Allen Meadows’ Burghound awards Rhys the highest rating to date for American Pinot Noir! (October 2010)

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 drive the wines to new heights. There are usually varying percentages of destemming but in 2008 there was none (as was also the case in 2007). That the wines are of very high quality is evident but what is wonderfully refreshing is that the wines are also unique and original. Simply put, they are unlike any other pinots being crafted in California today. I hasten to point out that this is not because their methods are radically different (there are others who use very high percentages of whole cluster ferments along with natural yeasts). No, the difference is straightforward: it is because Harvey has chosen his vineyard sites with a keen eye and then obsessively developed them with the one goal of obtaining fruit that expresses unerringly the uniqueness of site. Simply put, these are terroir-driven wines par excellence. Moreover, it’s worth glancing at the alcohol levels of these wines. 12.3%? For those readers who drink Cali pinot regularly, when was the last time you saw a “12” on the label let alone three wines in a given range? As someone who samples hundreds of examples every year, I can tell you that it’s extremely rare yet these wines are phenolically ripe and beautifully balanced. I am excited to see what the Rhys ‘08s become in 10 years as they are unapologetically built to age. If you’re not on the mailing list but enjoy serious and structured but elegant pinot, then I would strongly suggest adding your name to it. I would note that all of these wines benefited substantially from extended airing, which means at least one hour in advance
and two would be better – just remember not to let them warm up too much. All the wines were bottled without fining or filtration. For further information, visit:

2008 Pinot Noir Family Farm Vineyard San Mateo County

(from San Mateo County fruit; 12.6%). An attractively layered and fresh ripe red berry fruit and overtly floral nose offers excellent complexity that continues onto the rich but elegantly rendered medium-bodied flavors that possess a seductive texture and perfect balance on the lingering finish. This should age extremely well as everything is in perfect proportion. 92

2008 Pinot Noir Home Vineyard San Mateo County

(from San Mateo County fruit; 12.9%). Deeply colored. A notably more soil-inflected nose of primarily blue berry, violet and an interesting spice/floral component introduces rich, full-bodied, robust and serious middle weight flavors that possess ample amounts of dry extract that buffer the dusty, firm and buried tannins before culminating in a mouth coating and youthfully austere finish. This is impressive and the only nit is a touch of finishing warmth. 92

2008 Pinot Noir Bearwallow Vineyard Anderson Valley

(from Anderson Valley fruit that sits next to Kaiser Vineyard; 13.6%). A deft, indeed almost invisible, touch of wood sets off even more complex aromas of spicy red pinot fruit and warm earth nuances that also suffuse the concentrated, intense and powerful big-bodied flavors that are supported by distinctly firm tannins and a much more overt sense of austerity on the strikingly long finish. This is built to age and will probably outlive the Home. 93

2008 Pinot Noir Skyline Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains

(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!; 12.3%). A more elegant and refined nose places perhaps even more emphasis on the floral component found in all of the Rhys wines that gives way to highly complex and equally refined middle weight flavors that are quite classy and while there is no lack of power or structure, the tannins are finer, all wrapped in a stunningly long and mineral-infused finish. A very stylish effort that should reward medium to long-term cellaring. 94

2008 Pinot Noir Alpine Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains

(from Santa Cruz Mountains fruit; note that in 2008 and in 2009, the Hillside was included; 13.4 %). Like all of the Rhys ‘08s, the aromatic complexity of the Alpine is more than just admirable, it’s distinctive as it offers a lacy and pure mélange of cherry and blue berry fruit aromas cut with floral and mild wood notes that precede the backward and moderately austere flavors that are underpinned by firm but not aggressive tannins and excellent length on the balanced finish. While the Alpine is also built to age, it appears that it may come around a bit sooner. 93

2008 Pinot Noir Horseshoe Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains

(from Santa Cruz Mountains fruit; 12.9%). An exceptionally densely fruited nose that is intensely floral and nuanced with stone, spice and soft earth hints complements to perfection the impressively concentrated medium weight plus flavors that brim with dry extract such that the very firm tannins are rendered almost invisible at present though I suspect that they will become more visible as the baby fat recedes. This broad-scaled effort should age for up to a decade and last several more. Magnificent. 95

2008 Pinot Noir Swan Terrace Santa Cruz Mountains

(from Santa Cruz Mountains fruit; 13%). This is also gorgeously layered and brilliantly complex with a stunning nose of rose petal, violet, red and blue pinot fruit and perhaps the most overt mineral-influence of any wine in the group and this aspect can also be found on the beautifully textured, refined and pure flavors that are an exercise in balance and harmony. In sum, a wine of class and grace that in 10 years may ultimately prove to be as good as the Horseshoe. 94

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