Hello friends. Today we have the remainder of the outstanding 2008 Tulpen portfolio: Sangiovese and Syrah. You might remember that we offered the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Coalesence (BDX blend) back in May, and I’ll include reorder links for those at the bottom of today’s offering.
Incredibly, today’s two wines might be even better values, coming in as they do at tariffs a couple bucks lower. They’re also smaller production, both coming in at less than 70 cases.
I’m going to paste the intro text from the May offering below, but to sum up my opinion concisely: Tulpen is producing some of the best quality-for-price bottles in Washington, and yet they remain, for now, a total insider’s winery, well under the radar (or, as winemaker Kenny Hart likes to put it: “If we were any better-kept secret, we’d be broke!”).
FROM MAY 6 OFFERING
These wines have become list darlings, and with good reason: they are among the best quality-for-price wines coming out of Washington right now, and Tulpen is a total insider winery. The wines have never been reviewed by Wine Spectator, nor have they been reviewed by Parker’s Wine Advocate. That has kept them (mostly) off the national scene.
The 07 vintage did get reviewed by Paul Gregutt in Wine Enthusiast, so word is indeed getting out. PaulG, who spends much of his time in Walla Walla, tends to be ahead of the curve on these under-the-radar wineries, and he gave strong reviews (in the range of 91-94pts) to the entire portfolio of the 2007s.
The extra buzz generated by those reviews, plus the fact that total production went from 1200 cases in 2007 to just 400 cases in 2008, has upped the urgency level for me, so for these 2008s, I want to get in nice and early.
Now, a quick reminder on what Tulpen is all about. Kenny Hart is the winemaker, but first and foremost, Kenny is the vine whisperer of the Walla Walla Valley. He has planted a decent chunk of the valley’s vineyard acreage, and he actively manages sites for Abeja, Dunham, aMaurice, and Walla Walla Vintners. He launched Tulpen Cellars as something of a master class in winegrowing, figuring that to truly understand the full cycle of soil to bottle, vinification had to be part of his repertoire.
The results have been staggering.
It’s no surprise that many of the finest wines in the world come from the vigneron model, where one entity manages both the winegrowing and winemaking aspects of the process. The trick is precision control. Around harvest time, Kenny is in the vineyards every single day, tasting and testing. He is able to pick on the precise day he wants to. And, because Tulpen is boutique in size, his focus level can go beyond vineyard blocks, beyond vineyard rows, to individual plants. For his Tulpen wines, Kenny often mentions that he takes “the heart of the melon,” and it shows: the fruit quality in Tulpen wines is extraordinary.
Most of my tastings for Full Pull involve a glass, a spit bucket, and if I’m lucky, a handful of oyster crackers. Most of my tastings with Kenny involve a gourmet five-course meal that he prepares himself, frequently with ingredients that he hunted/fished himself. I write this not to inspire drool and rage and envy, but to underscore Kenny’s wonderful obsession with food, and wine, and conviviality.
There is something to be said for wine made with joy. And there is palpable joy conveyed in these bottles:
2008 Tulpen Cellars Sangiovese
From Lewis and Desert Hills Vineyards, this is a fine rendition of Washington Sangiovese, rich and rustic and dusty. A plush mouthfeel carries flavors of star anise and pomegranate across the mid-palate, but the finish is the star here, a wall of ripe, delicious grapeskin tannins, bringing flavors of black tea and orange-peel bitters. I’m itching to cook up braciole and crack a bottle of this; it’s born for Italian cuisine.
Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “($24); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: ***/**** (Good/Excellent).”
2008 Tulpen Cellars Syrah
[Note: a little bird who tends to squawk reliable information about such matters tells me that one of the autumn issues of Wine Enthusiast is set to include a 93pt review from Paul Gregutt for this wine. 93pts and $24 is a dangerous combination, so let’s grab our share well before ink goes to page.]
A 5% Viognier coferment shines through here, bringing floral lift to the aromatics. Alcohol is a bit lower than previous vintages (14.8%), and this has a fine sense of balance. Ripe, brambly berry fruit (blackberries, raspberries) is interwoven with threads of coffee and cracked black pepper and rich earthy notes. This kind of complexity and intensity is near-impossible to find at this tariff, and it starts with the impeccable list of vineyards: Mill Creek (Abeja’s estate, and good luck sourcing Abeja Syrah), Lewis, Den Hoed, and Wallula.
[Note #2: this was the “What’s in the Bag” wine a few weeks ago for TPU members picking up, and we had as many right answers as I can remember. Why? Because this wine displays outstanding typicity for Washington Syrah.]
Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “($24); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: **** (Excellent).”
First come first served up to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in a few weeks, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.