With 3 different releases coming out of one of our favorite vineyard sites next month I wanted to look at the history of our relationship with Quintessence vineyard and what makes their site so special.
Quintessence is a young site with the first phase of planting taking place in 2010. The first fruit we pulled from this initial phase was cabernet in 2012 which blew us away with the quality for such young vines. So much so, that we decided to blend the clones 169 and 191 Cab into a single vineyard Cabernet, and our Optu Red Mountain for that same year was 47% sourced from Quintessence. This was the beginning of a love affair – since then we’ve made 3 more single vineyard cabs (always sourced from those same French ENTAV clones), 2 single vineyard sauv blancs, a new single vineyard malbec, and likely more vineyard designated wines to come.
While the general slope of Red Mountain gently angles to the Southwest, Quintessence is slightly more Southeastern facing right into the teeth of the morning sun. This early morning heat and rocky top layer that retains and reflects that solar energy is why I think Quintessence is consistently one of the first sites to ripen in the AVA and results in extremely concentrated wines across the board.
An incredible vineyard site can only take you so far if it's not placed in the right hands. Luckily Quintessence has Marshall Edwards to look after it, who like my dad, has over 3 decades of experience managing some of the best vineyards in Washington to draw on. It's great that the two of them have known each other for so long too, because Marshall enjoys harassing my dad: last time we were there for harvest a couple days before the first pick he told him that "all of the work was done - now don't mess things up."
One of the most unique aspects of Quintessence is all the different clones of Cabernet that are planted there: go wild and explore their interactive map. In one block you can taste the sweet, bright, red fruit, large clone 8 clusters and walk 10 yards to another block and taste the lower yielding ENTAV clones where the taste of the thick skins and seeds is much more present and the fruit tone darker.
Harvest 2017 - making sure Marshall hadn't messed anything up
Quintessence Clone 8 Cab
Often the winemaking team isn't sure what wines are going to be released for the upcoming year until they go through and taste all of the finished wine in barrel and see if anything jumps out at them. This is where we get small production releases such as Canyons Malbec, Ciel du Cheval Petit Verdot, Old Vines Merlot, and the upcoming April release Quintessence Malbec which will likely never make it to the tasting bar for long.
Tasting 2016 Quintessence Cab
And just like that, we are already half way through spring club season! This spring we had/have some amazing releases in store. A few that definitely stick out and really fit the term “limited release” are listed below. Some of these wines never even make it to our tasting bar! We do wish that everyone could get their hands on these exclusive wines but, that’s what makes them so exclusive. To get on the wait-list or to pre-order please contact our Club team!
After making way through our Wine Club, we do have two new releases that have found their way to our tasting lineup. Come in to get your taste of some Fidelitas favorites!
On a regular basis, I am asked by guests, “what makes Red Mountain so special.” It’s one of my favorite questions and topics to share with visitors! Red Mountain is woven into our story from start to finish. From our first vintage of Red Mountain Merlot that dates to 2005, to our tasting room that opened in 2007, and our Estate Vineyard that was first planted in 2008, we are all in on Red Mountain. As an AVA, we’ve established six points that make the region we call home unique and specific to Red Mountain.
The southwest slope provides the vineyards in the region with a direction aspect to the sun that is ideal for prolonged sunlight and exposure. These conditions allow for prolonged sun exposure and warmth provide for ripe tannins, a primary characteristic of Red Mountain.
More growing degree days create ripeness and concentration, while cool nights help retain acidity for balance and structure.
Red Mountain gathers less than 8 inches of rain per year. Drip irrigation and canopy management create ideal grape growing conditions. In addition, Red Mountain experience lower mold and mildew pressure compared to most other vineyard regions.
Defined by natural borders, the AVA is reminiscent of Old World, where every block is seen by a single vantage point. The Red Mountain AVA which was established in 2001, is comprised of 4,040 acres, 2,338 of which are planted with predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon.
Wind-blown Loess (Warden, Hezel, and Scooteney) were brought in by pre-historic floods. The high alkalinity and calcium carbonate content of the soil, along with the granular consistency, allow vines to form well-established root systems that reach deep nutrients and moisture.
Regular gusts of warm air keep grape clusters small and concentrate for flavors of the fruit for richness and intensity.
The season of love couldn’t be a better time to share the meaning behind our favorite phrase. Fidelitas, which is Latin for “Faithful, Loyal, and True”, is something that we stand behind in everything that we do. Fidelitas is faithful to Bordeaux grape varieties, loyal to modern craft winemaking techniques, and true to Washington State's Red Mountain terroir. Here’s what that means to us:
Fidelitas is faithful to Bordeaux grape varieties.
We source only grape varieties that can be found in the Bordeaux region of France. This includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. For white wines it’s Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon (Muscadelle is also on the white wine list but Fidelitas has yet to produce one). Our choice to be faithful to only Bordeaux grape varieties was simple. The most obvious reason being that Charlie’s favorite grapes to make wine out of are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Did you know that over 90% of Bordeaux wines are red wines made with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon? Also lucky for us, the Red Mountain AVA happens to have the ideal terroir for growing these grapes. Could it be because Red Mountain sits at nearly the same latitude as Bordeaux?
We are loyal to modern craft winemaking techniques.
This is one of my favorite topics to dive into conversation about with Fidelitas fans. What does “modern craft” mean anyway? It means that we take the tried and true winemaking techniques from the past and merge it with modern technology. Prime examples of this are in the numerous types of oak barrels we use for fermenting, or our TCA (cork taint) free corks. Charlie says “to source grapes from Red Mountain means that once they come into the cellar we don’t have to do a lot to them produce great wines, but the fine tuning that we can do with modern technology helps us get one step closer to producing a “perfect bottle of wine”.”
True to Washington State’s Red Mountain terroir.
Red Mountain is quickly becoming known for being the top growing region in Washington and we couldn’t be happier to call it home. The smallest AVA in Washington state, Red Mountain makes up only 4 square miles (4,040 acres) and we source all of our grapes exclusively from here. We're also fortunate to have our 12-acre Estate Vineyard sit right in the middle of the AVA. Because of Charlie’s long-standing relationships with vineyard owners and growers, we’re able to get our hands on some of the most sought-after lots like those from Blackwood Canyon, Quintessence, and Ciel du Cheval. All the wines we produce are a true expression of the AVA and our favorite place to enjoy a glass is sitting on our back patio while watching the sunset over the vineyard.
A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to sit on a panel in front of industry peers to discuss the benefits of “Custom Clubs”. That is, I chatted about the Fidelitas Wine Club and the hows and whys of letting our members select their own Club allocations. This is a big deal! It’s breaking away from the traditional Club model of “we choose wines and send whatever we want to you” that has been followed since the dawn of Wine Clubs. And while all of the boring (inventory) details may not be best suited for this blog, I think that there are a few key points worth sharing:
Selecting what is best for your cellar
Is your vertical of Optu Red Mountain growing nicely? Wish you had more Merlot and less Cabernet? Allowing members to create their own combination of wines in each allocation gives people the chance to take home the wines that they really want to shape their cellar. We are releasing 3 -4 brand new wines at each Club release, and members can select the exact quantities of what they are going to enjoy the most.
It’s important to note here that some members told us they don’t want the additional work of selecting Club allocations. I get it. Day to day life offers so many choices that sometimes you want wine to be the easy part. So – we will always have a pre-selected allocation as well that means great wines with no effort.
Winemakers get to have more fun
This is maybe the best part. Both for the members, and for us at Fidelitas. If we asked every Club member to take the exact same Club allocation, Charlie would be stuck making large quantities of the exact same wine in every vintage. The problem is, Charlie loves to make small lot quantity wines each year based on what comes in to the cellar. Following a custom club model means that he gets to create wines that are maybe 50 – 140 cases total, and members get to select these wines for their shipments. It’s a win/win, really.
Convenient ship windows and special pricing
We first started offering custom clubs to our out of state members. Knowing that they are often dealing with the inconvenience of having wines shipped when the weather may be too hot or too cold, and needing to have an adult signature for delivery, we wanted to design a Club just for them. Our Electus Club is designed to ship wine only in moderate temperature months, and offers additional discounts and complimentary shipping when 6-bottle shipments are rounded up to a case.
Try before you buy
Just last weekend, we launched our “preview tastings”. Two times per year, Custom Club members are invited to taste through the line up of upcoming releases and build their allocations at that time. We love letting people experience the wines before they make their selections, and also found that it was a great time to just connect with members and help them learn the ropes of our new allocation system.
This year we listened to our members and are delivering on our promise! 2018 has some changes in store including members now having the ability to choose what they would like as their allocation from our newest and most limited releases. Finally!
With all the great wine being released its nice to be able to personally select what you want in your cellar. Who doesn’t like being able to call the shots? We understand it can be a little difficult to choose the 4 bottles you want without being able to try them first. Here comes the second change to 2018! We just hosted our first (of two) Preview Tastings this past weekend. At this event, our Optu members were able to taste the wines before they are even released, so they can make a more educated decision for their allocation. Below are the wines we tasted this past weekend that are set to be released in the first half of the year.
2015 Red Mountain Merlot – February Release
2015 Optu Red Mountain – February Release
2015 Blackwood Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon – February Release
2015 Red Mountain Malbec – Bonus Wine!
2017 Quintessence Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc – April Release
*this wine is still in The Ovium (our special barrel specifically for Sauvignon Blanc) so was not able to make it to the party
2015 The Canyons Vineyard Red Wine – April Release
2015 Quintessence Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – April Release
2015 Red Heaven Cabernet Sauvignon – April Release
*with only 144 cases produced and more members than bottles, we saved this wine so we could allocate it instead of pour it
2015 Quintessence Vineyard Malbec- Bonus Wine!
If you are currently an Optu member and weren’t able to make it, don’t fear! Our second Preview Tasting will be hosted in July. Now is the perfect time to join if you aren’t already part of the Fidelitas family. One easy step and you can get in on our first release of the year happening in just one week.
As usual, resolutions are an ongoing thing this time of year. If you’re anything like me, you are still trying to hold yourself accountable (at least for another month) and make this year…the best one yet! I think I speak for most of us when I say, “being healthier” is always at the top of the resolution list. And being as I’m an avid lover of wine it always makes it difficult to find the balance between being healthy and still enjoying a glass of wine (or two) during the evening.
Fear not, our Faithful, loyal and true readers! I’ve put together a list of articles that supports the theory of the health benefits that wine has to offer us. I do encourage you all to keep up with those resolutions, since we are still in January, despite the unusually warmer weather we’ve been having. Take a look at these great links, if for nothing more than reassurance that it’s perfectly acceptable to enjoy wine while living and creating a healthier lifestyle this time of year.
Is Wine Good For You? - Wine Folly
8 Health Benefits of Drinking Wine - Food & Wine
8 Reasons to Love Red Wine - Prevention
And if you're still skeptical, we have some great receipe links for heatlhy meals that pair well with wine. My personal favorite is to eat a nice portion of protien and lots of roasted veggies. I generally pair this with our 2016 Red Mountain Optu White Wine or a lighter bodied red. The next great option is a turkey chili with a glass of our 2015 Red Mountain Malbec. It's protien, veggies, and did I mention super comforting this time of year, given as we're all trapped inside.
Healthy Pairings - Food & Wine
The Food & Wine Diet - Food & Wine
9 Healthier Wine and Food Pairings - Active Beat
Wine Friendly Dishes for Entertaining - Food Network
When you first pop open one of our 2015 Red releases you may notice something a little different about the cork. We’ve switched from our traditionally used “bleached” cork (pictured on the left) to a more natural wash (right). As some of the industry is switching to screwcaps, synthetics, and other ways to seal off their bottles, we’ve taken a step back to a more classic look.
While taking a step back on appearance, we’ve made a simultaneous technological leap forward on performance. Chances are if you’ve been drinking Fidélitas long enough you’ve heard our mantra of being Faithful to Bordeaux grape varieties, Loyal to modern craft winemaking techniques, and True to Washington State's Red Mountain terroir. The switch to Portocork’s new Icon Certified closures is the perfect example of our dedication to modern craft winemaking, and as my dad put it: “a step closer in delivering the perfect bottle of wine.” We pride ourselves in not being tied to tradition and switching if something comes along that will help us make better wine.
Charlie's trip to the cork capital of the world: Portugal
Natural corks have been the choice of winemakers for centuries due to their ability to let in just the right amount of oxygen allowing wine to age properly (info on diffusion vs. permeation). Problems with natural cork material causing the switch to the other types of closures is 1) the chemical compound 2,4,6 Trichloroanisole (TCA) may be present causing cork taint – the unpleasant wet cardboard or musty basement smell we’ve all experienced or 2) inconsistent density – a good example of this is opening an older bottle of wine which should be aged perfectly, however you pull out a squishy cork, too much oxygen has been let through, and the wine is prematurely past its prime.
Thanks to advancements by our supplying partner, Portocork, we have put these natural cork problems in the past. Their NDtech screening method along with other quality controls “effectively eliminates the risk of cork taint” by getting rid of any corks that have TCA content above the human detection threshold of 0.5 nanograms/liter + each cork density is tested for consistency in aging.
Hopefully you'll stop to appreciate all the work that went in to something as simple-looking as a wine cork the next time you open up a bottle of Fidélitas.
Cheers to the pursuit of Red Mountain Wine perfection,
2016 Red Mountain Optu White Wine $125/6-pack (that’s only $20.83/bottle reg. $30)
a perfectly balanced sauvignon blanc and semillon blend
2014 Red Mountain 4040 Red Wine $255/case (that’s only $21.25/bottle reg. $30)
team fidelitas' favorite weeknight wine
2014 Optu Red Mountain SOLD OUT
while inventory lasts! only 20 cases remain of the 'wine that started it all'
Act fast! Prices are good through January 14.
Dear Friends of Fidelitas:
2017 proved to be a great year for Fidelitas. The Fidelitas Estate Vineyard is continuing to develop, and the other vineyards we source fruit from on Red Mountain are outstanding. The future looks bright for the wines we will continue to make.
This fall, in addition to pulling fruit from the 2009 planting, we were able to harvest a little bit from our 2015 Estate Vineyard planting. We are eager to see how these young wines mature over the months ahead. Also in September, we released our third Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2014. If these first three vintages are any indication of the future of our Estate, then the future looks good. I have been very happy with the wines we have made from our own vineyard. With 2014 being one of the warmest vintages on record, we really looked to make these wines very consistent and a true reflection of Red Mountain.
We also released our last wine ever for Fidelitas from Champoux Vineyard, closing a long term working relationship with Paul and Judy Champoux. With Paul’s retirement following the 2014 vintage, we decided this would be the last Champoux Vineyard wine we would make. This is, to say the least, the end of an era for Fidelitas. We made our first Champoux Cabernet Sauvignon in 2002. In total, we made 27 wines from 13 vintages from Champoux Vineyard. Many of you enjoyed these wines over the years when we expanded our offerings to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon from Block 1 and our Cabernet Franc based blend we called Magna. Paul and Judy have been great to work with over the years and we all will have lasting memories every time we open these wines from our cellars. Check with any of our team members to see what might still be available from Champoux Vineyard.
Looking forward to 2018, we have many great wines we are extremely excited about from the 2015 vintage of red wines as well as some very unique 2017 white wines to look forward to. As many of you know, we make wines from many sites on Red Mountain, giving us a great cross section of what the mountain has to offer. A few highlights of exciting new offers we will have in the upcoming year will include a 2015 Old Vine Merlot from Ciel Du Cheval and Kiona Vineyards. This wine comes from some of the first plantings on Red Mountain from both the Holmes and Williams families from the mid-1970s. We feel fortunate to have been able to source this fruit and look forward to sharing this with all of you. 2015 will also be the first vintage of Malbec sourced from Quintessence Vineyard. We currently make a Cabernet Sauvignon for this vineyard as well as limited release Sauvignon Blanc. Having the Malbec will be a nice addition. I have had a chance recently to go back and try some of the upcoming 2015 vintage releases and am looking forward to sharing some really stellar wines.
As always, we aim to continually try and improve our wines from Fidelitas. We continue to experiment with oak fermentation, use new barrels we have never worked with before and pushing the envelope in winemaking to continually improve.
Fidelitas exists as a winery because of our faithful customers. Thank you for your continued support. Many of you have been with us from our very first vintages and we truly appreciate your loyalty. We are All in on Red Mountain!