Those of you who follow this blog know that my postings are few and far between. The reason for that is that I spend quite a bit of time trying to keep my calendar of wine events and wineries map up to date. My day job also takes up way too much time, and by the time I get home I’m usually not inspired to write.
But today I am inspired.
This morning I went to the Tulip Winery for a rare vertical tasting of their Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, including wines from Tulip’s 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 vintages, the last two being barrel tastings. (The 2012 vintage was all sold out, so not available for this vertical tasting.)
The weather today is rain, rain, and more rain, with a touch of hail thrown in for good measure. As a result, the turnout at this event was light, but those who did show up were genuinely interested in learning about the wines, as was I.
I have been visiting Tulip for many years. Originally I was not terribly impressed with their wines, finding them too fruit forward and one dimensional for my taste. But time has a way of changing things, and in this case the changes are on two fronts.
First of all, Tulip has made a concerted effort to move away from the style of their wines of yesteryear to wines of greater elegance, depth, and character, with restrained fruit and no jamminess. Roy Itzhaki (Tulip’s founder & CEO) explained some of the changes Tulip made to achieve the more elegant style:
- Irrigation: Irrigating at higher intensity but lower frequency increases the depth to which the water penetrates into the ground. That way more of the roots get water, but the total amount of water used for irrigation remains the same.
- Vineyard density: Vineyards in Israel are generally planted with some 200-250 grape vines per dunam, while the density in Tulip’s newer vineyards is about double that. The yield per vine is low, but the total yield per dunam is higher. More importantly, at the higher density the grapes ripen differently, and the resulting flavor profile is more complex and interesting.
- Fermentation: Tulip now ferments their wines at lower temperature and longer duration. This preserves some of the lighter aromatic compounds that would otherwise be driven off during higher temperature fermentation.
Of course, there’s more to it than that, including barrels specially designed by Tulip, different yeasts for the fermentation, and undoubtedly many more factors I can’t even imagine. The bottom line is that Tulip’s wines have become much more to my taste.
And then there’s the effect of time on the wines themselves. When I first tasted Tulip’s Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from the early vintages of this decade, I didn’t care for them at all, as they were overly fruity and aggressive for my taste. But time does wonders, and now these wines are delightfully laid back.
So which wine did I like best? I would have to say it was a tossup between the 2014 and the 2011. The 2014 is lighter and fresher while the 2011 is more complex. Roy said that if he didn’t know better he’d think that the 2011 was a Bordeaux style blend, and I agree with him.
The oh so young 2017 has marvelous flavors and I have a feeling it will be a real winner when it comes out. I suppose I’ll just have to wait a couple of years to find out.
And for those of you who are fans of Tulip’s Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, you might want to start stocking up. Roy told me that from now on Tulip will be cutting back on this wine, with most of it tagged for the export market. Apparently he’s got plans for some new wines up his sleeve. I suppose we’ll find out soon enough.
In the meantime, Tulip holds interesting wine events on a regular basis (find them on my calendar and Tulip’s Facebook page).. I go when I can, and I learn something new each time.