Jeb Dunnuck call Rhys’ 2018s “incredible wines across the board”

by Jeb Dunnuck, (September 2020)

“Looking at the Rhys releases, their 2018s are incredible wines across the board and they show remarkable purity and elegance paired with beautiful concentration and depth. These aren’t blockbuster wines with over the top richness and depth, yet they’re flawlessly balanced and excel on their complexity, elegance, and length. While the Bearwallow releases come from a site in the Anderson Valley, the majority are from their estate vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The winemaking here isn’t dogmatic and some sites are completely destemmed while others seeing varying amounts of whole clusters in the fermentations. Aging occurs mostly in used barrels, with new oak kept well in check. There’s not a wine in the lineup that shows any overt oak and these wines speak clearly of their terroir/vineyard, which can’t always be said for producers with this many single vineyard releases. Alcohol levels are in the 12%-13% range for most of these 2018s. Enough can’t be said about the quality coming from this estate and these are world-class, age-worthy Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that are as good as anything out there.”


2018 Alesia Anderson Valley Chardonnay
Starting with the 2018 Chardonnay Anderson Valley Alesia from the value-priced lineup from Rhys, it offers a vivid gold hue as well as bright, Chablis-like notes of lemon curd, salty, chalky minerality, crushed citrus, and a kiss of sappy flowers. These carry to a more medium-bodied Chardonnay that shows more sweet fruit and texture than you’d expect from the nose, and it’s a charming, fleshy, ready to go beauty to enjoy over the coming 2-4 years.90.

2018 Alesia Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
Even better, the 2018 Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains Alesia offers a similar vivid color as well as classy citrus and orchard fruits, honeyed minerality, white flowers, and toasted bread. This medium-bodied, elegant, beautifully balanced Chardonnay has nicely integrated acidity, a great mid-palate, and a crisp, layered finish. I don’t expect it to have the same longevity as the top Rhys Chardonnay, but wow, what a classy, elegant Chardonnay to enjoy over the coming 3-5 years.94.

2018 Alesia Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Readers looking for a great example of high-quality Anderson Valley Pinot Noir need look no further than the 2018 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Alesia. Revealing a lighter ruby hue as well as textbook notes of dried red fruits, savory herbs, loamy soil, and new saddle leather, this beauty hits the palate with medium-bodied richness, a solid core of sweet fruit, and a great finish. It doesn’t have the structure of the Bearwallow Vineyard release and is ideal for enjoying over the coming 7-8 years. 92.

2018 Alesia Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains Alesia is rock-solid and certainly has plenty of classy Rhys character. Lots of black cherries, mulberries, dried spices, savory herbs, and forest floor notes all dominate the bouquet, and it’s medium-bodied, with a supple, elegant texture, silky tannins, and a great finish. This is classic Santa Cruz Mountains, delivering complex, Burgundian aromatics, ample minerality, integrated structure, and a great finish. It’s terrific today yet will certainly evolve for 7-8 years.93.


2018 Rhys Mt. Pajaro Chenin Blanc
I loved the 2017 version of this cuvée, and the 2018 Chenin Blanc Mt. Pajaro Vineyard doesn’t disappoint either. Classy dried citrus, leafy herbs, honeysuckle, and a kiss of minerality all show up on the nose, and it’s medium-bodied and has a textured, layered mouthfeel, good acidity, and a great finish. It’s beautifully done and ideal for enjoying over the coming 2-4 years, although I suspect it will evolve for even longer. 93.

2018 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Chardonnay
Coming from a site in the Anderson Valley, the 2018 Chardonnay Bearwallow Vineyard shows its normal Burgundian style and has a gorgeous perfume of crushed citrus, lemon curd, white flowers, and salty minerality. Complex and nuanced aromatically, it hits the palate with a racy, steely texture that carries good concentration and mid-palate density, bright acidity, and a saliva-inducing finish. As with the 2017, it needs a solid 3-4 years of bottle age and should drink nicely over the following decade or more. 92+.

2018 Rhys Mt. Pajaro Vineyard Chardonnay
A classic, mineral-laced white from this team, the 2018 Chardonnay Mt. Pajaro Vineyard has a bright gold hue as well as lots of salty, citrus fruits, notes of honeysuckle and white flowers, medium-bodied richness, and a juicy, balanced, elegant texture. It’s beautifully done and ideal for drinking over the coming 4-6 years. 93.

2018 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay
While from a site not far from the Horseshoe Vineyard, the 2018 Chardonnay Alpine Vineyard is distinctly different. Where the Horseshoe Chardonnay is exotic and more masculine, this is more seamless, elegant, and classic. Chassagne-Montrachet-like notes of orchard fruits, citrus blossom, toasted bread, flowers, and spice as well as some classic Santa Cruz Mountains minerality dominate the bouquet, and it’s medium to full-bodied, beautifully textured, and has a great finish. It’s already approachable, yet its spine of acidity as well as its mid-palate depth all suggest a solid 10-12 years of prime drinking.97.

2018 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Chardonnay
Always a singular, exotic wine, the 2018 Chardonnay Horseshoe Vineyard has an incredible bouquet of crushed stone, gunpowder, tart pineapple, caramelized lemons, and musky flowers. As with all these 2018s, it has a bright spine of acidity yet is concentrated and balanced, with a wonderful texture and a great finish. This is world-class, age-worthy Chardonnay. Give bottles 2-3 years and enjoy through 2032. 97.

2018 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir
Always one of the lighter colored wines in the lineup, the 2018 Pinot Noir Bearwallow Vineyard comes from an estate vineyard in the Anderson Valley. Classic notes of dried cherries, cranberries, loamy earth, and savory herbs all give way to a bright, medium-bodied, elegant Pinot Noir that has a solid sense of minerality, present tannins, and a good finish. I never find the same level of class or elegance from this cuvée compared to the Santa Cruz Mountain releases, yet it’s a character-filled, satisfying Pinot Noir to enjoy over the coming decade. 93.

2018 Rhys Porcupine Hill Pinot Noir
Kirsch, mulled cherries, leather, flowery incense, and minty herbs are all displayed in the 2018 Pinot Noir Porcupine Hill, a medium-bodied, elegant, seamless Pinot Noir from the Anderson Valley. Showing classic Anderson Valley savoriness and mineral notes, it has ripe yet present tannins, a focused texture, and a crisp, clean finish. It needs 2-3 years of bottle age but will be a complex, elegant Pinot Noir to enjoy through 2030. 94.

2018 Rhys Family Farm Vineyard Pinot Noir
Coming from a mix of Swan, 115, and Pommard clones, planted in alluvial, clay soils, the 2018 Pinot Noir Family Farm Vineyard is upfront and ready to go, with a big perfume of spiced red fruits, dried flowers, new leather, and sappy green herb-like aromas and flavors. Fleshy, medium-bodied, and with plenty of fruit, drink this already complex and nuanced 2018 over the coming 7-8 years. 94.

2018 Rhys Home Vineyard Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir Home Vineyard comes from the northern sector of the Santa Cruz Mountains and has a complex, earthy bouquet of black cherry and raspberry fruits as well as notes of forest floor, new leather, and spice. More floral and sassafras notes develop with air, and this medium to full-bodied beauty has an incredibly seamless texture and a great finish. It has plenty of structure, but it’s buried under the fruit at this point. This pure, fleshy, beautiful Pinot Noir will shed some baby fat over the coming 3-5 years and drink brilliantly for a decade. 95.

2018 Rhys Mt. Pajaro Vineyard Pinot Noir
Also upfront and already expressive, the 2018 Pinot Noir Mt. Pajaro Vineyard comes from a slightly higher elevation site (1,000 feet) in the Santa Cruz Mountains and is a mix of heritage clones and massale selection. Darker currants, raspberries, scorched earth, spice, and earthy, foresty notes dominate the bouquet, and this medium to full-bodied, elegant 2018 has beautiful tannins, a solid sense of minerality, and a great finish. Drink it any time over the coming 10-12+ years. 94.

2018 Rhys Skyline Vineyard Pinot Noir
From a steep vineyard located just off the Skyline Road, in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the 2018 Pinot Noir Skyline Vineyard is pure class, offering a complex, layered bouquet of redcurrants, black raspberries, orange blossom, forest floor, exotic flowers, and spice. Showing more minerality as well as a touch of iodine character, on the palate, this puppy is rich, full-bodied, and powerful, with lots of underlying structure. It’s one of the bigger, richer examples of this cuvée I can remember, yet it says flawlessly balanced and has an expansive mouthfeel along with a gorgeous finish. 98.

2018 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Pinot Noir
Redcurrants, flowers, chalky minerality, spice, and loamy soil notes all emerge from the 2018 Pinot Noir Alpine Vineyard, which is medium-bodied and has a supple, elegant texture, no hard edges, and a great finish. It shows more and more minerality with time in the glass and is a classic expression of this steep, southwest-facing vineyard. It has plenty of upfront charm and accessibility yet still has ample underlying tannins. My money is on it benefiting from 2-3 years of bottle age and evolving nicely for a solid decade. 94.

2018 Rhys Swan Terrace Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir Swan Terrace comes from a tiny 1.5-acre terrace in the Alpine Vineyard and is all Swan clone of Pinot Noir. It offers more stemmy notes of red and black fruits, smoked herbs, and forest floor and mushroom nuances. As with all of these 2018s, the level of nuance and complexity is incredible, and this develops and changes with air and has that classic Pinot Noir mix of sweet fruit and earthy, underbrush, and sous bois character that keeps you coming back to the glass. Medium to full-bodied, silky, and elegant on the palate, it has solid underlying structure and is going to drink fabulously well for 15 years or more. 97.

2018 Rhys Alpine Hillside Pinot Noir
The tiny production 2018 Pinot Noir Alpine Vineyard Hillside comes from a tiny 2.25-acre parcel in the Alpine Vineyard and is from a massale selection of heritage clones. Aged in a mix of new and used French oak, it has a gorgeous, Burgundian bouquet of red and black fruits, potpourri, sous bois, spice box, and dried flowers. It’s not the biggest or richest wine in the lineup, yet it’s perfectly balanced, has a thrilling texture, ample mid-palate depth, and flawlessly integrated tannins, fruit, and acidity. The Vosne-Romanée of California? This incredible, magical Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir builds with time in the glass and is going to benefit from 2-4 years of bottle age and blow you away over the following decade or more. Hats off to the team at Rhys for making one of the greatest Pinot Noirs from California I’ve ever tasted! 100.

2018 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Pinot Noir
There are now three releases from this vineyard, a grafted vine, an ungrafted vine, and a hillside selection. The base 2018 Pinot Noir Horseshoe Vineyard is about as textbook a rendition of this site as I could imagine. Its masculine, earthy, meaty bouquet includes lots of ripe red and black fruits, spice, exotic flowers, iodine, and incense. It shows more sweet fruit on the palate and is medium to full-bodied, has nicely integrated acidity, silky tannins, and a great finish. It shows a supple, even charming style on the palate and has plenty of upfront appeal, yet it’s still going to benefit from 2-3 years of bottle age and evolve for over a decade. 95.

2018 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Ungrafted Vines Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir Horseshoe Vineyard Ungrafted Vines offers a purer bouquet of darker fruits (black cherries, fresh plums, and raspberries) as well as ample violets, baking spice, and earthy nuances. Beautiful on the palate as well, it’s seamless and medium to full-bodied, with building tannins and flawless balance. Enjoy this gorgeous, elegant, yet still powerful Pinot Noir over the coming 15 years or more. It has a touch more richness and depth than the classic cuvée as well as more texture. 96.

2018 Rhys Horseshoe Hillside Pinot Noir
The flagship 2018 Pinot Noir Horseshoe Vineyard Black Label comes from a tiny section of this vineyard and is another beautiful wine from this team that does everything right. Ripe pomegranate, red currants, iodine, crushed stone, new leather, and wood smoke all emerge from the glass, and this beauty hits the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, a flawless texture, silky tannins, and a great, great finish. The purity and elegance of the 2018 vintage is front and center, it has incredible complexity, perfect balance, and is just a singular, gorgeously complete Pinot Noir to enjoy over the coming 15 years or more. 99.

2017 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Syrah
I’m always thrilled to see a Syrah from this estate, and the 2017 Syrah Horseshoe Vineyard comes from a great vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Beautiful Northern Rhône-like notes of black raspberries, bacon fat, spring flowers, and cracked black pepper all emerge from the glass, and this Côte-Rôtie look-alike is medium-bodied, has solid tannins, good acidity, and a great finish. It’s a beautiful, complex, yet still nicely concentrated Syrah that’s going to evolve for 10-12 years. 94.

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