Rhys Vineyards Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay 2010
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Proprietor Kevin Harvey and his team, led by winemaker Jeff Brinkman, have received quite a bit of attention of late. They deserve every bit of it, if not more. Harvey has spared no expense in building a state of the art facility, which includes 100 one-ton fermenters that allow for multiple small lot fermentations. In the vineyard, Harvey has taken the type of risks only someone with a background in early stage technology investing could stomach. The result is a series of breathtaking wines, Pinots especially, that are among the finest being made in the United States. I am quite sure Harvey’s goals are much more ambitious than that, though. It will be interesting to see how things play out at Rhys over the coming years, but there is no question these are exciting, compelling wines of the highest level. My experience with the Rhys Pinots is that they develop very slowly in bottle, so readers need to exercise a bit more patience than is typically required with California Pinot Noir. Like most estates in 2010, Rhys grappled with the September heat spikes, which took place during the harvest. The Home and Family Farm were brought in before the spikes, as was 80% of Alpine, Horseshoe and Bearwallow. Rhys had a harder time with Skyline, which came in after the spikes. Ultimately, only 25% of that fruit made it into the fermentation tanks.
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 led 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.
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 age-worthy wines that emphasize vineyard expression, balance, fresh fruit, and concentration.
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.
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 it tends to flourish in most environments, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. California produces both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines. Somm Secret—The Burgundian subregion of Chablis, while typically using older oak barrels, produces a bright style similar to the unoaked style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy Chablis.