Skyline, Pinot Noir, 2016

  Rhys Vineyards

At 700m of altitude Skyline is the highest of the Rhys Vineyards sites, and one of the highest in all of California. Planted to great density on the shallowest of soils it tends to produce the tiniest yields in the Rhys Range, and often requires the most time to open up. A complex mish-mash of soils types are found at Skyline, testament to millions of years of San Andreas fault activity, running from shale to limestone to sandstone. The vine material comprises a massale selection of 12 mixed ‘suitcase’ clones planted together, which gives rise to much of the wines complexity. While often the most tightly wound, it is also the most exotically spiced of the Rhys Pinot’s, with roses and cinnamon notes that appear after a few years in bottle. The 2016 has all of the crushed rock notes you’d expect, interspersed with notes of orange peel, wild herb, nuts and wild alpine floral notes. Stunning complexity here, all tightly wound up, biding its time, waiting to unfurl. Skyline is a rarity on these shores and this is the very first time we’ve received an allocation; something of a coup as this cuvee tends to only appear on the Rhys allocation mailing list.

Contains Sulphites.

About Rhys Vineyards

Kevin Harvey’s Rhys Vineyards has built up a near cult like following in just a decade of releases. His bottlings of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah from both the Santa Cruz Mountains and now also the Anderson Valley in Mendocino are rightly seen as amongst the very top echelon of wines produced anywhere in the United States.

Everything about these wines speaks of attention to detail and a deep commitment to making great wine. From purchasing uncoopered staves of the finest French oak a full four years prior to cooperage, to the vast underground purpose built winemaking cellar, no detail is left to chance. In the often steep vineyards, vine density is extremely high and as a result farming is entirely manual and very labour intensive. In the winery, vinification is carried out at a micro-level in tiny 4ft square vats: fermentations are native and everything is gravity-fed without pumping, fining or filtration. In essence, the wines are given kid gloves treatment, and then aged in almost neutral French barrels, so better to promote the site specific characters of the vineyards in the portfolio.

Fortunately, as a man who made his fortune backing successful projects as a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, Kevin Harvey can afford this level of detail. His passion was ignited by a bottle of Russian River Pinot which led him to experiment in his backyard up in the Santa Cruz mountains (now the Home Vineyard). Astounded by the raw potential, this soon blossomed into the hunt for a very particular type of vineyard site. Inspired by the Grand Crus of Burgundy, Kevin went in search of some of the coolest hillside sites in the region, with shallow top soils and plenty of rocks. His aim was to push Pinot Noir to its Californian limits, forcing grapes to ripen fully while retaining a natural tension and minerality, all the while at remarkably low levels of alcohol (generally the wines fall between 12% and 13.5% abv).

And what of the finished wines? Well it goes without saying, we adore them. Precise, pure flavours abound; the wines have silken mineral textures, tension, freshness, great acidity, subtle yet commanding profiles, plenty of stony earthy complexity and the transparency of truly great Pinot Noir. Needless to say, they also have plenty of propensity for ageing. They possess none of the heaviness or syrup-like textures of so many big Cali Pinots, nor do they wear you out with excessive alcohol, or reliance on oak. They taste like Premier and Grand Cru Burgundies made with a little Californian Sunshine.

Appellation: Napa Valley

Arguably Americas most important wine growing region, home to the likes of Dominus, Heitz, Cain Cellars and Opus One. Bordeaux varietals are key in this 40 mile long North-South valley that stretches from the San Fransico Bay up towards Calistoga and the sheer variety of different climats and vineyard sites is as bewildering as the sheer variety of styles of wine produced. At their best these can be some of the most opulent examples of Cabernet Sauvignon in the world - truly great wines with dinstinctly long cellaring potentials, but more youthful approachability than their european counterparts.

Grape Type: Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is the classic grape of red burgundy, whose greatest wines are concentrated in the east and south-east-facing clay/limestone hills of Burgundy's Côte d'Or. A notoriously temperamental variety, Pinot Noir has proved difficult to grow in certain climates and soils and will not tolerate over-cropping. The best examples have wonderfully expressive aromas and thrillingly pure bitter sweet red forest fruit and cherry flavours, developing truffle and game overtones with age. Outside of Burgundy, Pinot Noir has had great success in New Zealand, California’s Carneros, Oregon and the more marginal, cooler districts in Australia. Along with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir is also one of the major components of Champagne.