Galloni says “2019s … have terrific freshness and energy that will serve them well over time. As readers will see, the 2019s are positively stellar across the board.”

by Antonio Galloni, (August 2021)

Proprietor Kevin Harvey and winemaker Jeff Brinkman continue to up their game at Rhys. The growing season was as a bit rainier than normal. Heat spikes in August helped move ripening along while a cool September allowed for a leisurely harvest. In tasting, the 2019s are a bit light next to some recent vintages, like 2018, but have terrific freshness and energy that will serve them well over time. As readers will see, the 2019s are positively stellar across the board. Some of the most impressive wines in this year’s lineup are from Mt. Pajaro, a relatively new development in the southern part of the Santa Cruz Mountains where the wines have improved dramatically in a very short period of time.

The 2019 Pinots spent 14-16 months in barrel and were bottled between February and April 2021. For the Chardonnays, Rhys follows a pretty classic Burgundian aging regime of 12 months in barrel followed by six months in steel. As a reminder, the Alesia wines are now the appellation bottlings in the Rhys range. Last, but certainly not least, Rhys fans won’t want to miss the new Syrah from Bearwallow, the latest addition in what is a growing and consistently outstanding range.

2019 Alesia Anderson Valley Chardonnay
The 2019 Chardonnay Alesia (Anderson Valley) is another gorgeous wine in this range. Lemon confit, white flowers and marzipan flesh out the mid-palate nicely. Light tropical notes add exotic flair, but without dominating the balance, while bright saline accents perk up the finish. 92.

2019 Alesia Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
The 2019 Chardonnay Alesia (Santa Cruz Mountains) is gorgeous. Bright, floral and translucent, the 2019 is impeccably polished from start to finish. Lemon peel, white flowers and crushed rocks give this appellation level Chardonnay tons of class. It is one of the overachievers in this range. 91.

2019 Alesia Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
The 2019 Pinot Noir Alesia (Anderson Valley) is a soft, juicy wine to enjoy over the next handful of years. The forward, open-knit personality of Anderson Valley comes through nicely in this charming Pinot. Sweet red berry, spice and floral notes linger. 89.

2019 Alesia Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot Noir
The 2019 Pinot Noir Alesia (Santa Cruz Mountains) is an excellent choice for drinking now and over the next handful of years, give or take. Succulent red cherry fruit, mint, spice and blood orange are nicely pushed forward in this attractive, supple Pinot from Rhys. 89.

2019 Rhys Mt. Pajaro Chenin Blanc
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.

2019 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Chardonnay
The 2019 Chardonnay Bearwallow Vineyard is the most open of the vineyard designate Chardonnays, but it, too, will benefit from a few years in bottle. Lemon confit, chamomile, pear and white flowers linger. This mid-weight, translucent Chardonnay has quite a bit to offer in an immediate style that is all charm. 94.

2019 Rhys Mt. Pajaro Vineyard Chardonnay
The 2019 Chardonnay Mt. Pajaro Vineyard is magical. Slate, crushed rocks, white pepper and a very light touch of reduction give the 2019 its utterly captivating bouquet. Bright and vibrant, but with gorgeous mid-palate depth, the Mt. Pajaro Chardonnay is simply fabulous. This is Rhys’s first high-density Chardonnay planting, and probably won’t be the last. 95.

2019 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay
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.

2019 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Chardonnay
The 2019 Chardonnay Horseshoe Vineyard is laced with the essence of crushed rocks, white pepper, orchard fruit, white flowers, chalk and mint. It is a bit less forthcoming than the Alpine Chardonnay. Saline notes build into the palate staining finish. This classically austere young Chardonnay just needs time in bottle. Tasted next to the Alpine, the Horseshoe has more mid-palate weight and feeling of phenolic intensity. The differences between the two are remarkable considering the sites are just 400 yards apart. The Horseshoe is planted on Monterey shale, while the soils at Alpine are Purisima, a formation that is about 8 million years younger. Such is the complexity of the Santa Cruz Mountains. 96.

2019 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir
The 2019 Pinot Noir Bearwallow Vineyard is a powerful, searing wine. I am not sure I have tasted a Bearwallow with this much sheer intensity. Black cherry, mocha, gravel, cloves and licorice imbue this somber, backward Pinot with quite a bit of complexity. Readers should be in no rush here. The 2019 is an exceptional Bearwallow. 96+.

2019 Rhys Porcupine Hill Pinot Noir
The 2019 Pinot Noir Porcupine Hill is a beautifully translucent, nuanced Pinot that shows the heights of finesse that are possible in Anderson Valley. A wine of unreal subtlety and nuance, the Porcupine Hill hits so many high notes. Crushed red berry, mint, spice, tobacco, cedar, rose petal and espresso build over time. As always, the Porcupine Hill Pinot is sourced from high-density blocks on the property and is done with minimal whole clusters. 97.

2019 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Syrah
The 2019 Syrah Bearwallow Vineyard is a new wine in this range. It offers plenty of fruit and savory accents in a fairly immediate style. I would give the 2019 2-3 years in bottle, but it already shows quite a bit of fruit and mid-palate depth. These vines were only planted in 2015, so there is every reason to think future vintages will be even better. The 50% whole clusters are expertly judged. 94.

2019 Rhys Family Farm Pinot Noir
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.

2019 Rhys Home Vineyard Pinot Noir
The 2019 Pinot Noir Home Vineyard is one of the more savory wines in the range. Holiday spice cake, sweet dried cherry, tobacco leaf, cedar and earthy tones are all finely knit together. A Pinot of subtlety and nuance, the Home Vineyard, will appeal most to readers who enjoy understated wines. The 100% whole clusters add quite a bit of savoriness, but not in an exaggerated way. 94.

2019 Rhys Mt. Pajaro Vineyard Pinot Noir
The 2019 Pinot Noir Mt. Pajaro Vineyard emerges from a site in the southern part of the Santa Cruz Mountains and therefore has a completely different personality than the rest of the other SCM wines in the range. Here the flavors are darker while the tannins are more incisive. Black cherry, plum, licorice, cloves and gravel infuse this brooding, muscular Pinot with tons of complexity. 96.

2019 Rhys Skyline Vineyard Pinot Noir
Soaring floral and spice notes open effortlessly in the 2019 Pinot Noir Skyline Vineyard. Rose petal, pomegranate, mint, blood orange and cinnamon all grace this classy, mid-weight Pinot from Rhys. The Skyline is another wine that is all about understatement. Here, too, the whole clusters (100%) are not especially evident. 95.

2019 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Pinot Noir
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.

2019 Rhys Swan Terrace Pinot Noir
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.

2019 Rhys Alpine Hillside Pinot Noir
The 2019 Pinot Noir Alpine Hillside is completely shut down today. Beams of tannin totally wrap around the fruit today. Readers should plan on being very patient here. This is an especially austere wine. Although this is a barrel selection, many of the barrels for Alpine Hillside emerge from parcels in the middle of the hill, where the terrain is the steepest. 96.

2019 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Pinot Noir
The 2019 Pinot Noir Horseshoe Vineyard is one of the most powerful, structured wines in this lineup. It has so much to offer, but very clearly needs quiet a bit of time. Strong mineral and savory accents drive the balance today. Crushed rocks, tobacco, cedar and earthy notes are very much in the foreground, while the fruit appears quite reticent at this stage. The Horseshoe was done with fully destemmed fruit and yet it is quite closed. I can hardly wait to taste it with some time in bottle. 96.

2019 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Ungrafted Vines Pinot Noir
The 2019 Pinot Noir Horseshoe Vineyard Own Rooted is magical. The ungrafted vines version of Horseshoe has more obvious fruit and texture than the ‘regular’ bottling but also plenty of the mineral and savory undertones that make that wine so appealing. I’m not sure when and if I will ever taste the Ungrafted Vines again, but I would sure like to see how it ages. I am not at all surprised to hear proprietor Kevin Harvey and longtime winemaker Jeff Brinkman add that they wish they had more parcels planted with ungrafted Pinot. 97.

2019 Rhys Horseshoe Hillside Pinot Noir
The 2019 Pinot Noir Horseshoe Hillside takes all of the structure of this site and fills out the layers with striking fruit. An absolute stunner, the Hillside has so much of everything. Dark red/purplish fruit, rose petal, spice, blood orange and mint are some of the many notes that build in the glass. High-density blocks on the upper rim of Horseshoe vineyard form the core of the Hillside bottling. 98.

2018 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Syrah
The 2018 Syrah Horseshoe Vineyard is going to need at least a few years to emerge, as it is pretty tight today. Inky dark fruit, gravel, spice, menthol, espresso, sage and chocolate infuse the 2018 with tons of complexity. The Rhys Syrahs typically blossom only with time in bottle. I imagine that will be the case here as well. The 100% whole clusters approach works so well here. The 2018 spent 24-28 months in 25HL casks. 96.

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