Welcome to the Spring 2013 newsletter from Rhys Vineyards!
2010 was the vintage of “almost (but not) perfect”
The 2010 season started off with a very cold spring which brought later than usual budbreak for all of our vineyards. Alpine and Horseshoe vineyards often experience very cool flowering weather in June. This can lead to poor flowering and a very low yields so we were quite anxious as the cool weather continued while the vines began to flower. Fortunately, some June warmth arrived just in time to set a crop of average size, but after this the cool weather returned for the remainder of summer. In fact by the end of August of 2010, we had recorded the lowest heat accumulation that we had seen to that point. Expectations were increasingly high for a perfect October harvest of slowly ripened, cool vintage fruit but Mother Nature had other ideas. September ushered in an abrupt weather change with some very intense heat spikes. Much like 2009, this late season heat meant we had to really scramble to pick the grapes at the perfect moment.
About the 2010 wines
While the harvest heat spike was logistically challenging, it didn’t change the essentially cool character of the 2010 vintage. Even if the wines show more than usual variation between vineyards, as a group they share common traits of fresh fruit, balance and precision. This is a very high quality vintage with wines that we expect to provide excellent drinking in their youth while still aging well.
This is the first release of our 2010 production and the remainder of the 2010s will be released in the Fall of this year. Of particular note, our production of 2010 Skyline Pinot Noir was just 25% of normal. For this reason, we have allocated the wine as a single bottle for this vintage only. Skyline allocations will return to 2 bottles with the 2011 vintage.
Home Vineyard update
Initially planted in 1995 with just 30 backyard vines, our Home vineyard was the very first Rhys “estate” vineyard project. The debut vintage, 1997, yielded just 3 gallons and it quickly became clear that 30 vines could not produce enough wine to fill even a half barrel. After this realization (and some spousal negotiations), the original vineyard was expanded in 1998 to 3/4 acre and 350 grapevines. This was just enough to make a full barrel of 2000 Pinot Noir. While 2000 was not a particularly great vintage for California Pinot Noir, this wine really opened our eyes to the potential of this shallow soiled, rocky backyard site.
Over the next few years while Rhys was expanding with new and exciting vineyards like Alpine, Horseshoe, Skyline and Family Farm, the Home vineyard continued to dutifully produce its single barrel each year. While many people believe “smaller is better” when it comes to Pinot Noir, this small of a quantity is very difficult to reliably produce and extremely hard to allocate across a growing customer list!
For these reasons (and a real love for this vineyard’s expression), we undertook an expansion of the Home Vineyard on an adjacent hillside in 2007. The south-facing hillside was comprised of the same pinkish hued clay overlaying red shale and sandstone (Whiskey Hill formation) that is found underneath the original vines. Meanwhile, this new section of the Home vineyard benefitted from all the knowledge gained after developing four mountain vineyards and conducting hundreds of viticultural trials. The new 1.3 acre block is densely spaced at 4×4.5 ft and the vines are a blend of suitcase and heritage clones grafted to a high quality, low vigor rootstock (420A). When the new section produced its first full crop in 2010, we were anxious to assess the quality and character of the wine when compared to the older vines. While we expected the character to be similar, we were quite surprised when the quality of the young vines already exceeded the older section. Most importantly, the new section brings the Home vineyards production to approximately 200 cases so many more of our customers will get a chance to try the wine!
Located just 300 yards apart, the Home vineyard and Family Farm vineyard are situated on opposing sides of the San Andreas Fault. This means that each vineyard is planted on the completely different geologies found on the two colliding tectonic plates. Since the vineyards share the same clones and climate, it is fascinating to taste the vast difference between their respective expressions of Pinot Noir. The Home is much more structured with powerful floral aromatics, deep cherry fruit and notes of baking spices. It is particularly ageworthy but in many vintages it can be approached when young.
The wines in this release:
2010 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir
After three years of Rhys viticultural TLC, the original vines at Bearwallow have finally reached perfect health and balance. With its intense wild berry fruit, ripe tannins, terrific balance and distinctive finishing minerality, we feel this is the best Bearwallow Pinot we have produced. As a good measure of our affection, this is the 2010 Rhys Pinot that we find ourselves opening and enjoying the most frequently.
2010 Rhys Home Vineyard Pinot Noir
This is the first vintage of the Home that includes both the young and “old” sections. It shows the Home’s trademark intensely floral nose while the fresh, firm and spicy cherry fruit is quite lithe and intense. This wine can be opened even now but clearly will be best with another 5+ years of bottle age.
2010 Rhys Family Farm Pinot Noir
Family Farm is on a roll. After 3 years of dry farming and some changes to better suited clonal selections, this vineyard is really in great shape. The 2010 is a great example with its loamy, red fruited nose and forest floor notes. The sappy red fruit is elegant and deep on the palate. Soft tannins allow this to drink well early yet improve with age.
2010 Rhys Skyline Vineyard Pinot Noir
Unfortunately Skyline Pinot production was down 75% in 2010 leaving just 50 cases to allocate across all of our customers. That means 14,000 vines produced just 600 bottles of wine from a hillside of pure rock. We wish we had more!
2010 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay
Alpine vineyard produces really special Chardonnay and this 2010 is a great example. It is fresh and focused with textbook Alpine aromatics of minerals and ocean spray. This great Chardonnay can be enjoyed anytime but will be best with a few years of age.
2009 Rhys Skyline Vineyard Syrah
The single acre of densely planted Syrah at Skyline produces a very unusual California Syrah. The warm red fruit, very low alcohol and spicy, soil driven complexity combine to make a completely unique and singular wine. With perfect ripeness, loads of spice and a firm finish, this 2009 is a great example of Syrah grown on this rocky site.
At the Rhys cave (sometimes referred to as the “Rebel Base”), there is good news and bad news in the vintage pipeline. First the bad news. 2011 was a very cool and extraordinarily difficult vintage for us. Production was only 25% of our recent moderate average. Given the extremely small quantities, we plan to offer all of the 2011 wines in one release in the Spring of 2014. On a much more positive note, 2012 looks to be a truly fantastic vintage at Rhys. The vintage combined excellent production with some of the highest quality we have seen. We couldn’t be much more excited about these wines. The current plan is to start releasing the 2012s in the Fall of 2014 and we expect the 2012 allocations to be much better than the 2011s.
We also would like update our customers about an issue with the 2009 Rhys Family Farm Pinot Noir. Unfortunately, some bottles of this wine have developed excessive off aromas (due to the Brettanomyces yeast). Meanwhile many bottles continue to show quite well. Please contact us if you experience a bad bottle or would like to replace/refund any bottles of this wine that you own.
Ordering, Shipping and Spring Pickup Day
Allocations at Rhys are based on aggregate purchase history.
If you are not allocated all of the wines that you would like, please select a “Wish Request” quantity on the order page, as we are often able to fill these requests.
As usual, all wines are offered with free ground shipping and expedited shipping is available. Additionally, we will be hosting a pickup day at our Skyline cave on Saturday, March 2nd from 10AM – 3PM. Will be opening several of oour 2010s and this is a great way to preview wines in the Fall release. If you would like to attend the pickup day, please be sure to select “Pickup at Winery” shipping option during checkout. We look forward to seeing you!
Coming Next Fall:
2010 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Pinot Noir
2010 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Pinot Noir
2010 Rhys Swan Terrace Pinot Noir
2010 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Chardonnay
2010 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Syrah
Thank you again from all of us at Rhys!