TN: At last, Rhys hits a ringer with the Horseshoe!

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Matthew King
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TN: At last, Rhys hits a ringer with the Horseshoe!

#1 Post by Matthew King » February 14th, 2017, 11:45 am

Rhys, Pinot Noir, 2008, Santa Cruz Mountains, Horseshoe Vineyard

OK. I think I finally get this Rhys thing.

I’ve been intrigued reading notes on this board about people buying cases of wine on the come, repurchasing each year while readily admitting that they hadn’t fully gotten a handle on the wines because all the bottles they're sitting on aren’t ready.

On paper, the philosophy of the wines appealed to the dirt-and-twigs Burg nut in me – minimalist, fruit in background, structure, stems, white pepper, restraint, high-altitude vineyards, etc. But when I tasted the wines (usually a bottle picked up here and there at K&L), they did seem a bit inchoate – sorry for the $20 word but it fits here. They seemed packed with material and promise, but just seemed a bit rudimentary and ungiving. I had to wonder what all the fuss was about.

Then I opened the 2008 Pinot Noir from the Horseshoe Vineyard last night. Maybe all the bottle time helped because this wine was singing. No, not as in glammy Axl Rose ... more like Astrud Gilberto. Cool, elegant but with real drive.

It needed an hour or two of airtime, and it didn’t flower as much as unfurl, but what a composed wine. Dark fruited, shy nose, medium weight. Outstanding mouthfeel and balance, with excellent persistence. The stony austerity is leavened by some stems/spice and sweet-and-sour blackberry notes. A great food wine (paired with pork tenderloin and mustard/shallot sauce). Still miles to go.

This is CA pinot as if made by the late Hubert de Montille! Bravo.
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TN: At last, Rhys hits a ringer with the Horseshoe!

#2 Post by crickey » February 14th, 2017, 12:33 pm

It's good that you liked it, but given your described tastes, I would hazard you are bound to be disappointed in Rhys more often than not. I would never describe their pinots as a "fruit in the background" wine. It's a structured fruit and not a blowsy fruit, but they are definitely fruity. It's a California wine. That's not a bad thing, and I enjoy it (Rhys is the number one producer in my holdings by a considerable margin), but as the kids say these days, YMMV.
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#3 Post by Matthew King » February 14th, 2017, 2:27 pm

Thanks Chris ... I like variety in my wines, so I'm not a Burg snob. I'm probably exaggerating a bit when I say I'm a dirt-and-twig guy. Maybe a soil guy is better way of putting it. But I love my fruit in California pinot too. I'm just trying to find that sweet spot -- some of the low-alcohol AFWE/hipster-fave pinots made from early picked grapes in cool sites just seem a bit hollow and thin in texture. I do like Talley, Au Bon Climat and Littorai ...
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#4 Post by Chris Seiber » February 14th, 2017, 2:37 pm

Matthew, remember WB Rule #27: "Wines that find the stylistic middle ground incorporating good elements from old world and new world styles are to be celebrated. But only if they are new world wines - any old world wine that does the same thing is a sellout and an abomination."

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#5 Post by Markus S » February 14th, 2017, 2:38 pm

I've always associated Rhys pinot's with Gevrey-Chambertins or other Cote du Nuits. There is a manly ruggedness to them.
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TN: At last, Rhys hits a ringer with the Horseshoe!

#6 Post by George Chadwick » February 14th, 2017, 3:35 pm

I like Rhys a lot but in my opinion the 2008 Horseshoe is kind of unique, I would not call it a classic example of the house style.

I would however cite it as an example that Rhys wines need a lot more aging than some people think.

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#7 Post by CWun » February 14th, 2017, 6:44 pm

horseshoe tends to be the most stuctured wine in the lineup. bearwallow was also a bit rough the first 2 vintages.
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#8 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » February 14th, 2017, 6:50 pm

George Chadwick wrote:I like Rhys a lot but in my opinion the 2008 Horseshoe is kind of unique, I would not call it a classic example of the house style.

I would however cite it as an example that Rhys wines need a lot more aging than some people think.
I would more say that 2008 is an outlier vintage for Rhys.
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#9 Post by maureen nelson » February 14th, 2017, 7:12 pm

CWun wrote:horseshoe tends to be the most stuctured wine in the lineup. bearwallow was also a bit rough the first 2 vintages.
I don't know about that. I was at a friend's superbowl sunday and she opened a 2013 bearwallow and i was surprised at how approachable and lovely it was.

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#10 Post by Matthew King » February 14th, 2017, 7:17 pm

D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
George Chadwick wrote:I like Rhys a lot but in my opinion the 2008 Horseshoe is kind of unique, I would not call it a classic example of the house style.

I would however cite it as an example that Rhys wines need a lot more aging than some people think.
I would more say that 2008 is an outlier vintage for Rhys.
What would vintage and vineyard would you recommend as being most typical of the house style for pinot?

What bottle for near term consumption would be the poster boy?
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TN: At last, Rhys hits a ringer with the Horseshoe!

#11 Post by Tom G l a s g o w » February 14th, 2017, 7:19 pm

maureen nelson wrote:
CWun wrote:horseshoe tends to be the most stuctured wine in the lineup. bearwallow was also a bit rough the first 2 vintages.
I don't know about that. I was at a friend's superbowl sunday and she opened a 2013 bearwallow and i was surprised at how approachable and lovely it was.
The first two bearwallow vintages were 2008 & 2009.

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#12 Post by CWun » February 14th, 2017, 8:21 pm

Matthew King wrote:
D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
George Chadwick wrote:I like Rhys a lot but in my opinion the 2008 Horseshoe is kind of unique, I would not call it a classic example of the house style.

I would however cite it as an example that Rhys wines need a lot more aging than some people think.
I would more say that 2008 is an outlier vintage for Rhys.
What would vintage and vineyard would you recommend as being most typical of the house style for pinot?

What bottle for near term consumption would be the poster boy?
The appellation blends Santa Cruz Mountains and the San Mateo County are really approachable young. 2012, 2013 were generous vintages.

Wouldn't say necessarily there is "house style" as each vineyard has a distinct personality. I associate Skyline with ample florals. Horseshoe as the broody, structured one. Alpine as dark fruits + citrus. Family Farm as more 'vegetal'. I personally prefer Skyline and Horseshoe.
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#13 Post by Kenny H » February 14th, 2017, 8:59 pm

For me this is resonating more and more, the parts are all there but man they need more time. I am so invested in the philosphy, but only the oldest bottles have been inspiring aside from some young family farms that are more about perfume and florals.
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#14 Post by Paul H Galli » February 15th, 2017, 7:54 am

I've tasted most of their lineup for several vintages.
They were sampled just before bottling or just after bottling.
At this point of their life, the wines are pretty fruity and not closed down.
Soon after bottling, most of the wines close down to various extents.
This pattern reminds me of how Red Burgs often age. (eg. the 2005 vintage)

From what I've tasted outside of young wines at the winery, these wines need a minimum of 10+ years aging.
The 2006 Alpine PN is really starting to sing now. The 2006 Alpine "Hillside" PN is great but very young.

I believe the Rhys Mountain Pinots have great aging potential, just based on their profile at bottling time and how they eventually shut down like a Burg. Time will tell, but I am becoming increasingly optimistic.

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#15 Post by Marcus Goodfellow » February 15th, 2017, 8:05 am

Matthew King wrote:
D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
George Chadwick wrote:I like Rhys a lot but in my opinion the 2008 Horseshoe is kind of unique, I would not call it a classic example of the house style.

I would however cite it as an example that Rhys wines need a lot more aging than some people think.
I would more say that 2008 is an outlier vintage for Rhys.
What would vintage and vineyard would you recommend as being most typical of the house style for pinot?

What bottle for near term consumption would be the poster boy?
I don't think the poster boy wine for Rhys is a near term consumption wine. The whole philosophy of Rhys, IMO, is following an old world "these wines need 10 years in the cellar" process. There are no short cuts.
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#16 Post by Wes Barton » February 15th, 2017, 12:35 pm

Marcus Goodfellow wrote:
Matthew King wrote:What would vintage and vineyard would you recommend as being most typical of the house style for pinot?

What bottle for near term consumption would be the poster boy?
I don't think the poster boy wine for Rhys is a near term consumption wine. The whole philosophy of Rhys, IMO, is following an old world "these wines need 10 years in the cellar" process. There are no short cuts.
Paul hit it: Probably the best example to get an idea of what they're about is the '06 Alpine. It's got enough maturity to show some development, while some of the pricier mountain Pinots with similar age (Skyline, Hillside) have longer to go.

But, note they've been actively learning and fine-tuning. Expect more recent vintages to generally be even better when they mature.

As touched on above, the different sites are distinct - kind of the point. You'll see preferences vary quite a bit. Like, I pretty consistently find the Horseshoe wines (Pinot, Syrah, Chard) least compelling to my tastes, while others list them as their favorites.

As to Bearwallow, the first vintage ('08) they had no hand in the vineyard management. It's pretty typical Anderson Valley, which I don't find very interesting. Subsequent vintages quickly got better and better, and show the greatness of the best AV PNs (which there are starting to be more of, thankfully).

While you're looking, the '06 Alpine Chardonnay is kick-ass right now. It's always shown well, but maturity has set in and the bottle I had a couple months ago was amazing.
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#17 Post by Kenny H » February 15th, 2017, 9:00 pm

Wes Barton wrote:
Marcus Goodfellow wrote:
Matthew King wrote:What would vintage and vineyard would you recommend as being most typical of the house style for pinot?

What bottle for near term consumption would be the poster boy?
I don't think the poster boy wine for Rhys is a near term consumption wine. The whole philosophy of Rhys, IMO, is following an old world "these wines need 10 years in the cellar" process. There are no short cuts.
Paul hit it: Probably the best example to get an idea of what they're about is the '06 Alpine. It's got enough maturity to show some development, while some of the pricier mountain Pinots with similar age (Skyline, Hillside) have longer to go.

But, note they've been actively learning and fine-tuning. Expect more recent vintages to generally be even better when they mature.

As touched on above, the different sites are distinct - kind of the point. You'll see preferences vary quite a bit. Like, I pretty consistently find the Horseshoe wines (Pinot, Syrah, Chard) least compelling to my tastes, while others list them as their favorites.

As to Bearwallow, the first vintage ('08) they had no hand in the vineyard management. It's pretty typical Anderson Valley, which I don't find very interesting. Subsequent vintages quickly got better and better, and show the greatness of the best AV PNs (which there are starting to be more of, thankfully).

While you're looking, the '06 Alpine Chardonnay is kick-ass right now. It's always shown well, but maturity has set in and the bottle I had a couple months ago was amazing.
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#18 Post by cepotts » February 16th, 2017, 10:29 am

I hosted a tasting recently where we blinded ourselves and did not reveal any of the wines until the end. The point of the tasting was geared toward self-discovery. I wanted to find out if my passion for Rhys was notional or would it bear out in a field of noteworthy competitors. From my Rhys collection we tasted:

'08 Home
'09 Horseshoe
'09 Skyline
'10 Alpine
'10 Swan Terrace

For this discussion the other wines don't matter, but they were all from Oregon. On my tasting notes sheet I only wrote the word "wow" three times - on Horseshoe, on Alpine, and on Swan Terrace. I probably would have written it once more for the Skyline but it was corked. (Dang it - my only bottle!)

An honorable mention should be made for the '13 Kelley Fox Maresh, which also finished in the top tier of the wines tasted that night.

But out of the 11 bottles we tasted, the Horseshoe stole the show. Mostly because it was the most complete wine with the best overall balance. It seemed more ready to drink than any of the others. The Alpine and the Swan clearly will benefit from more aging, and the Home just wasn't in any way revealing charm.

I would recommend anyone wanting to "see what Rhys is about" try getting a Horseshoe pinot with some age on it. To me it seems to be the best barometer of what's in store for the other vineyards, and it's in the midrange from a pricing standpoint. However, if you are forced to drink a young bottle then I'd have to recommend Family Farm.

Cheers,
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#19 Post by Daniel McIntosh » February 16th, 2017, 2:17 pm

If a rece nt, stunning bottle of 2008 Alesia Pinot is any indicator the rest of the Rhys line-up will be very great down the road.

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