I've got good news and bad news about Tulip Valley Winery in Mount Vernon.
Let's get the bad news out of the way. Because it's still a small-production facility, Tulip Valley wines are not available in Bellingham.
The good news is that it's only a 30- to 40-minute drive to the tasting room, where you'll find panoramic views of Skagit Valley to go with some overachieving wines that are incredibly well-priced.
Co-owner and winemaker Ector DeLeon grew up in Port Angeles and has lived in the Skagit Valley area for nearly 15 years. The colorful DeLeon has plenty of stories to tell about his past as a decorated war veteran and the circuitous route he took several years ago that led him to making wines and award-winning hard ciders.
DeLeon's involvement with a number of local business and charitable concerns underscores his commitment to giving back to the community. It's truly one of those feel-good scenarios you often hear about, and the fact that he's now also providing Northwest wine enthusiasts with good wines makes it all the better.
Here's a rundown on the wines Tulip Valley currently has available:
Columbia Valley 2010 Off-Dry Riesling (about $13) - This wine explodes with mouthwatering tropical fruits and pineapple flavors. Although it's labeled as off-dry, I found the honey-like finish to be a bit sweeter than expected; but add in the wine's splash of acidity and it contrasts perfectly with creamy and well-aged cheeses.
Columbia Gorge 2011 Chardonnay (about $13) - Understated Granny Smith apple flavors are rounded out with a touch of butterscotch and toasted oak. This wine worked beautifully with a mild chicken liver pâté served on a sliced baguette.
Non-Vintage Big Red Barn (about $14) - Named for the building that houses the tasting room, this is an outstanding, bargain-priced blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot with vanilla and cherry aromatics, plenty of red fruit flavors, and a hint of warm coffee bean. Just the right bit of textured grip on the finish will allow this to pair well with roast beef or prime rib.
I also had a chance to try DeLeon's yet-to-be released 2011 Columbia Gorge Pinot Noir. Pinot lovers will revel in this wine's beautiful violet and vanilla fragrance; currant, rhubarb and cranberry flavors; and a finish that suggests crème brûlée. Look for it in late fall of this year.
Tulip Valley Winey is currently open 11a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Details: 360-428-6894.
DAN RADIL is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.