This reminds me of the line in Amadeus when Mozart’s patron asks him a question fed by the jealous Salieri, “Don’t you think it has too many notes?” Mozart replies, “Which ones would you have me leave out?”
BTW, we had a Rhys 2008 Chardonnay tonight that was a classy wine I’d serve to anyone, and I don’t generally like California Chardonnays at all.
I’ll be interested to hear Kevin’s opinion on this, but my impression is that exclusivity is not the goal of Rhys. They’re only making “too much” if their size has come at the expense of quality, and I don’t think anyone would argue that it has.
Thanks, Larry. You are right, our primary goal is not to “build an exclusive brand”. That goal would dictate making very small quantities and charging record setting prices (the cult wine strategy) which does not appeal to me. Instead, we would like to explore more vineyards and make more (higher quality) wine. This should mean that our prices remain a good value and our wine is not “unattainable”. So in a sense the answer to the original post’s question is – yes, Rhys is making too much wine “from a perceived exclusive brand standpoint” but hopefully there are other more worthy goals.
IMO, our quality has been rising in step with production. While this may seem counter-intuitive, there are good reasons for it. It is actually difficult to consistently make high quality small volume bottlings (witness the missing vintages of Swan Terrace and Home Vineyard). With scale we have many more options for quality optimization (more experiments in the vineyard and winery, more barrel selection options) and our organization can easily manage the volume.
Ongoing customer support has allowed us to continue to develop new vineyard sites. Developing these vineyards is my biggest passion and I am very grateful that our customers are allowing us to do it. It suits me fine if Rhys is a less “exclusive brand” but we are allowed to continue developing new sites that excite us.
I’m not sure about too much wine, since demand seems to be there: they could become the next Robert Mondavi if they wanted to.
I feel more worried that with the development of different vineyards in state, that they will no longer be a Santa Cruz Mountain winery (yes, I know the newest vineyard around Coralitos is in the Southern SCM area). I feel they could expand the varieties they work with a little broader since I doubt pinot noir is the end-all-be-all expression in every site they own. I know they have experimented with nebbiolo, but I would like to see them explore others that might work well, if not better, than their successes with pinot noir and chardonnay (and syrah too, but this always seems to get neglected by many as “the odd man out”).
Those of us who have been purchasing Rhys for years appreciate the growing availability of these quality wines. I would imagine that overall production continues to grow with new vinyards and plantings coming on line - though I would guess that current production of Rhys bottlings must be near 6000-8000 cases per year - so still fairly exclusive imo - very few bottles available for sale at retail. Rhys - nice work, keep the liquid flowing!
Mark , do you mean too much or too many? I have to admit, I have a hard time keeping up with the breadth offered by some producers. Once a portfolio gets 10+ wines deep, I find myself in a position where I can only afford a bottle or two of each wine. With Rhys, I find the fidelity appropriate. The wines are truly unique, singular expressions of site. Unfortunately, In consideration of their allocation methodology, increase in prices and vineyards, I will eventually get squeezed out as I am already in position where I must limit purchases to a selection of my offer.
I like what VHR is doing - offering a single wine from fractions, blocks and barrel selections that they believe best represents the estate. I would love to see Rhys do something similar, but completly understand that is not the goal of this project.
For me, too many, yes - only because I can’t keep up if I want to drink other things. Too much? No. I’d love greater quantities of Skyline and Swan Terrace, etc.
Perfect Kevin, exactly what I was trying to say. I very much appreciate a wine lover whose goal it is to make great wine, and get it into the hands (and glasses) of those who most appreciate it, rather than make a few trophies for the very few who can afford it.
Some unsolicited extraneous comments. Kevin (unlike me) is a dedicated Francophile. While he greatly admires Burgundy, Rhys is at the forefront of wineries who are demonstrating that California can compete in the global pinot arena at the very highest level. The unsated curiosity and rigorous experimental approach of this producer are why they are succeeding - and why they are fun for me to follow.
I think the Rhys approach demands some breadth in the product line.
Rhys fits a special profile for me, one that I seem to gravitate to in other producers. They value quality over quantity. They do not set their wines on a pedestal beyond the reach of “average” wine snobs.
They focus on the wines and the customers. I respect the craftsmanship and business acumen that go into the wines being produced. Having a sound business plan, knowing who you are and were you want to go, makes it more attractive to me, than the wineries who go 8 miles wide and 2 inches deep.
I have found Kevin is a man who keeps his word, and that’s a rare quality today.
The only things I can think of that I wish were different with Rhys are the pricing (just because of course I’d like to pay less) and the labelling simply because it’s really easy to grab the wrong bottle since all the labels look alike and have small font. As far as too many wines, I can see that happening if more and more vineyards come online. That will mean I’ll have to really pick and choose vineyards and limit bottles purchased. First-world problems for sure.
Great post. I get a little fatigued by producers who make so many different SVDs and other bottlings of the same varietal, and all else equal, I’d probably rather a winery made a few wines consistently great every year than offered me 1-2 bottles each of 15 different SVD pinots (cough, Williams Selyem, cough). But Rhys doesn’t seem to be doing more just for the sake of more.
What is VHR, by the way? Is it like a hybrid of VHS and DVR? Should I get one for my family room?