Charlie Hoppes, owner + winemaker
2018 Auction of Washington Wines' Honorary Vintner
I first became interested in wine and winemaking in the early 1980’s. I was newly married and the industry in Washington was in its infant stages. I began by fermenting berry wines and a memorable lot of White Riesling from a family vineyard near my in-laws in Pasco, Washington.
My interest in grape growing and winemaking continued to grow, and with positive encouragement from both my family and members of the industry I decided to apply to attend the renowned Viticulture and Enology program at the University of California – Davis. In 1988 I graduated with a degree in Agricultural Science and Management with a special emphasis in Viticulture and Enology.
After weighing all my options following graduation, I decided to return to the then fledging industry in Washington. I was fortunate to start my career working for Mike Januik at the Snoqualmie/Langguth winery near Mattawa, where I was able to get a lot of hands on experience. After a brief stint in Walla Walla in 1990 at Waterbrook Winery, I again went to work with Mike Januik as a member of the winemaking team at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville.
In 1993, I became the Head Red Winemaker and managed Chateau Ste. Michelle’s newest facility at the time: Canoe Ridge near Paterson, Washington. This facility was a result of benchmarking the great red winemaking facilities throughout the world. This experience at Chateau Ste. Michelle was invaluable because of the volume of fruit that you get a chance to work with. The time at Canoe Ridge really shaped my thought process in regard to making ultra-premium red wines. I had the good fortune to make a number of very nice wines during my time at Chateau Ste. Michelle, including working with the Antinori family on the initial vintages of Col Solare from1995 through 1998.
In the winter of 1999, I made the decision to leave Chateau Ste. Michelle with the hopes of making my own wine. I joined the startup of Three Rivers Winery and made wines for them from 1999 through the 2002. At the same time, I was able to get an initial start of Fidelitas in 2000. The first vintage was a Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot blend that we named Optu. This wine is still in our portfolio today, as our Red Mountain Bordeaux-style blend.
In 2007, we were able to purchase some land in the Red Mountain, AVA and plant a small three-acre vineyard. We also built a tasting room that could be open to the public and share the wines we are making. Since that initial purchase, we have purchased an additional ten acres that was planted in the spring of 2015 with red Bordeaux varietals. It had always been a hope of mine to be part of the Red Mountain, AVA. That hope is now a reality. Wines from this growing area are in my opinion, very special and unique. Wineries from throughout Washington seek out fruit from Red Mountain on a regular basis to enhance their portfolios. Since making the first Red Mountain wines for Fidelitas in 2005 we have expanded the Red Mountain product line significantly. Beginning with the 2012 vintage, we were fortunate enough to begin releasing our own Fidelitas Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Besides our Estate Vineyard, we are now working with other top growers within the Red Mountain AVA. We create vineyard designated wines from Ciel Du Cheval Vineyard, Blackwood Canyon Vineyard, and Quintessence Vineyard, as well as blends and varietal wines from throughout the AVA. This product line will continue to evolve and grow. I honestly believe our best wines are yet to be made.
When not doing things for Fidelitas, I have an active consulting business making wine for small wineries throughout the region. 2017 marked my 30th vintage in Washington.
My wife, Terri, and I have four adult children who are working and going to school around the U.S. Our son, Will, recently joined the team at Fidelitas, and heads up the Woodinville tasting room. He’ll join me in the cellar for harvest of 2019 as we build a multi-generational winery. For the first time since 1987, we don’t have any children at home, which is an adjustment. However, we’ve been enjoying going to visit them and always look forward to the holidays.