Welcome to the Rhys Vineyards Spring 2009 release!
This release features two Pinot Noirs that represent the pinnacle of our Rhys estate program as well as some very approachable Alesia Pinots that offer outstanding value.
Before discussing the 2006 Swan Terrace and Alpine Hillside, it is important to explain how these wines came about. Each of our vineyards is planted in small ½ acre blocks with varying clonal, rootstock and spacing combinations. These individual blocks can reflect unique soil depths, slope orientations and micro-climates. Typically Pinot Noir is fermented in large vats combining the entire production of a vineyard, but each of our small blocks is fermented independently and kept separate in barrel. In addition to enabling constant experimental comparisons and qualitative refinement, this process allows us to isolate some of the most exceptional areas within our vineyards. After tasting through the various blocks of Alpine Vineyard, it became clear that we had two very distinctive wines that deserved to be bottled separately. We believe these two Pinots are the most exciting wines we have released to date.
As soon as we began planning Alpine Vineyard, it was clear that the Swan Terrace section was totally unique. While most of Alpine faces south, near the bottom of the steep 40% slope the hill turns and faces east. In addition to this unique east-facing exposure, at night the cool air settles down the hillside making the Swan Terrace section is the coolest in the vineyard. In order to take advantage of these unique conditions and maintain our North-South row orientation, we decided to terrace this block directly into the rocky face of the hill. The combination of easterly aspect, cooler microclimate and rocky terracing leads to a wine of intensity, finesse and an extremely complex “liqueur of rocks” personality.
Rising above the Swan Terrace with the south facing orientation that typifies most of Alpine vineyard, the Alpine Hillside is quite steep and more exposed to the weather. These conditions lead to extremely low yields that are usually less than one ton per acre. The low yields and tiny berries of this section produce a wine of structure and incredible intensity that remains quite light on its feet in spite of its power. It too reflects the rocky complexity of the vineyard, but in a more masculine profile that we expect to age similarly to Grand Cru Burgundy.
The Sonoma Coast is back!
After a short hiatus in 2005, the Alesia Sonoma Coast is back in 2006. For this blend, we were able to purchase fruit from the same cool north-facing vineyard that comprised the majority of our very popular 2004 Alesia Sonoma Coast bottling. With a broad blending palette of some of the appellation’s coolest sites, it was possible to make a very balanced, spicy and complex example of Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Like the 2004, we feel that this elegant and balanced blend is one of our better Alesia Pinots from this vintage. Meanwhile the quantities are generous and our pricing reflects this increased availability. This is a great wine to drink while your Rhys estate wines age.
Back in 2001, when Rhys began in earnest, we had no expectations of high scores from the wine media. At the time, the prevailing fashion for extreme ripeness, high alcohol and fruit driven styles appeared to be the only path that garnered media attention. Our desire to make natural wines of site expression, balance and ageworthiness seemed like a quixotic quest only to be shared with a few like-minded wine enthusiasts. Given this, we have been extremely gratified and somewhat surprised to see Rhys receive a great deal of critical acclaim from wine publications as diverse as the Wine Spectator, Allen Meadows’ Burghound.com, Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Specifically, in his comprehensive roundup of over 600 2006 American Pinot Noirs, Allen Meadows awarded the 2006 Rhys Swan Terrace and Alpine Hillside his highest and second highest scores. Meanwhile, the Wine Spectator’s Matt Kramer named our Swan Terrace as a “Wine of the Year” saying “wines like this represent the exciting beyond-the-cough-syrup future of California Pinot Noir.”.
Rhys is Growing Up
Looking forward we feel the best is yet to come from Rhys. With all five of our estate vineyards finally reaching full production, we will soon be able to show our customers the results of many years of planning, expense and hard work. Over these years, we have made great and rapid strides in understanding how to coax the best out of our sites. Some conclusions have been expensive, requiring removing vines from production for a year or more, but these actions have allowed us to aim higher with each of the recent vintages. At the same time, Rhys has grown out of its garage origins. We now have a complete modern production facility that has enabled Rhys winemaker Jeff Brinkman to deliver much more consistent quality while still utilizing the same natural and traditional, “hands-off” winemaking approach. With all of these improvements, we expect the coming years to richly reward the people who have placed their faith in us during our formative stages.
Looking Forward and Allocations
2007 is a watershed vintage for Rhys. For the first time all five of our Santa Cruz Mountains vineyards produced Pinot Noir. The vintage conditions were ideal with cool temperatures and a dry spring. The wines are intense, fresh and structured with excellent balance and our lowest alcohols to date. The only disappointment is that our yields were quite low. After increasing production five-fold with the 2006 vintage, our yields in 2007 were roughly half of 2006 levels. The combination of low yields and newly producing vineyards means we have several wines that are very low production. Given this, we will need to request your patience and understanding as we try to distribute these wines as fairly as possible. Rhys and Alesia wines are allocated based on a customer’s cumulative buying history. This method rewards length of patronage as well as purchase volume. While no allocation scheme is perfect, this scheme is flexible and allows you to buy the wine you want and skip those that you don’t. Also, customers can buy larger amounts of the more available wines and increase their future allocations.
If you have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming Next Fall
2007 Rhys Family Farm Pinot Noir
2007 Rhys Home Vineyard Pinot Noir
2007 Rhys Skyline Pinot Noir
2007 Rhys Alpine Chardonnay
2007 Alesia Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
2007 Alesia Green Valley Pinot Noir
All the Best!
The Rhys Team