tulips you can kiss...

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

I visited over the holidays with grower Kenny Hart, who manages a vineyard portfolio that includes some rising stars as well as established and favored sites. We tasted through the new (2007) releases of his Tulpen wines, and as good as they have been in the past, this vintage trumps them all.

Not only are the wines superb, built upon glorious fruit from carefully selected rows, but Hart has actually dropped his prices, which were already quite competitive. The only bad news is that in 2008 and 2009 he is virtually cutting his production in half, which means that only about four or five barrels of each of the five wines has been made. The advice from here is… grab the 2007s while the grabbing is good.

In this most recent tasting, Hart reiterated that “the reason I started making wine was to make me a better grower. I know where the good fruit’s at and where to harvest it. I know the good rows, and I never take the whole row. In 2007 I made 1095 cases total; that was after I sold off more wine than I bottled.”

Given the severe selection, the superb quality, and the limited supply, it is astonishing that the pricing has actually gone down. All five of these 2007 reds are drinking well, and all five will age nicely for another 5 – 15 years. Here’s a quick rundown (all will score 91 points or better, but may be sold out before reviews run):

Tulpen Cellars 2007 Sangiovese; $20
A juicy, delicious Sangio, whose bright acidity underscores a lush mix of raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries and plum.

Tulpen Cellars 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon; $28
Supple and spicy, this displays a firm core of tart fruit, annotated with lead pencil, graphite, and charcoal.

Tulpen Cellars 2007 Merlot; $28
A dense, dark wine loaded with black fruits. Polished tannins frame lightly layered in streaks of leaf, herb and earth.

Tulpen Cellars 2007 Coalescence Red Wine; $26
Fruit-driven and complex, it’s a smooth ride through fresh fruit flavors of plum, blueberry, and cherry, focusing into a finish with ripe, polished tannins.

Tulpen Cellars 2007 Syrah; $20
Aromatic, spicy and weaving together chocolate, licorice, granite, roasted meat and berry flavors, it is both substantial and forward.

NOTE: The big news just breaking today is the sale of Pacific Rim to the Mariani family, owners of Banfi Vintners. My first take is this – no real surprise here. Randall Grahm has not played a role in the development, promotion or success of the winery since it was split off from Bonny Doon and headquartered in a dedicated facility here in Washington. Additionally, Grahm has been retooling his whole approach to winemaking, shedding brands, and talking about establishing a large new estate vineyard. Last time I met him, he was pushing a plow in Christophe Baron’s vineyard, doing a little Biodynamic turn. As for Pacific Rim, under the stewardship of the extremely talented Nicolas Quillé, it has grown rapidly into a position of global – not just regional – leadership in the production of multiple styles of riesling. I believe the Mariani family is savvy enough to live up to their promise to manage the brand “with the aim of continuing the exceptional achievements of Pacific Rim’s specialized management in wine production, sales, marketing and distribution.”

PS – Whoever is doing the PR for Banfi, you might want to put me on the mailing list for important announcements such as this, so that I don't have to read about it in a California-based publication. Jeez!


Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Paul, that Pacific Rim is in good hands under Nicolas's leadership. The press release suggests that Banfi knows this and will treat this jewel of a winery with care.

Jeff V. said...


Fun to note that Pacific Rim's offices are headquartered in Portland, OR. Yes, vineyard and winery are located in Washington.

I have met many a winemaker in the Northwest and Nicholas Quille is one of the most impressive figures that I come across. It is rare to talk to someone with such diplomacy, passion, and wisdom.

PaulG said...

I've long been an admirer of Nicolas and Pacific Rim. The press release about the sale to Banfi mentions that they had the #2 wine of the year (Wine Enthusiast) and they were nominated for 2010 American Winery of the Year (Wine Enthusiast). Who do you suppose made that happen? But they didn't bother to let me know about the sale. It's beyond disrespectful. Yes, they deserve all the accolades. But someone in the media made it a point to give them the accolades. And I would imagine that had some impact on the sales price.

Peter said...

You have been living too long in Waitsburg and out of touch with the reality business. Banfi bought Pacific Rim because of the potential, the quality of the brand, and the well run operation. To think that your review influenced the purchase price is like thinking you impact the sales of toilet paper in Seattle.....gimme a break

PaulG said...

Peter, thank you so much for your kind words. If you were to read the press release, as I did, you might have a different opinion.

Clough S said...

Hart's wines are amazing! I am going to get my order in early for these outstanding 2007s. Ken is an incredible winemaker, and he uses some of the best fruit. The price is a bargain.

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