Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar puts Rhys 2009’s at the top again(May/June 2011)

by Josh Raynolds, Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (May/June 2011)

“It’s stating the obvious but overripeness is the biggest danger we face in California,” Kevin Harvey told me in March.  “We get intensity in our wines like no place else, but there’s always that risk of being too much of a good thing.”  Harvey said that his goal at Rhys is to achieve power with balance.  “We want concentration but not weight and thickness.”  The last three vintages (’09, ’08 and ’07) have been extremely dry, he said “and that poses a challenge to achieve finesse.  Two thousand nine was cooler than ’08, which we like, but the yields were only moderate, which is always a shame, business-wise.”  He believes that the forward nature of his 2009s, which he calls “well-concentrated,” will allow them to be drunk with pleasure on the young side while his “even more concentrated” 2008s will need more bottle age.

2009 Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains 91pts

Light yellow-gold.  Leesy, spice-accented aromas of orange, poached pear and iodine, with notes of chamomile and honeysuckle adding complexity.  Sappy, chewy orchard fruit and pineapple flavors are braced by tangy acidity, picking up a smoky quality with air.  Lush and creamy but also firm, with very good finishing cut and focus.  This wine’s balance and energy are impressive.

2009 Chardonnay Alpine Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains 94pts

Vivid yellow.  Musky aromas of chamomile, pear skin, anise and iodine, with suave floral and gingerbread notes emerging with aeration.  Juicy and broad on entry, then a bit tighter in the middle, offering densely packed orchard fruit flavors and notes of smoke and honeysuckle.  More powerful than the Horseshoe but no less animated.  This complex and tactile chardonnay boasts an intriguing interplay of ripe fruit and energetic spices.  Finishes on a gently smoky note, with excellent persistence.

2009 Chardonnay Horseshoe Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains 94pts

Bright yellow.  Lively, assertive aromas of orange zest, jasmine, mint, iodine and smoky minerals.  Pure and incisive, with energetic, mineral-accented citrus and green apple flavors that gain weight with air.  Finishes with excellent clarity and spicy cut, strongly echoing the orange and iodine notes.  I suspect this vivacious wine will put on weight with a few more years of bottle age.

2009 Pinot Noir Bearwallow Vineyard Anderson Valley 93pts

Bright ruby.  Intriguingly perfumed bouquet of strawberry and raspberry, along with a high-pitched blood orange note and a seductive floral quality.  Shows an array of sweet red fruit and spice flavors and a zesty mineral nuance that adds sharpness and definition.  The finish leaves suave floral and spicecake notes behind, along with emphatically juicy red fruits and a hint of cola.

2009 Pinot Noir Family Farm Vineyard San Mateo County 93pts

Bright red.  Perfumed aromas of raspberry preserves, Asian spices and rose oil, along with a hint of mocha.  Sappy, penetrating and fresh, with juicy red berry and cherry flavors, silky texture and a late kick of spices.  Open-knit and very easy to drink, finishing with impressive clarity and lingering red fruit notes.

2009 Pinot Noir Skyline Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains 94pts

Bright ruby.  Intensely perfumed, assertive bouquet evokes redcurrant, raspberry and spicecake complemented by smoky minerals and building florality.  Pure, precise and deeply concentrated but shockingly lithe, offering sweet red fruit flavors and a steely mineral spine.  Unwinds with air to offer deeper cherry and black raspberry qualities while maintaining energy and focus.  The finish is racy, subtly sweet and very persistent.  Definitely give this a few years of bottle age.

2009 Pinot Noir Horseshoe Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains 94pts

Vivid ruby.  Captivating, exotic aromas of red and dark berries, cherry skin, smoky Moroccan spices and incense, with a sexy floral quality that gains power with air.  Impressively pure, incisive raspberry and cherry flavors show emphatic spiciness and a suave rose pastille quality.  Silky tannins add shape to the very long, bracing finish.  This wine is awfully delicious right now but really deserves a few more years in the cellar.

2009 Pinot Noir Alpine Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains 92pts

Vivid ruby.  Ripe red berries and cherry-vanilla on the nose, with complicating notes of dried rose, cola and Asian spices.  Fleshy and smooth in texture, offering sweet but lively red and dark berry flavors and hints of sassafras and candied rose.  Finishes on an expansive cherry note, with resonating spiciness and a sexy floral nuance.

2009 Pinot Noir Swan Terrace Santa Cruz Mountains 95pts

Bright ruby.  Pure, expressive red fruit and floral aromas are complicated by star anise, cinnamon and allspice, with a lively mineral undertone adding vivacity.  Impressively precise in the mouth, offering sappy strawberry and raspberry flavors and an intensely spicy character.  The finish features a note of candied flowers and hangs on with outstanding tenacity.  Remarkably delineated and vibrant pinot noir.

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