Rhys Vineyards aspires to make great Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah from some of California’s most unique and expressive vineyards. This pursuit has lead them to search the state for exciting rocky soils that exist within the mountainous, cool, Coastal climate zone. Over the last 15 years they have developed seven estate vineyards, six in the Santa Cruz Mountains and one in Anderson Valley, each of which is capable of producing uniquely compelling, distinctive, soil driven wine.
Family Farm Vineyard is the result of special partnership between neighbors. Realizing the potential of its loamy clay soil and eastern aspect, in 2002 the Sletten, Martin, Sullivan and Harvey families decided to convert this former Christmas tree farm into a vineyard. The weather is very similar to our Home Vineyard, while the alluvial sand and clay soils are unique. Like many of the best vineyards in Burgundy, the East-facing aspect shelters the vines from the warmer afternoon sun, allowing the grapes to retain freshness and aromatic dimension.
Family Farm wines are powerful yet elegant with red and black fruit, and a distinctive stalky complexity that becomes integrated and floral with age. While they are typically charming and forward on release, they also age extremely well. The first vintage, 2004, has only recently reached full maturity.
Soil: Alluvial Clay Loam
Geology: Decomposed Butano Sandstone
Clones: 115, Pommard, Swan and 8 different “Suitcase” clones
2015 Family Farm Vineyard Pinot Noir - Critic Reviews
95 | Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (August 2017) My favorite vintage of this cuvée to date, the 2015 Pinot Noir Family Farm Vineyard is just smoking good. Possessing awesome complexity and depth in its framboise, cassis, spice, forest floor and leafy, green herb aromatics, it hits the palate with an understated, yet building style that carries beautiful richness, sweet, polished tannin and surprising length. While the overall impression here is one of upfront charm and fruit, it’s going to keep nicely in the cellar given its balance, depth and length. Count me as fan.
95 | Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media (August 2017) The 2015 Pinot Noir Family Farm Vineyard is tightly wound today. Then again, it was just bottled about a month before this tasting. Pure, saline-driven and tense, the Family Farm shows a more focused, chiseled expression of the year. Time in the glass brings out the wine’s body, textural richness and overall density. Even so, the Family Farm plays more in the red fruit end of the flavor spectrum. Readers who find the 2015 Pinots a bit too rich will find much to admire in the Family Farm.
94 | William Kelly, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (May 2018) The 2015 Pinot Noir Family Farm Vineyard is a beauty, and while it’s obviously one of the riper wines in the range this year, it handles it very well, opening in the glass with notes of red cherries, wild berries, aromatic bark, subtle sweet spices and savory bass notes. On the palate, it’s full-bodied, ample and layered, with a generous core of ripe fruit, beautifully ripe, velvety tannins and succulent balancing acids. Attractively multidimensional and complete, the vintage and site have made for a very harmonious marriage this year and a Rhys wine that’s unusually seductive and voluptuous in its youth.
91 | John Gilman, View From the Cellar (July – August 2017) The 2015 Family Farm Vineyard bottling of pinot noir from Rhys is pretty ripe for this cuveÌe, coming in at 13.8 percent octane in this very short crop vintage. The wine offers up a complex and black fruity bouquet of sweet dark berries, gentle balsamic tones, charred wood, dark soil tones, cola, a nice touch of spice and cedar. On the palate the wine is deep, ripe and full-bodied, with good acids and focus, a fine core, nice soil signature, moderate tannins and a long, complex and gently warm finish. This wine handles its octane very well indeed, but one can sense that it is a bit higher than customary in this vintage. 2022-2050.
The 2015 Vintage
As California’s lengthy drought deepened, the 2015 vintage was another example of a warm, very dry vintage. By this point in the drought, vineyard soils were quite dry and the vines reacted by growing smaller canopies and grapes with very thick skins, but the most defining characteristic of the vintage came from the one month all year in which the weather was actually cooler than normal, the month of May.
After a very warm spring, our vine’s growing schedules were advanced by nearly a month compared to normal, and atypically, flowering occurred almost entirely in the month of May. May is usually significantly cooler than June, but in 2015 the weather in May was nearly 5 degrees cooler than average. This extraordinarily cool flowering weather lead to a great deal of “shatter” which causes flowers to fall off. The grapes that are produced are typically quite small. The French term for this condition is “millerandage” or what we call “hens and chicks” which means that clusters have an array of grape sizes both small and large, in a loose configuration. This condition is also known to be quite positive for Pinot Noir quality as it results in increased concentration from a much higher ratio of skins to juice. This extremely unique combination of small grapes and very thick skins resulted in the most concentrated wines we have produced to date. Unfortunately, these same conditions also greatly reduced our production in 2015.
What about the wines?
The short answer is 2015 is a “good news, bad news” vintage. The good news is that the quality of the wines is extraordinary while the bad news is that quantities are quite low and we did not have enough grapes to produce some of our favorite bottlings such as Skyline and Swan Terrace. Even a large vineyard like Horseshoe produced only 6 barrels or a little over 2 tons of grapes from 10 acres of Pinot Noir. This is a minuscule 1/4 ton per acre. For this reason, we must apologize for the low allocations of some of the 2015 wines. While we felt the quality of 2015 merited the production of Alpine and Horseshoe Hillside wines, we did not have enough wine to make Hillside bottlings without eliminating the regular Alpine and Horseshoe bottlings. This means that the Alpine and Horseshoe bottlings are essentially of Hillside quality in this vintage but there will be no 2015 Hillside offering next summer.