Galloni says Rhys’ “2018s are just off the charts brilliant” and “the finest wines I have ever tasted from Rhys.”
by Antonio Galloni, Vinous (September 2020)
“The 2018 Pinot Noirs are without question the finest wines I have ever tasted from Rhys. One after the other, the 2018s are just off the charts brilliant, as saw in two separate tastings this past summer. The long, benign growing season with healthy rain and no shock events gave proprietor Kevin Harvey and winemaker Jeff Brinkman ideal conditions to really capture the essence of site. And that’s what these wines are all about. The essence of place. Two thousand eighteen is the perfect vintage to explore the vineyards in the Rhys range, as the wines are so precise, so defined. In some ways, the 2018s have suaveness to them that recalls the 2012s, but the 2018s have darker fruit and more energy. The Pinots spent 18-21 days on the skins, including a few days of cold soak. Some of the wines, notably the Home, Skyline and Swan Terrace are done with essentially 100% whole clusters. Alpine sees about 25% stems, while Bearwallow, Porcupine Hill and Horseshoe are done with fully destemmed fruit.
Readers will note the second release of the Rhys Ultra Brut, which is being made with the consulting help of Rodolphe Péters. The sparkling program will ultimately comprise four wines: a vintage Blanc de Blanc from Mt. Pajaro, a vintage Pinot Noir/Chardonnay and a Rosé from Bearwallow, and the Brut Reserve. Lastly, a whole range of wines is on the way from Aeris, Harvey’s label focused on Italian varieties. This report covers many wines from Rhys and sister labels Alesia and Aeris, but there is one wine Rhys fans should absolutely not miss, and that is the Horseshoe Pinot from ungrafted wines. It’s one of the greatest California wines I have ever tasted. Readers who want to learn more might enjoy my recent interview with Harvey and Brinkman, which is available on the Vinous YouTube channel.”
“Readers will find much to like in these new releases from Alesia, the sister label of Rhys. As a reminder, proprietor Kevin Harvey and winemaker Jeff Brinkman focus their efforts here on appellation-level wines, all from estate vineyards, that offer a bit more early approachability than the Rhys wines. Don’t let the more modest prices fool you, though, these are serious wines that in 2018 will benefit from at least a bit of cellaring.”
2018 Alesia Anderson Valley Chardonnay
The 2018 Chardonnay (Anderson Valley), all from Bearwallow, is surprisingly tightly wound, which won’t be an issue in time, but readers should not be looking at this as an easygoing wine for near-term drinking. Bright acids give the orchard fruit, citrus confit and floral notes a good bit of energy. There is a lot to like here. Light tropical accents develop with air, rounding out the finish nicely. 92.
2018 Alesia Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
The 2018 Chardonnay (Santa Cruz Mountains) from Alesia is a dazzling wine that captures all of the energy and vibrancy of the appellation. Citrus, crushed rocks and white flowers all grace the 2018, a Chardonnay that sizzles with energy and tension. This is a terrific showing. 92.
2018 Alesia Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley) is gracious and beautifully lifted. Spice, cedar, tobacco and star anise add pretty aromatic top notes, while beams of saline and mineral notes lend a good bit of vibrancy throughout. I especially like the translucence here. This is a very serious appellation-level wine. 91.
2018 Alesia Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir (Santa Cruz Mountains) is another fabulous appellation-level wine from Alesia, the sister label of Rhys. Red berry, spice, rose petal and dried herbs all grace this wonderfully expressive, vibrant Pinot Noir. Far from an easygoing entry-level wine, the Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot offers quite a bit of intensity in a mid-weight style that favors energy over heft. 92.
2018 Rhys Mt. Pajaro Chenin Blanc
The 2018 Chenin Blanc Mt. Pajaro Vineyard is fabulous. Pear, dried herb, sage and mint give the Chenin a super appealing savoriness, but what I like most about the Chenin in 2018 is its energy, dimension and translucence. I hope words can do justice to just how beautiful and expressive the 2018 is. In a word: divine. 94.
2018 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Chardonnay
The 2018 Chardonnay Bearwallow Vineyard is endowed with tremendous poise and balance. Light tropical notes, marzipan and lemon oil open up first in a Chardonnay loaded with character. Bright acids play off a creamy expression of fruit. Rich and textured yet also light on its feet, the Bearwallow Chardonnay has a ton to offer. It is another brilliant wine in this lineup from Rhys. 94.
2018 Rhys Mt. Pajaro Vineyard Chardonnay
The 2018 Chardonnay Mt. Pajaro Vineyard is a powerful, deep wine with a sense of structure that recalls a red wine. A huge core of fruit give the 2018 a feeling of virile intensity. Readers should expect a potent, savory Chardonnay that will surely be at its finest at the dinner table. 94.
2018 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay
The 2018 Chardonnay Alpine Vineyard dazzles from start to finish. Tangerine oil, matchstick, wild flowers, sage, chamomile and pineapple are some of the many notes that grace the 2018. In the glass, the 2018 is focused and taut, with striking richness that is just waiting to emerge. In a word: Superb. 94+.
2018 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Chardonnay
One of the many highlights in this range, the 2018 Chardonnay Horseshoe Vineyard is positively stunning. Lemon confit, orchard fruit, matchstick, tangerine oil and a range of saline-infused notes all run through the 2018, a Chardonnay that exudes finesse, elegance and a real sense of energy. It is one of the finest Chardonnays I have tasted from Rhys. 96.
2018 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir Bearwallow Vineyard marries the forward fruit that is so typical of this site with the brisk acids and freshness that are such signatures of this great Pinot vintage. Sweet floral and spice notes lead into a core of red berry fruit as this polished, classically built Pinot reveals its considerable charms. The 2018 has plenty to offer. I wouldn’t be in a rush to open it, but for readers who can’t resist, it is the most approachable of these wines. 94.
2018 Rhys Porcupine Hill Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir Porcupine Hill emerges from a block of densely planted vines that lies apart from the rest of the property, on its own ridge. Weightless and ethereal, the 2018 stands out for its aromatic presence and finely sculpted, detailed profile. Interestingly, the fruit is much less overt here than it is in the Bearwallow. There is something elusive in the Porcupine Hill’s ethereal personality that is absolutely compelling. 96.
2018 Rhys Family Farm Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir Family Farm Vineyard is soft and caressing, with lovely red berry fruit. Blood orange, spice and cedar nuances add pretty top notes. Soft contours give the Family Farm a good deal of early appeal, but, here, too, the acids are wonderfully bright. The Family Farm doesn’t have the structure or tannins of some of the other wines, but it is immensely appealing. 94.
2018 Rhys Home Vineyard Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir Home Vineyard is bright, punchy and so expressive. Black cherry, plum, leather, cedar, menthol and licorice infuse the 2018 with striking darkness and an element of sepia-toned mystic beauty that is compelling. Ample in feel and broad, with striking energy, the Home Vineyard Pinot is such a complete wine. 96.
2018 Rhys Mt. Pajaro Vineyard Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir Mt. Pajaro Vineyard is a dark, dense beauty. Black cherry, plum, mocha, licorice, spice, leather and menthol all flesh out in a somber, potent wine built on serious concentration. This decidedly virile Pinot needs time to come around. Today, it is somewhat of a brute, but it is nevertheless a remarkable wine from young vines that were only planted in 2011. It will be interesting to see if the Mt. Pajaro Pinot acquires more finesse as the vines get older, as the other Rhys Pinots have. 95.
2018 Rhys Skyline Vineyard Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir Skyline Vineyard is magnificent. Dark, powerful and brooding, the 2018 possesses tremendous fruit depth, with swaths of tannin that add a real feeling of drive. Black pepper, exotic spice, mocha, game, sage, menthol and licorice give the 2018 a Syrah-like sense of darkness that is impossible to miss. The Skyline is one of the wines that sees a healthy amount of whole clusters, an approach that works beautifully here. 97.
2018 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir Alpine Vineyard opens with striking, floral-infused aromatics that give the wine presence and structure. Savory and finely cut, with superb delineation, and tons of depth, the Alpine is positively stellar today. Layers of fruit enshroud the tannins, making them barely perceptible. The 2018 is a stunning Pinot from Alpine, a site originally planted with 17 heritage clones. 95+.
2018 Rhys Swan Terrace Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir Swan Terrace emerges from a steep, east-facing parcel within Alpine planted with a number of different versions of the Swan clone Pinot. It is one of the most ethereal, perfumed wines in the range. Crushed rose petal, blood orange, sweet red berries, pine and mint give the Swan Terrace its signature aromatic profile. This is such a nuanced and totally distinctive wine. 96+.
2018 Rhys Alpine Hillside Pinot Noir
The 2018 Alpine Hillside is a dark, unctuous wine. Black cherry, plum, licorice, menthol and gravel infuse the 2018 with tremendous depth and concentration. Powerful and resonant in the glass, the Alpine Hillside is a Pinot built on creaminess and density, with a touch of whole cluster savoriness that balances things out nicely. The tannins need time so soften, but there is a lot to like. 97.
2018 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir Horseshoe Vineyard is dense and brooding. Black cherry, licorice, spice, leather, herbs and mineral accents shape this ample, beautifully resonant Pinot Noir. Diatomaceous Monterey soils estimated to be 11-15 million years old yield a Pinot of notable breadth, texture and complexity. 97.
2018 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Ungrafted Vines Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir Horseshoe Vineyard Ungrafted Vines emerges from a steep parcel on the property planted with a very dense 17,000 vines per hectare. It is quite simply one of the most stunning, captivating wines I have ever tasted from Rhys. Exquisitely perfumed and deep, thee 2018 is totally mesmerizing in every way. Bright red fruit, blood orange, cinnamon, mint and pine all lift from the glass, but it is the wine’s silkiness that elevates it into the realm of the truly sublime. Sadly, there are just two barrels of this magical Pinot to go around. 99.
2018 Rhys Horseshoe Hillside Pinot Noir
The 2018 Pinot Noir Horseshoe Hillsides, from the rim of the upper plateau, is a heady, exotic wine. Black cherry, licorice, menthol, cloves and leather build in a potent, sumptuous wine that marries fruit intensity and structure. Readers should plan on being patient with the 2018, as it won’t be ready to drink anytime soon. This is an especially dense, savory style. 98.
2017 Rhys Horseshoe Vineyard Syrah
The 2017 Syrah Horseshoe Vineyard is remarkably elegant. The red fruit character almost recalls Pinot Noir, but a backbone of firm tannins brings the mind immediately back to Syrah. Flowers, black pepper, game and leathery notes all develop with a bit of coaxing. The Syrah is maybe just a bit less varietal than it often is, but that does not detract from its immeasurable beauty. 95+.