Three from Tulpen Cellars

Hello friends. I’m sure many of our list members will be happy to see which winery we’re featuring today. It has been more than a year since we’ve had an offer for Kenny Hart’s wines from Tulpen Cellars, only because there has simply been no wine to sell. As long-time list members know, Kenny’s production levels are miniscule, and these wines tend to sell out quickly, especially once reviews get published. As far as I know, we’re the only current source for each of today’s wines west of the mountains.

A quick refresher for those of you new to the Tulpen story: Ken Hart is one of the premier growers in the Walla Walla Valley, a born farmer who also happens to be one of the most likeable gentlemen roaming that particular valley. He started Tulpen with Rick Trumbull (former Alaskan king crab fisherman, current sustainable vineyard/orchard consultant and king of compost tea) mostly because he figured taking on winemaking could only improve his winegrowing. But – no surprise – since Kenny is planting and growing some of the finest grapes in the valley, the wines turned out to be showstoppers.

Our first Tulpen offer was in May 2010, more than four years ago, and we’ve offered just about every Tulpen bottle produced since. It’s one of Full Pull’s relationships I’m most proud of: a great winery with some of the best dollar-for-dollar wines in the Walla Walla Valley and genuine, generous folks at the helm.

Today we have a trio of wines: two new vintages of old favorites, and one surprise; Tulpen’s first white wine. Let’s dive in:

2010 Tulpen Cellars Coalesence

That inaugural Tulpen offer back in 2010? That was the 2006 vintage of Coalesence, and we’ve offered every vintage since. It’s Kenny’s Bordeaux blend, and in 2010, it is Cabernet Sauvignon-heavy, at 73% of the blend. That Cab is a mix of Yellow Bird (location here) and Tokar (location here) vineyards, both in the buzzy, promising Mill Creek drainage of the Walla Walla Valley. The remainder is Yellow Bird Petit Verdot.

Just 125 cases of this, and it launches out of the glass with plum, violet, dried herb, and grilled bread. With time and air, that lovely floral note takes on more prominence. No surprise in a wine with this much PV; this one is all about power, with burly PV tannins adding a real sense of heft and toothsome quality to the palate. The richness and fruit intensity are impressive for the cool vintage. It stains the palate with its inky, purple, pollen-dusted fruit. The chewy texture cries out for a thick steak on the grill, and the overall impression is of a beautiful dark-hearted beast.

Sean Sullivan was kind enough to share pre-publication reviews for this wine and the Cabernet. Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: ***** (Exceptional).”

2010 Tulpen Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Dryland

This is the second vintage of one of the most exciting Cabernet projects happening in Washington right now. Kenny is among the vanguard of “dryland” (non-irrigated) farming in the valley. His focus is on the Mill Creek drainage, the area in the eastern part of the Walla Walla Valley where Mill Creek Road passes Abeja and continues climbing up into the foothills of the Blue Mountains. As the drainage gains elevation, the Blues start to wring moisture out of the atmosphere, so you also gain annual precipitation: just enough to support viticulture without added water.

This is a near-equal split of Tokar and Yellow Bird fruit, and it is singular Washington Cabernet as far as I’m concerned. The nose presents this great wild zesty dusty brambly thing that gets the blood pumping. The dustiness especially (which continues onto the palate) evokes nothing so much as a Rutherford cult wine. With redcurrant and red cherry fruit to balance the dusty/earthy elements, and with a high line of eucalyptus, the palate profile is exotic, glamorous, delicious. The balance is pinpoint as well, with just the right amount of cool-vintage acidity, just the right amount of ripeness (14.5% listed alc) and Cabernet tannic chew. All the components harmonize beautifully, and while this is a fascinating wine to drink now, I suspect its best days are still ahead of it. Just 100 cases produced.

Washington Wine Report (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. Rating: **** (Excellent).”

2012 Tulpen Cellars Vino Blanc Los Oidos Vineyard

Tulpen’s first white; how exciting! Given Kenny’s penchant for white Burgundy, I would have guessed he’d make a Chardonnay. Instead he’s gone the white Rhone route, with a blend of 45% Marsanne, 33% Roussanne, 11% Viognier, 9% Picpoul, and 2% Grenache Blanc. It’s essentially a field blend, as all the grapes were harvested from Los Oidos Vineyard on the same day and were then cofermented together and aged in 100% new French oak. Total production is 100 cases.

This is a newer vineyard, 15 acres planted in 2009 in the foothills of the Blue Mountains at 1100’, in between Les Collines and Morrison Lane (two outstanding vineyards). It’s mostly planted to red varieties, but it’ll be a few years before we see those wines. In the meantime, we have this lovely white, which begins with a nose of almond and walnut, nectarine and orange, and lovely Viognier floral/ginger topnotes. What you notice right away with this wine is the texture, conveying a real sense of glycerol fullness that is evocative of a silky red wine. The creaminess seems impossible given the moderate (12.5% listed) alcohol, but there you have it. For lovers of generous, fleshy whites (or of new vineyard projects), this is a must-try.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 19/20pts.”

Please limit order requests to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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