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Rhys Vineyards Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay 2009

Chardonnay from Santa Cruz Mountains, California
  • RP93
0% ABV
  • RP96
  • WS90
  • RP93
  • RP94
  • WS90
  • RP92
  • RP92
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Winemaker Notes

Always a customer favorite, the 2009 Chardonnay from Alpine Vineyard showcases the rich fruit of the vintage combined with the focus, complexity and minerality intrinsic to Alpine Vineyard. Citrus peel, stone fruit, lanolin and saline notes are evident in the nose, while the palate simultaneously shows power and focus, leading to a long mineral infused finish. Showing its youthful side right now, this Chardonnay should continue to improve with time.

Critical Acclaim

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RP 93
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
The 2009 Chardonnay Alpine Vineyard is the most vibrant, mineral-laced of these 2009 Chardonnays. Clean, mineral notes frame the fruit all the way through to the vibrant, pointed finish. This is a terrific effort from Rhys. Bright citrus and crushed rocks frame the finish. The 2007, which I tasted alongside it, has aged gracefully. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2019.

Inspired by a love for Burgundy, proprietor Kevin Harvey has set his sights on making top-flight Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Pinots in particular are exceptional for their sheer personality, but I also think the wines could also prove to be some of the most long-lived Pinots from California because of their minerality and structure. I tasted a wide range of wines with Harvey and winemaker Jeff Brinkman, including a number of older Pinots going back to 2006. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) none of those older wines appears close to being ready to drink! The Rhys team is obsessed with their vineyards. Everything else is fairly straightforward. The Chardonnays are vinified using ambient yeasts. The wines are not racked until they are prepared for bottling, which is done with no fining or filtration. The Pinots are made in a similarly minimalist fashion, with a high percentage of stems (50-100%) and little manipulation in the cellar. Harvey describes 2009 as a cooler vintage overall than 2008.

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Rhys Vineyards

Rhys Vineyards

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Rhys Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
The folks at Rhys Vineyards aspire to make great wines from unique and expressive vineyards. This pursuit has lead them to select five different sites in the Santa Cruz Mountains for growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. Their overriding belief that unique vineyard expression is the key to truly great wine leads them to an approach that includes: 1. A relentless, spare-no-expense, focus on producing the best possible fruit in the vineyard; 2. Carefully selected cool weather sites that offer interesting and expressive soil character; 3. Natural winemaking with minimal intervention.

These core tenets help produce ageworthy wines that emphasize vineyard expression, balance, fresh fruit, and concentration.

Santa Cruz Mountains

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A rugged and topographically diverse cool-climate appellation with a rich history, the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA stretches from Half Moon Bay, just south of San Francisco, to the northern border of Monterey County. Elevations range from 800 feet to upwards of 3,000 and microclimates vary substantially depending on which side of the mountains the vineyards lie; cool ocean winds and fog play an important role here. This can be a challenging region in which to grow grapes, but it is well worth the effort. Santa Cruz Mountains wines are noted for balanced acidity levels, often showing great aging potential. Wine has been made here since the 1800s, most notably from the legendary Ridge Vineyards, whose Monte Bello vineyard garners international admiration.

Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are the stars of this region, while Merlot and Zinfandel also perform quite well. Organic and sustainable vineyard practices are becoming increasingly common.


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One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While practically every country in the wine producing world grows it, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. As far as cellar potential, white Burgundy rivals the world’s other age-worthy whites like Riesling or botrytized Semillon. California is Chardonnay’s second most important home, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia and South America are also significant producers of Chardonnay.

In the Glass

When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay flavors tend towards grapefruit, lemon zest, green apple, celery leaf and wet flint, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of melon, peach and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut and spice, while malolactic fermentation imparts a soft and creamy texture.

Perfect Pairings

Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with flaky white fish with herbs, scallops, turkey breast and soft cheeses. Richer Chardonnays marry well with lobster, crab, salmon, roasted chicken and creamy sauces.

Sommelier Secret

Since the 1990s, big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays from California have enjoyed explosive popularity. More recently, the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction, towards a clean, crisp style that rarely utilizes new oak. In Burgundy, the subregion of Chablis, while typically employing the use of older oak barrels, produces a similar bright and acid-driven style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy its lighter style.

DRS197686_2009 Item# 197686