x
  • Wine average?

    93 Tb
  • Country Ranking?

    88
  • Region Ranking?

    12
  • Popularity ranking?

    195

History

Rhys Vineyards is, together with Ridge Vineyards and Mount Eden Vineyards, the stars of the Santa Cruz Mountain appellation. The company was founded by Kevin Harvey, who in 1995 planted a tine vineyard with Pinot Noir on his property and a few years later started to make some wines in his garage. The first commercial vintage was 2003, and since then production has increased over the years. In 2006 Jeff Brinkman was hired as winemaker. In 2009 a brand new winery and wine cellar was built on the Skyline Vineyard property, at one of highest peaks of the mountain. All wines are small lot fermented (there are 80 one ton open top fermenters in stainless steel and nine in French oak) and kept in French oak barrels in the caves. 


Altogether Rhys Vineyards owns 18.20 hectares of vineyards in Santa Cruz Mountains and below in the San Mateo appellation, but they also planted around 10.00 hectares with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on high slopes in the deep end of the Anderson Valley appellation in Mendocino. That vineyard will bear fruit in 2013, or 2014. 
Production is small, around 4 000 cases per year, and almost everything is sold through the winery’s mailing list.

 

At Rhys Vineyards we aspire to make great Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah from some of California's most unique and expressive vineyards. This pursuit has lead us to search the state for exciting rocky soils that exist within the mountainous, cool, Coastal climate zone.  Over the last 15 years we have developed seven estate vineyards, six in the Santa Cruz Mountains and one in Anderson Valley, each of which is capable of producing uniquely compelling, distinctive, soil driven wine.

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Vineyards

At Rhys Vineyards, we believe that real wine quality is produced in the vineyard not the winery. Driven by that belief, each of our seven vineyards is managed with a "spare no expense" viticultural approach that is based on organic and Biodynamic farming methods. Our goal is to naturally balance our vines while cultivating a vibrant and biologically diverse ecosystem in and around each vineyard. This philosophy of minimal intervention is mirrored in our winemaking.

Meanwhile we have conducted extensive trials of clones and rootstock selections. The results of these trials help us to continue to optimally match plant material to the diverse geologies found in our vineyards. Most of our vineyards are very densely planted, so much so that in some cases we are required to farm without mechanization. This dense spacing in our vineyards is quite expensive but we believe that the results cannot be achieved any other way.

 

Alpine Vineyard

From its steep and rocky perch, Alpine Vineyard gazes at the Pacific Ocean 10 miles in the distance. The chalky Purisima Formation soils are shallow and rocky while the slopes can range up to 40%. The altitude and proximity to the ocean contribute to a very cool climate, but unlike most of California’s cool and foggy sites Alpine has little wind. This unique combination of climate and soil produces wines that do not taste like any other Pinot Noir or Chardonnay in the world.

Vineyard Map

Alpine is divided into ½ acre blocks with tightly planted 6' by 4' rows. These blocks contain 16 different selections of Pinot Noir and 4 different selections of Chardonnay. Most of these are of low-yielding “Heritage” or “Suitcase” selections such as Calera, Swan, La Tache, Hyde and Wente. Each of these blocks is micro-vinified, which has allowed us to isolate three distinct Pinot Noirs. The small east-facing Rhys Swan Terrace offers an elegant and beautifully sophisticated expression of the vineyard while a rigorous selection of fruit from the south facing blocks produces the larger Rhys Alpine Vineyard bottling. In some years we also produce a Rhys Alpine Hillside bottling from the steepest and lowest yielding section of the vineyard. Each of these Alpine Pinots offers the unusual combination of rich black fruit and crushed rock complexity that makes this vineyard so special.

While much of the vineyard is devoted to Pinot Noir, Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay is every bit as important. The distinctive combination of coiled power and fine marine/saline complexity is truly unforgettable.

Elevation

1200’ to 1490'

Soil

Topsoils range from 6" to 20" over chalky Purisima formation sedimentary bedrock

Geology

Purisima formation, 4 million years old (Pliocene epoch)

Clones

16 Pinot Noir and 4 Chardonnay, primarily “Heritage” and “Suitcase” selections

 

Family Farm Vineyard

Family Farm Vineyard is the result of special partnership between neighbors. Realizing the potential of its loamy clay soil and eastern aspect, in 2002 the Sletten, Martin, Sullivan and Harvey families decided to convert this former Christmas tree farm into a vineyard. The weather is very similar to our Home Vineyard, while the alluvial sand and clay soils are unique. Like many of the best vineyards in Burgundy, the East-facing aspect shelters the vines from the warmer afternoon sun, allowing the grapes to retain freshness and aromatic dimension.

Vineyard Map

Family Farm wines are powerful yet elegant with red and black fruit, and a distinctive stalky complexity that becomes integrated and floral with age. While they are typically charming and forward on release, they also age extremely well. The first vintage, 2004, has only recently reached full maturity.

Elevation

400'

Soil

Alluvial Clay Loam

Geology

Decomposed Butano Sandstone

Clones

115, Pommard, Swan and 8 different “Suitcase” clones

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Winemaking

Our Philosophy 

Our winemaking is focused on accomplishing the following goals:

  • Pure, silky concentration that can only be achieved through low yields

  • Beautiful balance with no component revealing itself separate from the whole

  • Fruit that tastes fresh-picked and perfectly ripe, not jammy

  • Capturing complex aromatics

  • Ability to age and improve in the bottle. Nothing compares to the aromatic beauty of aged wine!

  • Thrilling complexity and beguiling interest that never leaves you bored

  • Wines with a strong sense of somewhereness (rather than someoneness)

 

Our Facility 

Consistent with our organic/biodynamic approach to viticulture, we believe that hands-off winemaking provides for enhanced vineyard expression and complexity. This expression is accomplished through a variety of means, all centered on the idea that minimal input equals maximum expression of place –

Fruit Receival – our 30,000 square foot cave, completed in 2010, is engineered for an efficient natural flow from grape arrival through bottling. All of our fruit is hand picked into 500lb perforated bins, and as fruit arrives at the winery it is unloaded into a room that is cooled to 40F, allowing the grapes to remain cold until they can be sorted. This “bin cave” leads directly to the crush pad, where all grapes are sorted and gently gravity-fed into one ton fermentation tanks. This process is slow (roughly one ton per hour), but guarantees that only the best fruit makes it into the fermentation tanks.

Fermentation – one of the most important components in our winemaking regime is the use of one ton fermentation tanks. These tanks allow us to microvinify very small sections of our vineyards, giving us the opportunity to compare minute differences in terroir, leading to increased understanding of our vineyards year after year. Because of the small size of these tanks (only 4 feet tall and 4 feet in diameter), operations that would normally require machinery are easily accomplished by hand. The tanks can be lifted for gentle gravity draining, and are small enough to accommodate foot treading in place of mechanical punchdowns or pumpovers. The gentle nature of foot treading preserves the complex aromas and flavors and allows for an instant tactile assessment of each fermentation.

All fermentations are native, utilizing the natural yeasts present on the incoming grapes without the use of nutrients. We have found that rigorous and conscientious farming that promotes biodiversity in the field produces grapes that have plenty of natural nutrition for fermentation. These native fermentations increase complexity and enhance vineyard expression. By using this natural approach, we have discovered that each of our vineyards has its own fermentation “personality”, where similar fermentation tendencies can be observed over multiple vintages. Fermentation parameters such as peak temperature, cold soak time and foot treading regime are consistent across all vineyards, producing wines whose differences are predicated on where they are from, not how they were made.

In the cellar, we employ barrels built from the finest French Oak that have been air dried for four full years in Burgundy. This expensive program requires that we purchase our oak as uncoopered stave wood 4 years before the barrels are even made, but accomplishes two primary goals: very consistent barrels year after year, and wines that are differentiated entirely by the vineyard and not by the barrel. The resulting barrels are extremely gentle and help raise our wine with pure fruit rather than noticeable oak flavor.

Our process, from Harvest to bottling, is based on a gentle gravity system and our wines are never pumped, fined, or filtered. This gentle approach is intended to deliver the purest possible reflection of our vineyards’ unique character in each bottle.

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Inside information

Vintage Summaries from 2004 to 2011

Each year at this time we open our library and taste through past vintages of each Rhys wine that we have made. The primary goal is to provide customers with updated tasting notes and drinking window recommendations but it is also quite educational to revisit our winemaking decisions and see how the wines are showing. Notes on specific wines are published on our website HERE, but we thought customers might also enjoy reading the more generalized vintage summaries below.

2012 Vintage

2012 was an easy vintage with moderate temperatures and great hang time at harvest. The wines combine good ripeness with the highest acidity we have seen. After a year in the bottle, our impression of each wine is even more positive than our heady initial impressions. It will be great fun to check back after a decade or so and pick a favorite vintage from the strong 2012, 2013 and 2014 trio. The ‘12s can all be approached today but deserve some cellar time to open and improve. Unlike our earlier vintages these wines will not need as much air upon opening.

2011 Vintage

This very atypical vintage has been quite unpredictable from the outset. Given the cool conditions and high acidity, we expected these wines might be stubborn in the cellar. Instead they are aging at a good pace and many are quite approachable. In particular wines like the Bearwallow, Family Farm, Home and Skyline are drinking very well already. The Horseshoe Pinot is quite special but like the Alpine Pinot, it will be much better in a few years.

2010 Vintage

2010 was a cool and variable year with vicious heat spikes. These conditions make it harder than usual to generalize about the wines since the timing of the heat affected each vineyard differently. Overall we are quite happy with the vintage at Rhys. Right now the Family Farm, Skyline, Home and Bearwallow are drinking well while the Alpine, Horseshoe and Swan need more time. 

2009 Vintage

2009 produced some of the ripest wines we have seen. While we initially worried about this, the wines are drinking quite well and in many cases have lost their initial baby fat. In particular the Alpine, Swan Terrace, Bearwallow and Skyline are showing very well. Like 2010 some of the wines still need a couple of years in the cellar.

2008 Vintage

2008 wines are best described as hugely concentrated and hugely structured. This structure is taking its time to resolve and all of the wines will be much better in a few years. These wines require air to be enjoyed now. If opened, we recommend a good hour or more in a decanter before drinking. The most approachable wines from this vintage are Family Farm, Bearwallow and Skyline. 

2007 Vintage

The 2007 vintage has been a bit frustrating. After showing very well in barrel, the wines shut down completely once bottled and have remained impenetrable until recently. The Family Farm and Skyline are opening and the Skyline is a real knockout. The Horseshoe Pinot is also stirring from its slumber. We still recommend more cellar time for the Alpine, Alpine Hillside, Swan Terrace and Home Pinots.

2006 Vintage

In hindsight, 2006 was probably one of the weakest vintages for CA Pinot in the last 10 years. It was also the first vintage of full production for Alpine and Family Farm vineyards. Given this vintage context, we are extremely happy with the evolution of our 2006 Rhys Pinots. The wines are still youthful but have entered their long drinking window. Right now the Alpine and Swan Terrace are drinking well. The 2006 Alpine Hillside still requires some decant time but has shown quite well in blind tastings of similarly aged Grand Cru Burgundy. We expect the 2006s to be going strong at age 20.

2005 Vintage

No Rhys wines were produced in 2005.

2004 Vintage

2004 was Rhys’ first commercial vintage and we made just a few barrels of estate wine. The wines are fully mature now and drinking well. It is fun to taste these garage wines, including the first Alpine Pinot and Chardonnay, and see the early promise of three of our sites.

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10 different wines with 32 vintages

Highlights

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Allen Meadows, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  28 wines  from  Rhys Vineyards . In a tasting of  28 wines 

The estate wines of Rhys Vineyards are made from organic and biodynamically farmed fruit. Owner Kevin Harvey and winemaker Jeff Brinkman continue to fashion truly remarkable wines, indeed they are consistently among the best examples that California has to offer. At each of their vineyards sites, over 75% of the land is left in a completely natural state. In addition to the native wildlife, they plant herbs, flowers, vegetables and grain crops while free ranging chickens and sheep also help naturally fertilize the vineyards. This is all part of their philosophy that creating a living soil creates better wine. Their winemaking process, from harvest to bottling, is based on a gravity system and the wines are never pumped, fined, or filtered. Readers should be aware that the Rhys wines are clearly fashioned in a built-to-age style and thus are most assuredly not intended to show their best young.

19d 20h ago

 Rusty Gaffney, MD, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Rhys Vineyards . In a tasting of  21 wines 

2013 Rhys Vineyards Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay / 13.5% alc., $69. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Gorgeous and intoxicating aromas of lemon, pineapple, yellow peach and crushed chalk. Equally sensational on the palate with a perfect marriage of luscious lemon cake, pineapple and pear flavors with uplifting acidity. A hint of complimentary nutty, vanillin oak adds to the appeal of this laser focused wine. The finish is incredibly long and refreshingly racy. I was so taken by this wine, that I stopped tasting other wines on this day and had a generous glass with lunch. A delicious, edgy wine without rival. (BTW, I did not see the glowing reviews of this wine by other notable wine critics before tasting this wine)Score: 99.

2y 5m ago

 Rhys Vineyards  has updated producer and wine information

2y 6m ago

 Fred Gold, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Rhys Vineyards . In a tasting of  14 wines 

Tasting of Pinot Noir (Oregon, California, New Zealand, France). At Peter Adesman's home 16 March 2017

4y 8m ago

 Michel Jamais, Wine Writer (Sweden)  tasted  6 wines  from  Rhys Vineyards . In a tasting of  6 wines 

“Rhys Vineyards is, together with Ridge Vineyards and Mount Eden Vineyards, the stars of the Santa Cruz Mountain appellation. The company was founded by Kevin Harvey, who in 1995 planted a tine vineyard with Pinot Noir on his property and a few years later started to make some wines in his garage. The first commercial vintage was 2003, and since then production has increased over the years. In 2006 Jeff Brinkman was hired as winemaker. In 2009 a brand new winery and wine cellar was built on the Skyline Vineyard property, at one of highest peaks of the mountain. All wines are small lot fermented (there are 80 one ton open top fermenters in stainless steel and nine in French oak) and kept in French oak barrels in the caves.
Altogether Rhys Vineyards owns 18.20 hectares of vineyards in Santa Cruz Mountains and below in the San Mateo appellation, but they also planted around 10.00 hectares with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on high slopes in the deep end of the Anderson Valley appellation in Mendocino. That vineyard will bear fruit in 2013, or 2014.
Production is small, around 4 000 cases per year, and almost everything is sold through the winery’s mailing list. ”

5y 9m ago

 Fred Gold, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Rhys Vineyards . In a tasting of  15 wines 

“Excellent tasting @ Peter Adesman's home. Mostly Pinot Noir from Oregon (with a few "ringers" from California & Burgundy)...followed by some wonderful German Riesling Auslese wines at the end.”

5y 9m ago

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