Allen Meadows awards his highest ratings to 2009 Rhys Pinots

by Allen Meadows,

The estate wines of Rhys Vineyards are made from biodynamically farmed fruit and owner Kevin Harvey and winemaker Jeff Brinkman continue to fashion truly remarkable wines. As was the case in 2008, there was no destemming in 2009 except for the Bearwallow Vineyard (which was 60% whole cluster fermented). While I stylistically preferred the absolutely brilliant Rhys 2008s, there really isn’t much to separate the two vintages save perhaps for my supposition that the ‘08s will probably be slightly more long-lived. One other aspect that I find fascinating is that the character of each vineyard is becoming more evident with each passing vintage, partially because the vines are becoming better established, and; partially because Harvey and Brinkman are increasingly familiar with the raw materials each vineyard gives and thus become more expert in accurately capturing each vineyard’s unique character, and; partially because we, as consumers and avid observers, are also becoming increasingly familiar with the intrinsic character of each wine.

I should note for those who are not familiar with the Rhys wines that they are unapologetically built to age. They benefit substantially from extended airing if you’re going to try one young, which means at least one hour and two would be better – just remember not to let them warm up too much. All the wines were bottled without fining or filtration. Lastly, Rhys fans should be aware that there is no Home Vineyard in 2009. For further information, visit:

2009 Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains

(13.3%) A notably ripe nose of cassis, blackberries, plum and floral aromas leads to round, rich and delicious medium-bodied flavors that coat the mouth with dry extract on the balanced, long and solidly complex finish. Not surprisingly, this doesn’t offer the sheer depth of the upper level wines but this is a very good entry level effort. 89/2014+

2009 Pinot Noir Family Farm Vineyard

(from San Mateo County fruit; 13.4%). Distinct floral and spice notes add nuance to the elegant and airy red berry fruit aromas that lead to rich, supple and forward middle weight flavors that possess fine detail and purity to the delicious and beautifully long finish. Among the Rhys wines, the Family Farm and Skyline Vineyards are those which are built more along the lines of finesse than power. 91/2015+

2009 Pinot Noir Bearwallow Vineyard

(from Anderson Valley fruit that sits next to Kaiser Vineyard; 13.9%). A ripe, spicy and quite densely fruited nose speaks of a pretty mix of both red and blue pinot fruit along with background hints of cassis. The restrained intense and strikingly well-detailed medium-bodied flavors possess an abundance of mouth coating extract that buffers the firm tannic spine on the impressively complex, long and exquisitely balanced finish. 93/2016+

2009 Pinot Noir Skyline Vineyard

(from Santa Cruz Mountains fruit that is planted to an incredible density of 7,000 vines per acre or the equivalent of 17,500 vines per ha!; 12.6%). A reserved and notably cooler nose of crystalline purity offers up notes of spicy diverse red berry fruit aromas that complement to perfection the exceptionally elegant and refined medium weight flavors that are shaped and supported by very firm but ripe tannins, all wrapped in a dusty and stunningly long finish. This is a wine of harmony, indeed this strikes me as quite Zen-like as the structure is very fine grained. 94/2016+

2009 Pinot Noir Alpine Vineyard

(from Santa Cruz Mountains fruit; note that in 2008 and in 2009, the Hillside was included; 13.1 %). Here the nose is similar to that of the Skyline but with more obvious spice notes that carry over to the exceptionally rich and large-scaled flavors that possess very firm and ripe tannins that coat the mouth yet are not aggressive or drying. This very serious effort is not as refined as the Skyline but it is just as complex and a lot more powerful. 93/2017+

2009 Pinot Noir Swan Terrace

(from Santa Cruz Mountains fruit; 12.7%). This beauty offers an almost hypothetical blend of the Skyline and Alpine as it combines the elegance of the former with the power and density of the latter. A spicy and relatively high-toned red pinot fruit, red currant and cherry suffused nose introduces gorgeously detailed, intense and solidly structured flavors that display simply amazing length on the moderately austere finish. This is an admirably serious wine of crystalline purity and flawless balance. 95/2017+

2009 Pinot Noir Horseshoe Vineyard

(from Santa Cruz Mountains fruit; 13.3%). A highly expressive and more immediate nose of spice, floral elements and a ripe combination of plum, red currant and blueberry fruit aromas merges seamlessly with rich, generous and supple medium weight plus flavors that possess lovely detail and precision on the superbly deep and remarkably long finish. The firm tannins are well-integrated and this should age well yet because of the abundance of dry extract, actually be approachable young, at least with an hour or so of air. In short, this is a knockout. 94/2016+

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