By Rick Riozza

There’s no way one can resist this title for a column on the vino gals who head up and run Tulip Hill Winery and their Tasting Room that is located at “The River” Mall on Bob Hope Dr. and Hwy 111 in Rancho Mirage—right across from the Yardhouse Restaurant.

And what a pleasure it was to come by the Tasting Room to meet and chat with owner and President Kristi Brown and her colleague, Sara Hammond, who wittily titles herself as “Information Contortionist”. As was readily discernible, both take charge with their well hewn duties: Sara with marketing, design, technical and particularly manning the Wine Club, and Kristi doing what every CEO of a family-owned company does: WORK the business.

As the theme of this issue is women, it just so happened that when walking into the winery store, well—that’s exactly what I observed. A share of lovely women behind the register, speaking with patrons, gift-shopping about the shelves filled with wine accoutrement and food delicacies, and of course, those behind the wine bar pouring tastes from a delicious array of white, rosé, red and dessert vino to happy customers.

Be informed that this venue is the place to be when you wish to treat yourself & friends to a really enjoyable outing.

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Quite often in business we hear of the toils and tribulations of women having to over-achieve just to break in. But in the wine producing business, as with all types of farming and agriculture, there’s always been women around—indeed, especially in the wine trade, women have always had a presence.

In Europe, so many widows as a result of the devastating World Wars, had to take charge of the vineyards and wineries—for example, Vueve Clicquot, the famous Champagne producer, “Vueve” means “widow” in French. Even today there are “vueves” in the French wine brand trade.

In California, we know of many women who have followed their famous dads into the wine biz—such as Violet Grgich, Gina Gallo, Kathleen Heitz and Sophia Coppola.

Fortunately in this column, we get to know the energetic Kristi Brown who has not really encountered “sexism bias” in the business, but rather has enjoyed the dream and romance of California winemaking, and the real work of farming and selling product—but also, as happens in life, the saddening experience of losing loved ones way too soon.

And so it was for Kristi when her vivacious and entrepreneurial dad, who had encouraged her to get involved with his successful wine business, was killed in a plane crash. Add to that the fact that Kristi lost her mom to cancer only a few years earlier. The combination made her whole world shift and weighted upon her to take charge.

Running with that expanding wine business paradigm, which went national in scope and sales, Kristi herself soon met with a serious health issue that gave her pause to re-evaluate her own mortality, and prompted the decision to taper down the business and to re-boot the wine company into producing premium crafted wines from theirs and other vineyards in Northern California which were to be sold here in the only “winery tasting room” in our valley.

Being a resident of the Coachella Valley influenced her decision to establish her business here, along with the fact that with a savvy Palm Springs culinary scene about, there was an apparent need for a notable wine shop. Launching a “winery” business here was a rather adventurous move, and we all applaud her for it.

And there you go—it’s like a true mirage in the desert. This local tasting room was established in late 2002 but even today when mentioning that there is a winery tasting room here in Rancho Mirage where one can taste and enjoy an entire line of delicious first-class wines—well, that info has still eluded many.

I’ve covered Tulip Hill Winery for CV Weekly over the past couple of years and I plan to write about it more often. Supporting a local business that delivers excellent wine is always at the top of our list. And writing about this winery is fun because they produce exciting wines—as is evident by their blends.

We let the fruit do all the talking,” says Kristi. “Since we control everything from vine to bottle we are able to create handcrafted products at an amazing price point. Our wines are made in a boutique style in small lot production. We taste all of our lots and blend them to create our different vintages with a focus on balanced, approachable wines true to their varietal character.”

At the Tulip Hill Tasting Room, you will find all your favorite varietals from Chardonnay to Zinfandel, and, the up-and-coming blends of Cabernet and Syrah with Sangiovese, Montepulciano, and Nero d’Avola. Tasty stuff !! Also be alerted that the alcohol levels in these wines are checked to provide lively medium-bodied wines that are perfect with meals.

My personal recommendation for this Thanksgiving is the flavorsome Tulip Hill2008 “Sangiovignon” which is a blend of California Cabernet Sauvignon and Cal Sangiovese. “Lovely floral notes of violets and smoky cherry with currant and dried cranberries. A supple texture offers wild berries, plum, and tamarind flavors with a hint of pencil shavings and cigar shop.” It’s lively, juicy, medium-bodied, and a fun quaff for the table. Cheers to that!

Next month we’ll discuss more of the wines available at the Tasting Room, their on-line store, and joining and obtaining wine from their Wine Club. And, as to the “song” reference in this article’s title—well, I left Tulip Hill humming the tune “Good Friend and a Glass of Wine” by LeAnn Rimes.

TULIP HILL WINERY Tasting Room 71800 HWY 111, A-125 RANCHO MIRAGE, CA 92270 760-568-5678 www.tuliphillwinery.com.
Rick is your sommelier-about-town entertaining at wine events and tastings. Contact winespectrum@aol.com

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