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Rhys Vineyards

rhys-kevin-2.jpgRhys Vineyards is the passion and brainchild of (highly) successful, (former) Silicon Valley software developer Kevin Harvey, who has dedicated himself (and no doubt a sizeable chunk of his fortune) in the pursuit of Pinot Noir excellence.

Perhaps unique amongst new world Pinot Noir producers, critics are unanimous in their praise for Rhys' wines, most impressively perhaps due to the diversity of 'tastes' in Pinot Noir amongst the likes of Allen Meadows, Robert Parker, Antonio Galloni, Mike Steinberger or Matt Kramer (amongst others).  The wines are generally around 13% alcohol, give or take a little, and all share a wonderful mineral, savoury note alongside their pure, pristine, ripe fruit.  

There are six vineyard sites, five of which in the Santa Cruz Mountains, on the Pacific Coast perhaps an hour or so south of San Francisco, and one (Bearwallow Vineyard) about 150km north of San Francisco in the Anderson Valley.  Another vineyard, further south in the Santa Cruz mountains, is also being developed.rhys-vines.jpg

The original 'Home' vineyard has just over an acre of Pinot Noir; the adjoining 'Family Farm' vineyard about two hectares of Pinot Noir; Alpine Vineyard has 10 acres if Pinot Noir (from 16 clones) and nearly three acres of Chardonnay; Horseshoe Vineyard, planted in 2004 to 12 acres of Pinot Noir, and 2.5 acres each of Chardonnay and Syrah; and finally the 'Skyline' vineyard with it's two acres of Pinot Noir and one acre of Syrah.  Plantings are dense, very dense (up to 7,000 vines per hectare) and all of the vineyards are on mountainside slopes, Skyline being about 700 meters in elevation.  All are on distinct, different soils, and most interestingly the 'Family Farm' and 'Home' vineyards are on opposing sides of the San Andreas fault, and therefore on different continental plates, despite being only two hundred meters apart.  The 'Bearwallow' vineyard, more than 200kms north of the other sites was purchased as an existing vineyard (with six acres eight year old Pinot Noir vines) and has been extensively redeveloped and expanded with an additional 19 acres of Pinot Noir and eight acres of Chardonnay.

rhys-cave.jpgAll of the sites share common attributes: shallow, complex, rocky soils on hillside slopes.  Only a small percentage of the available land at each vineyard is planted with vines, the bulk left in its natural state.  All of the vineyards are cultivated boidynamically (although certification is not sought) and winemaking is common to all sites - a high percentage of wholebunch fermentations using indigenous yeasts, and a small percentage of new oak - the point being to accentuate differences in soils and sites.  An enormous, and particularly impressive cellar was constructed (excavated) into the side of the mountain to house the winery and cellars, and no fewer than 100 individual one tonne fermenters to allow for each parcel of fruit to be vinified separately.

What perhaps makes Rhys' Pinot Noirs the most exciting outside the best from Burgundy is the fact that they share the elegance, finesse, detail and uniqueness of the best of Burgundy.  Qualitatively, as well as stylistically, they sit comfortable in the company of some of the very finest grands crus.  And that is saying something.

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