Lately, I’ve written about the Tulip Winery, the Kfar Tikvah based winery relying on Galilee & Judean Hills vineyards. It’s inspirational story, which I’ll omit here, can overshadow how good their wines are leaving a writer limited by a word count deciding whether to focus more on the story than on their wines. My most recent article about Tulip focused on their story so lets dive now headfirst into their wines.
If you wonder how a winery can grow from 100,000 to 170,000 bottles in just a few years, one way is to make better wines each vintage while keeping your prices the same as your competitors keep raising their prices. Tulip’s new winemaker David Bar-Ilan delivers his first wines to the market with Tulip’s 2012 whites though he’s overseeing the blending and readiness of former vintages recently tasting from about 300 barrels from earlier vintages to become intimately familiar with what legacy he inherited. Tulip’s wines have recently been imported in mass for the first time by Royal Wines in the USA and Kedem Europe into the UK. This additional demand may cause their prices to creep up so buying some Tulip wines now might save you some money.
2012 Tulip White Tulip (88 points) NIS 67
An interesting blend of 70% Gewurztraminer 30% and Sauvignon Blanc resulting in a dry white wine that still delivers the fruit and aromas associated with “Gewurz” of white peaches and lychee with citric and herbal notes and bracing crisp acidity from the Sauvignon Blanc. White fish such as haddock, sea bass, cod and flounder would enjoy the accompaniment of this wine as well as a Caesar salad.
2012 Tulip White Franc (90 points) NIS 79
A Blanc de Noir of Cabernet Franc (65%) blended with (35%) Sauvignon Blanc results in a pleasantly sweet semi dry wine (11 grams/l) which reminds me of lime-rickey’s of my youth with raspberry braced with notes of lime sherbet and strawberries. Makes me wonder if a Cab Franc rosé might be a nice future Tulip wine or do Tulips and Rosés not mix? Asian cuisine, spicy sushi and duck would be my ideal pairings but I can imagine a variety of pastas and other poultry dishes as well.
Note: I had an earlier chance to try Tulip’s 2012 Sauvignon Blanc before it was blended into Tulip’s two whites and I hope in future vintages they also find a way to bottle a 100% Sauvignon Blanc wine.
2011 Tulip Just Cabernet Sauvignon (88 points) NIS 67
A nice fresh and fruity 100 % Cabernet Sauvignon with only 6 months of oak helps this relatively inexpensive and young red wine deliver a mouthful of cassis and blackberries with gentle notes of smoked nuts.
2011 Tulip Just Merlot (89 points) NIS 67
A nice contrast to their Cab, with plums embraced by notes of chocolate and just a bit of spiciness and hints of vanilla with subtle tannins make this 100% Merlot very drinkable now. With a similar time in oak as the Just Cab, this series delivers varietal specific flavors that can still develop over the next few years but not designed for long term cellaring.
2010 Tulip Mostly Cabernet Franc (90 points) NIS 79
85% Cabernet Franc from the Judean Hills married with 15% Merlot delivers a Cab Franc that has a bounty of currant and raspberries with a fragrant floral aroma. Fifteen months of oak aging reinforced the fruits’ gentle tannins, a bit of spiciness and a medium body with nice acidity for a food friendly red wine that could cross color lines from roasted poultry to red meat (though bbq or charcoaled meat may overpower this nuanced wine). Fifteen months of oak aging aided in giving additional body, complexity and a little perceived sweetness to this dry wine.
2010 Tulip Mostly Shiraz (89 points) NIS 79
85% Shiraz and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon does not make for a genteel wine. Firm and fruity blackberries dominating with denser fruit yet a bit less expressive than its reserve cousin but still a very nice example of the potential why Shiraz/ Syrah has become the third most popular premium red varietal in Israel with its own loyal fan base.
2010 Tulip Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (91 points) NIS 95
90% Cabernet Sauvignon with 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot oak aged for twenty months seems to be a noticeable improvement over a good but more rustic 2009 with more integrated tannins, more explicit notes of cassis, dark plums, gentle hints of leaf tobacco with a spiciness reminiscent of rosemary. Well balanced with fruit that lingers long after the finish.
A nicely marbled seasoned steak will bring this wine (and the steak) to a higher plane.
2010 Tulip Syrah Reserve (93 points) NIS 98
One of the better Israeli Syrah’s I’ve tried leaning to the California model of lots of deep layered fruity punch over a more earthy Northern Rhone which some Israeli wineries have recently moved towards (though there are fine examples available from that camp as well). Approachable right out of the bottle with deep layers of raspberry and blueberry and lots of spice including black pepper make me wonder how well lamb chops with a red wine reduction sauce might pair. Drinkable now but shows great aging potential.
2009 Tulip Black Tulip (92 points) NIS 175
2009 was Tulip’s last non kosher vintage but these notes may give you a hint of what to expect in April 2013 when the 2010 Black Tulip is expected to be released. A nice Bordeaux inspired blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc & Petit Verdot showing the hints of a complicated wine coming together showing blackberries laced with plums and notes of cedar. Nicely balanced with smooth but evident tannins that show aging potential from 30 months of maturing in French oak barrels. Full bodied but a balanced wine that shouldn’t overwhelm one’s meal if its treated to a bit of decanting before serving.
Wine Scores Key
97-100 A+ 5 * Best of the Best, or One of the Best in Recent Memory (-.5% of wines)
The kind of wine that opening creates a special occasion.
93-96 A 4 1/2 * Extraordinary, Great Example of What Israel does Right (-1%)
A Wine Worth Remembering & Drinking Again and Again
The kind of wine that’s great for special occasions.
89-92 A- 4 * Very Good, Highly Recommended: Interesting and Expressive (-3-5%)
This is the kind of wine that doesn’t just complement a meal or an evening but can elevate it.
85-88 B+ 3 1/2 * Good, Recommended as a wine that shows some merit (-5-10%)
A good guest brings a B+ or above wine unless host doesn’t appreciate wine & you know no one else at meal does either or just bring cake.
81-84 B 3 * Fair, Not Recommended to Elevate a Meal or an Evening (50%+)
Typically I won’t publish these scores, there’s too many better wines to focus or that merit more attention & praise but MOST wines in Israel that sell 4 or 5/ NIS 100 fall into this category (or below) with a few exceptions reaching B+.
80 or less 2 1/2 * or less Not Recommended, Published or Worth Commenting About
David Rhodes, a California trained sommelier and wine educator, lives in Israel and can be reached at [email protected] or at 052-702-WINE (9463)