New Producer: Rhys Vineyards

New Producer: 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. We think they are important and we are delighted to be representing them in the UK going forward.

“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” Allen Meadows, Burghound.

“Readers who can find the wines should not hesitate, as these are quite possibly the best back-to-back vintages in Rhys's short history thus far. It is impossible not to marvel at what Harvey and his team have achieved in just a few years. The Rhys Pinots aren't just modern-day reference points for California, they are now among the greatest Pinot Noirs being made anywhere in the world." Antonio Galloni, Vinous.com

"Kevin Harvey and his team at Rhys have hit home-runs in 2013 and these latest releases are some of the top Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays coming out of California today." Jeb Dunnuck, The Wine Advocate

“The wines are extraordinary. Not only are they, as Steinberger suggested, one of the finest examples of Pinot Noir anywhere, but the full scope of their power and eloquence is recognizable primarily to those who have sampled the very best of Burgundy's grands crus. The wines aren't just great; they're significant." Jon Bonné, San Francisco Chronicle