IWC’s Josh Raynolds offers first look at Rhys 2011s

IWC’s Josh Raynolds offers first look at Rhys 2011s

by Josh Raynolds, Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (May/Jun 2013)

“We’ve never worked so hard for so little wine,” Kevin Harvey told me as we tasted through his 2011s. “We just got murdered” on yields, he said, pointing out that production was off by a full 75% from normal, “and that was after 2010, which was low as well.” For example, only 3 barrels of wine were made from his 10-acre Alpine vineyard this vintage and while that’s the most extreme example, “it was brutal across the board.” To compensate, Harvey has at least temporarily revived his negociant label, Alesia, for 2011 “because we had access to fruit grown in great vineyards by people we trust,” meaning Alder Springs for chardonnay and pinot noir. The barrel program continues to be refined here and winemaker Jeff Brinkman is working with Francois Freres barrels that are made from 4-year air-dried staves that Rhys purchases and delivers to the cooperage in St. Romain for construction.

2011 Alesia Chardonnay Alder Springs Vineyard Mendocino County 91 pts

Green-tinged gold. Complex aromas of pear, iodine, white flowers and smoky peat. Densely packed, spicy and focused, with very good energy to its orchard fruit, mineral and chamomile flavors. This deep but lively chardonnay finishes firm and smoky, with a lingering note of candied ginger.

2011 Alesia Pinot Noir Alder Springs Vineyard Mendocino County 91 pts

(made with 40% whole clusters): Ruby-red. Black raspberry, cherry and sassafras on the pungent nose. Fleshy and expansive, offering powerful dark berry and bitter cherry flavors and a note of candied rose. Picks up spiciness with air and closes on a smoky note, with very good thrust and persistence.

2011 Rhys Vineyards Chardonnay Horseshoe Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains 94 pts

(aged for 16 months in oak, 25% of it new): Bright yellow-gold. Explosive aromas of mineral-accented orange, nectarine and white flowers, with a smoky overtone. Taut and sharply focused, showing superb concentration and tension to flavors of crystallized lemon, white peach and chalky minerals. The mineral-driven finish clings with striking tenacity

2011 Rhys Vineyards Chardonnay Alpine Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains 93 pts

Vivid gold. Spice-accented aromas of peach pit, tangerine and white flowers, with a buttery nuance adding depth. Shows very good energy, offering sappy orchard and pit fruit flavors and a touch of bitter citrus pith. Finishes smoky and long, with resonating floral and toasted nut notes and suave minerality.

2011 Rhys Vineyards Pinot Noir Bearwallow Vineyard Anderson Valley 93 pts

Bright ruby. Seductive aromas of black raspberry, minerals and potpourri. Silky and focused, with sweet dark berry flavors buffered by zesty acidity. Impressively dense and quite concentrated but comes off lithe and fat-free. Finishes long and sappy, with resonating floral and Asian spice qualities.

2011 Rhys Vineyards Pinot Noir Family Farm Vineyard San Mateo County 93 pts

(made with 58% whole clusters and raised in 40% new oak): Deep red. Black raspberry, cherry pit, Asian spices and smoky oak on the nose. Fine-grained and sappy, with strong lift to the flavors of dark raspberry, bitter cherry and blood orange. Finishes long, on a faintly medicinal note, with sweet harmonious tannins and lingering spiciness.

2011 Rhys Vineyards Pinot Noir Home Vineyard San Mateo County 93(+?) pts

(made entirely with whole clusters): Deep red. Explosive, spice-accented aromas of candied red fruits, potpourri and incense, with a blood orange nuance adding complexity. Deeply pitched black raspberry and bitter cherry flavors are slow to unfold but show impressive concentration and focus. Finishes smoky, with sneaky sweetness, the fine-grained tannins providing shape and grip. This one needs a little time to open up but looks very promising.

2011 Rhys Vineyards Pinot Noir Skyline Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains 94 pts

(60% whole clusters and 40% new oak): Deep red. Pungent, high-pitched aromas of raspberry, blood orange, sandalwood and fresh flowers. Juicy and sharply focused, offering penetrating red fruit and rose pastille flavors and a sexy Asian spice flourish. Subtly sweet, delicate and alluringly perfumed on the gently tannic finish, which shows superb clarity and length. This wine clocks in at 12.6% alcohol.

2011 Rhys Vineyards Pinot Noir Alpine Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains 94 pts

(75% new oak and 20% whole clusters): Dark red. Sweet dark berry and cherry-cola scents are complicated by musky herbs, dried flowers and minerals, with a suave undercurrent of Indian spices. Powerful black raspberry and bitter cherry flavors are firmed by tangy acidity, which adds lift and back-end cut. This wine has the focus, balance and concentration to repay at least five to seven years of cellaring.

2011 Rhys Vineyards Pinot Noir Horseshoe Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains 94 pts

(raised in 57% new oak and made entirely with de-stemmed fruit): Bright red. A highly complex nose displays scents of black raspberry, cola, potpourri, sandalwood and smoky minerals. Smells like a cross between a florist’s and a head shop. Juicy red fruit and spicecake flavors of superb intensity are lifted by a sexy floral nuance and firmed by tangy acidity. Finishes with sweet, silky tannins and excellent persistence, trailing a strong rose pastille note.

2010 Rhys Vineyards Syrah Horseshoe Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains 94 pts

Glass-staining purple. Powerful, smoke-accented aromas of black and blue fruit preserves, olive and licorice, with a spicy topnote. Shows textbook syrah character and intense blueberry and cassis flavors lifted by tangy acidity. Finishes smoky, sweet and very long, with smooth tannins lending shape and gentle grip.

2010 Rhys Vineyards Syrah Skyline Vineyard Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains 94 pts

Inky purple. A seductively perfumed bouquet displays black raspberry, boysenberry, potpourri and Asian spices. Silky red and dark berry preserve flavors show liqueur-like depth and sweetness, with a spine of bright acidity adding energy and lift. Supple tannins give support and focus to an impressively long, pure and penetrating finish. A striking combination of power and finesse.


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