Monday, March 23, 2009

Tulip Hill Petite Sirah

On our recent trip to Palm Springs, CA, we decided to pay a visit to the only local tasting room we saw advertising in the area. Tulip Hill Winery is actually about 90 miles north of Napa, but they have a retail outlet in a suburban shopping center in Rancho Mirage. It was kind of a pain to find because we weren’t expecting it to be tucked between a Cineplex and an Italian chain restaurant but, no matter.

The fruit used at Tulip Hill ranges from Mt. Oso to Napa. Tulip Hill actually petitioned for the Tracy Hills AVA to cover their vineyard on Mt. Oso. They specialize in red varieties but, we did try their Pinot Grigio which was surprisingly dry and mineral with flavors of grapefruit and just a touch of melon.

Most of the reds tend to be slightly bitter (not in a bad way) with a couple of notable exceptions (which we’ll get to in a moment). The 2005 Tracy Hills Merlot was quite interesting with an elegant nose of rose, chocolate, cherry, and almond. The cherry carried through to the palate, with a little blueberry, umami, and a coffee bite which got more concentrated with each sip.

The 2005 Tracy Hills Merlot-Syrah Blend was marked by aromas of kitty nose, blackberry, pomegranate, and vanilla. It had a similar flavor profile to the Merlot but, with more pronounced meat and pepper flavors.

The 2004 Tracy Hills Syrah was a little tougher than what you would find in a Sonoma Syrah but still there were nice aromas of cherry, bramble, pepper, vanilla, prune and cassis. On the palate was cherry, more cassis, plenty of allspice, and just the faintest hint of band-aid. The 2005 Tracy Hills Cab-Syrah was much like the Syrah but with added richness from the Cab and bitter chocolate (cacao) notes.

Now for the fun stuff… The 2006 Tracy Hills “Sangiovignon” is a blend of 60% Sangiovese and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Fun because you can entertain yourself for hours pulling out the various characteristics of the two grapes. Missing, was the barnyard funk of a typical Super Tuscan. There was blackberry, cherry, plum and mesquite smoke on the nose. The flavor consisted of a cherry base. There was blueberry essence in the vapor coming off the tongue, and a strawberry finish.

Also huge fun, and most likely to win a gold metal at the county fair, the 2006 Napa Valley Petite Sirah was an epiphany. The color was very extracted deep purple. The flavors and aromas were a well balanced choreography of toffee, blackberry, cherry, almond, blueberry, licorice, allspice, and pansy.

Finally, the 2004 Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was another winner, and a bargain in Napa Cab terms at $36 a bottle. I had one of those awesome olfactory flashbacks back to a life-changing mole from a little Mexican restaurant in Lake Tahoe…man, that was a good meal… Taster A noted marble dust on this one (he had his own flashback to Proctor, VT). It did indeed have that wet-saw smell, as well as, some juniper berry. This cab was rich, smooth, and mouth coating with layers of chocolate and a blueberry pie finish.