Eric Asimov has written a number of times about Rhys and Kevin Harvey. Asimov wrote that to call “Mr. Harvey a wine lover is a little like calling Thomas Keller a cook. It’s not wrong, but it doesn’t begin to get at the fanatical drive within.”
Asimov details Harvey’s quest, a long time lover of Pinot Noir and Burgundy, beginning with the itch to try his own hand at producing the a great California Pinot Noir. In 1995, he planted 35 pinot noir vines behind his secluded home in this woodsy, affluent town west of Palo Alto and adjacent to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Those few vines soon became a quater acre, enough produce a barrel of wine in his garage.
His ambitions and dreams grew. He wanted to make distinct wines with the earthy, mineral qualities of good Burgundy. Fascinated with the Santa Cruz Mountains, he began purchased three sites, each on rocky slopes yet each geologically different and hard to farm, a condition made even more difficult by his commitment to biodynamic viticulture.
In his quest to make distinctive wines, Harvey has taken a different approach from many California Pinot Noir producers. He chose not to follow the common path of the new Dijon clones, opting instead on more traditional clones. Harvey is content with Pinot Noirs that are a traditional pale red rather than the inky black, ripe and concentrated wines that characterize many California Pinots. And instead of destemming grapes before fermentation, he uses whole grape clusters in the tradition of some of the best Burgundy producers like Romanée-Conti, Leroy and Dujac. He also strives to avoid oakiness, and his wine are usually under at or under 14 percent alcohol, a rarity in California these days.
After reading Asimov’s praises, I figured it was time to get on their mailing list as it seems as though their wines are in limited production and high demand. While much of his focus is on winegrowing for his estate-managed vineyards, Harvey also explores distinctive California locations outside the Santa Cruz Mountains. Alesia is his second label made from these purchased grapes.
The Sonoma Coast Chileno Vally Pinot Noir is a beautiful ruby with a touch of violet in color, not quite transparent. Lovely aromas of crushed cherry, spice, herbs and some earthiness. On the palate, sour cherries and raspberries with earth and savory herbs. Bright acidity with nice tannins, minerality and a pure, concentrated and long finish. This really was an extremely good bottle of wine — and I can’t wait to explore more of his wines. Recommended.