advantages to these dense plantings including higher quality grapes and lower water needs. Also, with many years of tasting the results of the vines on the site, we have created our own “selection massale” or diverse selection of the best grapevines for making wine at Horseshoe vineyard. Between the density and optimized vine selection, we hope to produce ever higher quality wines in the future.
At the same time, we also took a somewhat risky gamble and planted 2 acres of very high density “own-rooted” Pinot Noir. These vines are planted without being grafted on the American rootstock that is required to protect against the Phylloxera root louse. This pest wiped out Europe’s vineyards in the late 19th century but given Horseshoe’s remote location and the lack of Phylloxera in the area, we are hopeful that our vines will not be threatened. While these “own rooted” planting have taken many years to mature, the early wines produced from these blocks are showing amplified site expression and increased complexity. Exciting stuff!
2017 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Chardonnay
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (October 2019) The 2017 Chardonnay Bearwallow Vineyard is creamy, ample and super-expressive, with superb textural richness and tons of character. Lemon confit, white flowers, mint and light tropical overtones all grace this supple, beautifully textured Chardonnay. This is such a delicious wine now, but it will likely acquire more complexity in time.93.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (October 2019) The 2017 Chardonnay Bearwallow Vineyard, from a site in the Anderson Valley, has an incredibly Burgundian bouquet of liquid minerality, white flowers, spice, and crushed citrus that develops remarkable complexity and depth as it sits in the glass. Medium-bodied and elegant on the palate, it has beautiful balance, integrated acidity, and a great finish. It needs 2-3 years of bottle age (it still offers plenty of pleasure today) and will drink beautifully for 7-8 years or more. 94.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2019) The Rhys team’s 2017 Bearwallow chardonnay is absolutely stellar. The beautiful bouquet wafts from the glass in a complex blend of pear, golden delicious apple, lemon blossoms, lovely soil tones, a whisper of citrus oil, vanillin oak and an exotic touch of bergamot in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, full and zesty, with great mid-palate depth, excellent soil signature, bright, bouncy acids and outstanding length and grip on the nascently complex and very vibrant finish. This is outstanding chardonnay! By the way, it tips the scales at 12.8 percent. It is already very, very tasty, but I would try to let it sit in the cellar for at least a couple more years, as there is another level of complexity still to unlock here. 2021-2040. 93.
2017 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (October 2019) The 2017 Pinot Noir Bearwallow Vineyard is dark, plush and totally seductive. Black cherry, plum, spice, leather and menthol meld together in a deep Anderson Valley Pinot built on textural resonance. The 2017 is forward and luscious, but it also offers terrific nuance, not to mention quite a bit of complexity and the structure to support many years of fine drinking. 94.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (October 2019) From the Anderson Valley, the 2017 Pinot Noir Bearwallow Vineyard reveals a deeper ruby/purple color as well as a powerful, fruit-forward bouquet of scorched earth, toasted spices, earth, and forest floor nuances. It’s a rich, powerful Pinot Noir with a more mouthfilling, chewy style that lacks some of the elegance found in the other releases here. Give it a year or two. 92.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2019) The 2017 vintage of Bearwallow pinot noir is fairly ripe for a Rhys wine, coming in at 13.8 percent octane, but this exemplifies what Kevin Harvey said about “each vineyard reacting differently” to the Labor Day heat wave and the wine is beautifully pure and succulent. The bouquet wafts from the glass in a very complex combination of black cherries, black plums, dark soil tones, raw cocoa, a hint of fresh nutmeg, a dollop of savory elements, woodsmoke, a discreet base of vanillin oak and just a hint of the cola that will come with bottle age. On the palate the wine is deep, plush and full-bodied, with a beautiful undertow of soil tones to go with just succulent fruit, fine-grained tannins and impressive length and grip on the complex finish. This is lovely and quite forward in style, but with the balance to also age quite gracefully. 2019-2055. 92.
2017 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Chardonnay
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (October 2019) The 2017 Chardonnay Horseshoe Vineyard is richer and more textured than the Alpine Chardonnay, but the two wines share tremendous energy and drive. Tangerine peel, almond, white flowers and light tropical notes grace this layered, utterly exquisite Chardonnay. The interplay of richness and vibrancy is simply compelling. 95.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (October 2019) One of the standouts in the lineup, the 2017 Chardonnay Horseshoe Vineyard has stunning complexity paired with richness, depth, and precision. Fabulous notes of white peach, tart pineapple, salty minerality, and white flowers all flow to a medium to full-bodied, racy Chardonnay with terrific concentration, high yet integrated acidity, and a great finish. It’s going to need 4-5 years of bottle age, but it’s a brilliant wine. 96.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2019) The 2017 Horseshoe Vineyard chardonnay from Rhys is a beautiful wine, with simply gorgeous and very fresh fruit tones coupled to lovely underlying minerality. The nose delivers a fine combination of fresh pineapple, apple, a hint of blood orange, almond, gently musky floral tones, a bit of bee pollen, a fine base of soil and a deft foundation of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and nicely racy, with a great core of pure fruit, lovely soil inflection, impeccable focus and balance and a long, zesty and complex finish. This wine comes in at a cool 12.5 percent octane and clearly proves that stunning depth and intensity does not require alcohol! Great juice. 2019-2045. 94.
2017 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Pinot Noir
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (October 2019) The 2017 Pinot Noir Horseshoe Vineyard is one of the most distinctive wines in this range and also one of the Pinots that seemed to deal with the rigors of the growing season particularly well. Deep, mysterious and resonant, the 2017 has so much to say. Sweet tobacco, grilled herbs, menthol, licorice and earthy notes meld into a core of black cherry and plum fruit. The 2017 has a distinctive savory quality, even though it was made with fully destemmed fruit. 94.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (October 2019) Always the most masculine and mineral-laced in the lineup, the 2017 Pinot Noir Horseshoe Vineyard doesn’t disappoint, offering a bloody, meaty bouquet of black raspberries, iron, crushed rocks, toasted spices, rose petals, and crushed flowers. With surprising elegance and purity on the palate, ultra-fine tannins, and a great finish, this classic Horseshoe Vineyard Pinot Noir is going to benefit from 2-4 years of bottle age and drink beautifully for over a decade. 95.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2019) The Horseshoe Vineyard seems to have done just fine in the heat of 2017, as the pinot noir here has come in at a cool 12.7 percent octane. Aromatically, the wine is already very expressive and offers up a complex constellation of red and black cherries, a hint of pomegranate, lovely, fresh herb tones, woodsmoke, a classy base of soil, just a hint of the cola to come and a very discreet framing of new oak. On the palate the wine is pure, full and very classy, with a nice sense of mid-palate sappiness, suave, moderate tannins, fine focus and grip and a long, complex and vibrant finish. This is more red fruity in personality than the lovely 2016 version, and somewhat atypical of Horseshoe pinot noir, it is already really a delicious glass of wine and there would not be a lot of remorse drinking it early on. Certainly, more complexity will come with bottle age and this has the balance to evolve long and gracefully, but the temptation to drink it in the bloom of youth is going to be a bit stronger than customary for this bottling in 2017! 2022-2055. 93.
2017 Home Vineyard Pinot Noir
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (October 2019) The 2017 Pinot Noir Home Vineyard is bright and nicely lifted, with a distinctly red-toned fruit profile and mid-weight structure. The 100% whole clusters are not especially evident in the wine’s flavor profile, but the 2017 comes across as a bit light and lacking in body. It will be interesting to see what happens with time in bottle, as the wine does have quite a bit of energy. 92.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (October 2019) From the northern part of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the 2017 Pinot Noir Home Vineyard reveals a translucent ruby hue to go with complex notes of raspberries, sassafras, forest floor, spice, and exotic flowers. This round, medium to full-bodied, seamless effort has building tannins, a terrific sense of balance, and a great finish. Drink it over the coming 8-10 years. 94.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2019) The 2017 Home Vineyard bottling of pinot noir from Rhys is very refined on both the nose and palate. The wine offers up a very pure and complex nose of sweet dark berries, black cherries, cola, a touch of chicory, dark soil tones, a bit of gamebird, gentle new oak and a smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is pure, fullish, complex and nicely reserved in structural profile, with a fine core, ripe, gently chewy tannins and very good length and grip on the tangy and nascently complex finish. This is one Rhys 2017 pinot cuvée that will demand some bottle age to start to blossom, but it will be just fine when it is ready to go. 2023-2055. 92.
2017 Rhys Swan Terrace Pinot Noir
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (October 2019) The 2017 Pinot Noir Swan Terrace is one of the most intriguing wines in this range. Intensely aromatic overtones, with touches of blood orange and racy red berry fruit infuse the 2017 with an exotic quality that is hard to fully describe with words. The 100% whole clusters work so well in bringing out the wine’s myriad layers. A few years in bottle will help the tannins soften. This is such a beguiling, alluring wine. 95+.
John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2019) The tiny subsection of the Alpine Vineyard, Swan Terrace is one of the coolest customers in the stellar Rhys pinot noir lineup in 2017, as the wine tips the scales at 12.5 percent. Despite its lower octane, it has one of the biggest personalities in the range this year and is absolutely stellar, delivering a very classy aromatic constellation of dark berries, black plums, raw cocoa, beautiful minerality, gamebird, just a hint of fresh nutmeg and a discreet base of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is pure, fullish and intensely flavored, with a good core, excellent transparency and grip, moderate tannins and a long, complex and vibrant finish. This is going to be a suave middleweight when it is ready to drink and will age very long and gracefully. 2024- 2060. 94.