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We're excited to introduce today the new releases from Rhys Vineyards, one of the lions of ageworthy high-altitude California viticulture. Rhys focuses their efforts on finding incredible high-altitude sites to plant vineyards, all except one in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It is not only that the Santa Cruz Mountains are underappreciated still to this day, but they may in fact be the most important, historic, and highest-quality wine producing region in California. With some of the oldest vines in the state, cold nights, sea fog, important historic clones and single vineyards, this area consistently produces cool climate wines that nevertheless retain that sunny California character.
Rhys Vineyards are exemplars of what heights of quality can be attained in this region. All of the wines on offer today are meant for cellar aging, and each of them will reveal their glories after some time in the bottle, though they will be fantastic now, or in five years time. Each wine is striking structurally, and wildly different from the other site-specific wines. I had the chance to taste these and revel in their undulating, mercurial subtleties just this week, and found them to be iconic California Pinots and Chardonnays, with astonishing intensity and a personality, like all truly great wines, all their own. These wines are not in the store yet, and will be available to pick up or for delivery on Monday 6/24. Andrew Farquhar
The Horseshoe vineyard was planted in 2004 at an elevation ranging from 1,360 to 1,610 feet above sea level, with the blocks of Chardonnay occupying the lowest, most fog-ridden portions of the vineyard. The vineyard lies on the Monterey formation, a ridge of brittle, rust-mottled sedimentary shale (intermixed with limestone) that provides swift drainage and allows for low vigor. Interestingly, the warmest month at Horseshoe is September, mitigating the difficulties of the previous cool summer months with a final solar sear at the end of the season. On the nose this wine has notes of apple blossom and freshly baked bread, with some more delicate white peach notes. On the palate, this wine is still quite tightly wound, but with incredible dense notes of steely lemon, with great crackling acidity that is nonetheless exquisitely integrated throughout all aspects of the clear, precise structure from fore-palate to the long whiplash finish. Capable of improving for up to a decade in the cellar, though this wine would be fantastic with herb-roasted chicken or Point Reyes oysters. Andrew Farquhar
This Pinot Noir is sourced from the original vineyard planted by the estate in 1995. Beginning at just a quarter of an acre and expanding to a whopping 1.4 acres in 2007, this little gem of a vineyard produces very little wine. Located at between 450 and 500 feet above sea level, the lowest altitude, southwestern edge of the vineyard lies directly on the San Andreas Fault. The soil is clay loam situated atop the Whiskey Hill formation of decomposed sandstone. The wines are fermented whole cluster and aged in oak with minimal influence of new wood. The wine has a soft, lambent sprightliness, with elegant crystalline structure and beautiful, soft, rounded red and black berry fruit. This a wine that will improve for up to fifteen years in bottle but that is also approachable now. Andrew Farquhar
The Horseshoe vineyard was planted in 2004 at an elevation ranging from 1,360 to 1,610 feet above sea level, with the blocks of Pinot Noir occupying the highest portions of the vineyard. There is a ridge that separates this vineyard from the coldest of the sea fog, though it is still affected by cooling maritime influence. The vineyard lies on the Monterey formation, a ridge of brittle, rust-mottled sedimentary shale (intermixed with limestone) that provides swift drainage and allows for low vigor. Interestingly, the warmest month at Horseshoe is September, mitigating the difficulties of the previous cool summer months with a final solar sear at the end of the season. This beautiful wine exhibits over the course of its multipartite structure the whole range of red fruit character: enticing handfuls of fresh black cherries on the nose become tenser, more austere cranberry on the palate before transforming into a beguiling strawberry character on the stately finish. Interspersed through these variations are other mineral and herbal notes: freshly felled white pine, bitter chocolate, dry pine straw, and a hint of sage ash. The tightly wound structure will take a few years to spin out and resolve itself into focus. This wine will take a few years of cellar training before attaining the mastery for which it was made. Drink 2020-2035. Andrew Farquhar
At 2,360 feet above sea level, the Skyline vineyard is one of the highest altitude sites for Pinot Noir in California. Cold nights are balanced by the purity of the sunlight this high above the fog line. The rocky, extremely thin soils here are fractured mudstone, sandstone, and limestone.This is the most monumentally structured of the Rhys wines, its chiseled architecture needing a number of years of mellowing to approach the great heights that a well-aged Skyline Pinot can attain. The electricity quivers like atomic nuclei across all aspects of this wine, and the nascent savory spice character will begin to bloom with cellarage, though this wine is quite forceful and impressive upon first contact. With 5+ years of aging these wines turn into some of the most distinctive, terroir-expressive wines produced in the Western Hemisphere, and with correct cellaring can last for up to two decades. Andrew Farquhar