Fresh off 2019 Harvest and in the midst of putting the 2018 blends together it's been perfect timing to taste through the first batch of our 2017 releases seeing what we loved about each vintage, things we want to tweak in our winemaking for 2020, and be able to sit down and enjoy some "finished" wine out of the bottle. It's also been difficult to rack my brain figuring out the type of growing season 2017 was so I thought I'd do a little research on the 2017 Vintage for Fidelitas and how it affected our upcoming releases:
My Dad, Mitch, and I putting together the 2018 Estate Cab over the holidays
Here's what Team Fidelitas had to say in 2017:
2017 was a year of extremes. We had a cold winter with higher snowfall than average. This continued into the Spring and as a result we had a much later bud break and bloom than usual. We were initally thinking that we were in store for another 2010 or 2011-type vintage. But as is tradition, temperatures on Red Mountain shot up and the heat accumulation for the Summer months was actually higher than average - canopies were growing like weeds and not much irrigation was needed as the ground had held onto a lot of moisture. Heading into the fall we could tell that because of the cooler Spring that the fruit set was smaller and that yields were going to be down. Temperatures cooled way down in September & October and we were able to let fruit hang and let flavors develop without the threat of frost. The 2017's have great concentration and power to them because the of short/extreme ripening period and low yields, classic ripe Red Mountain tannin structure, with nice acidity and complexity offered by the longer hang times. We were able to control our pick dates, sugar and acid levels well in the winery to offer wines that taste great on the tasting bar but will cellar for 10+ years if that's your preference.
Resting on Roller Fermenters, September 2017
Quintessence Cab, Block 9, 2017 Fermentation Trials
In preparation for this Sunday’s Preview Tastings, Team Fidelitas sat down with Charlie to taste through the upcoming releases of 2017 red wines. As always, it was an awesome time to hear Charlie’s honest thoughts on each wine as he tasted through each one and fielded the questions from our staff.
side note: we started our tasting time with a 2006 Columbia Valley Malbec, generously shared by Therese from her cellar. All of us were floored by the fresh, bright fruit tones that appeared in the wine! I’m not going to lie: 2006 was a warm (not hot…warm) vintage. I vividly remember Charlie’s comment on that vintage when we released it: “sure…you can age them, but why? they taste great now.” This wine was amazing, fresh, and surprisingly bold upon opening but wasn’t as stunning when I tried it three hours later. It’s Malbec…not Cabernet…so don’t risk it. If you have it in your cellar still: it tastes great now.
I was in the tasting room recently, and someone asked me, “what is the plan of attack on the Preview Tastings?” and I honestly had a hard time coming up with the answer. To me, you taste the wines, you decide which you really like, and then you mark them down on your sheet and go. But what if you like them all or can’t make up your mind or are honestly overwhelmed by the whole thing?
I think that as a taster, you need to think about your drinking habits. If you know that you are going to drink your wines in the next few months, maybe you want to get one of each offering for your allocation (quick! try them and reorder any that are still available!). If you have a good storage system (cellar, garage, or cases stacked against your dining room wall) maybe grab 4-6 of those awesome, cellar worthy Cabernets and then round out your add-ons with daily drinkers. Charlie says he never buys a wine in a quantity less than 6 bottles because he wants to taste it over the years.
If you’re like me, you’re going to play the inventory game. I’m only able to grab 2-3 bottles of each wine at a time, but you know that I’m going to get the ones that will disappear the quickest. Get those first, then maybe 1 bottle of the others so I can check in on it in a month or two and order more before it runs out. Since I’m the one who gets to count Fidelitas inventory on a weekly basis, I’m going to share my thoughts on which wines to grab first. Watch for full tasting notes on each wine to come next week!
2017 Red Mountain Merlot: When we asked Charlie what he liked about this wine he grinned and nearly shouted “it’s Merlot! it’s just fun!”. My whole team could not stop making yummy noises about this wine. We’re Merlot fans, but this is one that you’re going to want as a daily drinker in your house. If you’re looking for a wine to round out your case with, this is the one. Remember: you get an extra 5% off mixed case orders.
2017 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon: We’re so excited to see this as one of our first releases of the year, versus one of the last. This means that we’ll hopefully be able to keep it in stock for a bit to enjoy over the summer. However, don’t assume it’s going to be around forever. This is such a lovely blend of Quintessence and Fidelitas Estate Vineyards that I don’t anticipate it will last too long.
2017 Optu Red Mountain: *currently sipping this wine and blogging at the same time* This is the one wine that we have produced in every single vintage since our first one, way back in 2000. About a year ago, I got the technical info from our winemaking team on this vintage of Optu, and had so many questions. It was an amazing lesson for me in looking at a wine by the BLOCK (i.e. individual rows of grapes within a vineyard) versus the name of the vineyard itself. Charlie told us that he has this wine on his mind through the growing season. He’s constantly tasting and testing each site to decide what will make it in to Optu. While this, like the Red Mountain Cabernet, is a higher volume wine for us (still less than 700 cases), I really doubt it will make it past the summer months.
On to the Ciel du Cheval Vineyard releases. If you haven’t already, read THIS BLOG POST on why we moved Ciel du Cheval wines to a spring release time slot. During the course of our tasting, Charlie said “Ciel du Cheval Vineyard has a tremendous reputation. If Washington state had Grand Cru designations for our vineyards, Ciel du Cheval would definitely be one of them.”
2017 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Franc: Charlie says, “of all the varieties grown on Red Mountain, Cabernet Franc probably has the most finesse. We don’t go out of our way to make Cabernet Franc from other sites because they just don’t show quality like the fruit from Ciel du Cheval”. Only 142 cases produced on this guy…you’re going to want to GET IT NOW.
2017 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Merlot: Another very low production wine from Ciel, but with less volume allocated to Club selections. Basically, add-on with this wine because you can’t customize with it. While tasting, our team was nothing but joyous giggles as we envisioned drinking velvet. That is basically what it's like to drink this wine.
2017 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Wine: Do we all love Charlie’s Merlots? His Cabernets? His blends? Ciel du Cheval Vineyard? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. There is a reason that Team Fidelitas loves this wine. It is fully a blend of all things good about Fidelitas. By the time our members grab their allocations, there will be very little, if any, left of this wine.
2017 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Petit Verdot: Spoiler alert – we’re releasing our first ever Red Mountain Petit Verdot later this summer. It’s a multi-vineyard blend that is so much fun. We tried them both and I loved that each one was so different. The Ciel du Cheval, by comparison, was rich, floral, and focused. We’re finding that Charlie’s Petit Verdots are highly age-worthy, so definitely grab this if you have that storage system…whatever your style is.
2017 Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Sauvignon: I am hoping that by the time we are done with the Club allocation, we might have 30 cases available of this wine. That isn’t much. Someone in our tasting mentioned that Ciel du Cheval has been nicknamed the “Queen of Red Mountain”: a perfect balance of elegance and power. We all agreed that this could be called Queen Cabernet. So powerful, present tannins, loads of fruit, yet delightfully…feminine. Don’t tell Charlie.
We can’t wait to see so many of you this weekend! For those of you who are coming, take advantage of our Team, and ask them questions as you taste through the line up. For those who cannot attend, we look forward to helping you customize your selections when the allocation season opens next Tuesday! Finally, for those who are not yet members…you really might consider joining.
Dear Friends of Fidelitas:
2019 was another banner year for us at Fidelitas and would not have been possible without the incredible support of each and every one of you, our loyal customers. Not a day goes by where I am not completely humbled by the continued support we receive from all of you who buy and consume the wine that we make. Simply put, thank you.
This 2019 vintage we just experienced in the fall, is the twentieth vintage for Fidelitas. With humble beginnings of just one wine produced form the 2000 vintage, much has changed and evolved for us to be where we are now. In 2006 we purchased land in the Red Mountain AVA and built a tasting room that opened in 2007. In 2008 and again in 2015 we planted land to vineyard and now have twelve acres of producing vineyard. The 2019 vintage is the first vintage where the entire vineyard was in full production and entirely under our own control. Dick Boushey, a legend in the Washington wine business and his amazing team manages the property daily. The future of the Fidelitas Estate Vineyard looks bright as we incorporate the fruit into existing products as well as introducing new products to our line up starting with the 2018 vintage.
I am very excited about the release of the upcoming wines from Fidelitas from the 2017 vintage. Mother nature provided an excellent year for us and I cannot wait to share these wines with you. We will be releasing two new wines in 2020, Quintessence Vineyard Red Blend and a varietal Petit Verdot from a few different vineyards in the Red Mountain AVA. Look for those new wines along with the entire lineup of great wines during the year.
The Red Mountain AVA continues to provide our winemaking team with what I think is the best fruit in the Pacific Northwest. As many of you know, we only make wine from the Red Mountain AVA and I am impressed with the improvement that we see every vintage. Some of this comes with the maturity and consistency of the vineyards, but also, the grape growers who we source fruit from on Red Mountain have really worked at improving in every vintage. This makes our job as winemaker so much easier and will continue to do so in the future.
We continue to make small changes to what we are doing in the winemaking process so that we are continually improving. Fermenting in various shapes and sizes of wood fermenters seems to be a something we not only continue to do but have increased the amount of wood we are using during fermentation. Another area of fine tuning of the process would be matching clonal Cabernet Sauvignon with what we believe to be the proper fermenter as well as the best barrels to age the wine in.
I cannot say enough good things about our entire team of people at Fidelitas. They continue to tell our story and offer relentless customer service to everyone of you. Again, thank you for your continued support.
Charlie Hoppes, Fidelitas Owner + Winemaker
Is it just me, or did 2019 come and go as fast as a glass of Optu White on a hot day?
As this year comes to an end I can’t help but reflect on all of the things that happened. From bad weather trying to come between us and your wine shipments, to Charlie gaining a new employee in the cellar, you can say we pretty much saw it all in 2019. Why don’t we all sit back, sip on some Red Mountain Cabernet (slowly) and reminisce together.
This year started off on let’s say…a very chilly foot. Washington saw some record snowfall while all our friends throughout the country were buried under ice. Florida was sounding really nice wasn’t it? We had to push back the shipping dates on not one, but two club shipments. You could say that Michelle and I were dreaming of easier days. A big THANK YOU to all our members who have their wines shipped. We appreciated you hanging in there with us!
We can’t forget the time that Charlie appeared on Diners, Drive-In’s, and Dives! As Will put it, if you never watched the episode you need to reevaluate how you spend your free time. Charlie can be seen chowing down on some delicious Porters BBQ in the episode titled “Southern to South American.” Do yourselves a favor and find a way to stream it.
One of the bigger things to happen within Fidelitas this year was Will’s transition from Woodinville Tasting Room Manager to Winemaker in Training. He joined his dad in the cellar and quickly learned that days off don’t exist during harvest. Charlie got a real kick out of that! I know our west side members miss seeing him during their visits but take comfort in knowing that he is thriving and has the worlds cutest puppy who is basically Instagram famous (@griffeygoodboy).
Who can take a guess at how many new team members we have at Fidelitas?
Team Fidelitas has gained some amazing and awesome faces. New Tasting Room Managers were hired this spring (shout out to Josh, Allie, and Bryce!) and with all the high foot traffic came some much needed help. If you’re a regular in Woodinville or on Red Mountain you’ll be able to point them out! Make sure to say hi. They love to chat all things wine!
Preview Tastings, Feast of St Fidelis, Winemaker dinners, Summer in the City at Block 41, Harvest Party and Pick6 all made their returns in 2019. What can we say? We like to party with you. I wonder what’s in store for next year?
Check out Charlie's blog posts Vintage of the Decade or Harvest 2019 if you haven't read them already! Hint: one comes with an adorable picture of Will wearing a questionable outfit. To get the low down, take a peek at a blog post by Will titled Reflecting on Fidelitas' 20th Harvest. He has some great insights including what pairs well with Top Ramen (sleep deprivation much?). To sum it up, 2019 was one for the books. According to Charlie “It might be a bit premature to declare 2019 the vintage of the decade but it does show tremendous potential.”
Who just got excited?
And lastly, because of our stellar members in the Wine Club, we are closing down yet again for the holiday season. Turns out you really like the wine! Another year where we can proudly say we sold all of the wine we produced. We take this moment to thank our members for coming through our doors and always leaving as family with a bottle or two to bring home. We hope whenever you open that bottle it reminds you of the good times and conversations.
We’ll see you in 2020!
(note: we realize it’s a little early to be chatting about wines coming out in April, but the nature of the wine industry is that we are always thinking years ahead! And, this way, we can be thinking about sunnier days while gazing at the holiday décor.)
One thing I’ve known about Charlie for a long time, is that he does not follow a recipe. There is no formula, no strict oak regime, no doing the same thing twice in order to achieve the same results. “Our best wines are yet to come,” he has said for years, which is amazing considering he just concluded his 33rd harvest. Charlie is always fiddling with new blocks, new blends, new clones, new barrels. A word that I would use (I don’t think he ever would, being Charlie), is that he is an innovator: someone who refuses to be complacent and wants to continue trying and learning new things in order to present the best possible outcome to our Fidelitas fans.
All of that is a preface to something that we’re changing up this year. Something that makes me, the detail-oriented (dare I say type-A), planner a little uneasy. We’re releasing Ciel du Cheval Vineyard wines in the springtime. But we don’t do that! They come out in the fall! And yet, we’ve done that not because it has anything to do with the wines themselves, but because in my little planning world, it’s easier to just follow a similar release schedule each year.
So why Ciel in the spring? It actually has nothing to do with the Ciel du Cheval Vineyard wines. Talking to Charlie about those five wines, he tells me: “we know we’re going to like the wines from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard. Being a more established site, with older vines, and a high demand, we do use the same blocks each year. We can count on the fruit being amazing. It’s a lower elevation site than a lot of the other vineyards we work with on the mountain, which I think gives it a little softer profile. I am now thinking that it is perhaps the most elegant of the vineyard designated Cabernets that we produce.”
So really, it comes down to the other wines. Those Quintessence Vineyard and Blackwood Canyon Vineyard Cabernets that we have traditionally released in the spring, but are now shifting to a fall release. Why the fall? These wines are getting more time in both the barrel and the bottle before they come to you in an allocation. In fact, the Quintessence Vineyard Cabernet was just being bottled this morning, in December, before the sun came up (most of our other wines were bottled back in August, before harvest started).
“What we’re trying to achieve with the Blackwood and two Quintessence Vineyard Cabernets – Clone 191 and the clone blend – is a bit more flavor integration on these big wines,” Charlie relayed. “They are so big that they could benefit from a little more barrel aging. We’ve previously dialed it in to 22 months in barrel, but what I’ve noticed is that they could go quite a bit longer. I think we’re going to see a better integration of the components with this extended aging. There are phenolic components that come from both the grapes themselves, as well as the barrels. In wines like these that are more concentrated to begin with, they could pick up some of the sweeter tannins and tame the tannins that may be harsh to being with. Of course, the Ciel du Cheval Vineyard wines are giving us the structure and complexity that we look for in that site, however we've always liked the 22-24 months in barrel and don't think they require these few extra months."
More to come soon on the 2017 vintage, as we get ready to release our first 2017 red the first weekend in January (hooray, Red Mountain Malbec!). “In general, we really like these 2017s, a lot. We source from all over the Red Mountain AVA, but really everything is in pretty close proximity. I think this AVA gave us great quality in the 2017 vintage that we are already seeing reflected in the wines.”
T'was the night before Christmas, when all through the cellar
Not a creature was stirring, not even a pup (Griffey);
The stockings were hung by the barrels with care,
In hopes that St. Fidelis would soon be there;
The cellar crew was nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of Ciel-du-Cheval wines danced in their heads.
It’s the season of giving and let’s be honest, finding the perfect gift to give can be hard! I’ve notoriously been a horrible gift-giver. Now, I’m a gifting professional. My secret? Wine.
I keep a steady supply of Fidelitas on my wine rack- and not just for me. Fidelitas is the wine I grab for those that are close to my heart or for invites to holiday parties and meals. Not only is it the perfect 'thanks for hosting' gift, it pairs beautifully with food.
It's no coincidence that a stocking is the perfect size for a bottle of wine. Just be careful not to turn that fireplace on! Wine doesn't like to be too toasty. But, if you do enjoy chestnuts roasting on an open fire, crack open that bottle while you're at it.
For those friends who live too far to cheers with, Fidelitas ships wine at a flat-rate. Spoil them with a case and shipping is free. (P.S. members get 25% off on case purchases). We even have a crew of elves that will gift wrap each bottle and leave your gift message in a hand-written card.
If you are like me, and want to give more than just a bottle of your favorite wine, give the gift of membership. A wine club membership is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving. Choose between our Optu Wine Club for those that are local or the Electus Wine Club for those in far away places.
Finally, spending time with those you love is one of the best gifts of all. Our hearts grow five sizes when members introduce us to their friends. Our tasting rooms are open 11-5 pm on Red Mountain and in Woodinville until December 22nd.
It’s Thanksgiving time! Not a one of us can believe that 2019 is winding down, and that once again, we are just about to run out of wine. In the spirit of the holiday week, let’s check in with our team to find out what we are each thankful for.
I know that I have said this before, but it still holds true. I am thankful for Team Fidelitas. All the way from the production staff, which includes the cellar, lab, and winemaking team who make the wines and get it into the bottles, to the great staff people in the tasting rooms who make that final sale. Everyone has a role and they are doing a great job with it.
I am thankful for the wonderful people that I have the opportunity to work with and learn from, as well as all of the amazing club members that come in and brighten each and every day!
Where to begin!? Most importantly, I'm thankful to work with people who now double as friends. From weddings and birthdays, baby showers and trips, I have memories with Fidelitas that will last a lifetime. And to our members, I'm thankful that you have made my job so enjoyable these past 5 1/2 years! Many stories and laughs have been shared over a bottle of Fidelitas and I look forward to more of that in 2020.
I’m thankful for team Fidelitas and our Fidelitas wine club! Im alway look forward to sharing the excitement of limited release wines with our club members!! There’s no better group to geek out with.
Things I'm thankful for:
I am thankful for our hard-working winemaking team! They make our jobs easy in the tasting rooms. Every wine, every vintage is just amazing, and it is a pleasure to share their work with our guests.
I am so very thankful for all of the people I have met while working at Fidelitas. They have started out as friends and become family. I am very blessed!
Running a winery is no joke, and so it is easy for me to recognize all of the people and things I’m thankful for, knowing that there is no way I could do it alone. Thank you to...
Team Fidelitas: we have a bunch of new faces in Fidelitas leadership this year, and my newest members (Josh, Allie, and Bryce) each bring a unique quality and special talent to the team. In many ways, I feel like I’ve known them forever! Mix them with such a strong tasting room force in both locations, Stacey keeping me on track, my absolutely amazing Club team, and CHARLIE HOPPES at the helm, it’s magical.
Our Members: we started 2019 with 0 available bottles to sell and are going to be ending the year in just about the same boat. That means every wine we released this year, we sold, and almost all of that is going to our Club members. Thank you, thank you, for bringing Fidelitas into your homes and sharing it with your closest friends and families. It means to so much to us. You all are faithful, loyal, and true.
Red Mountain Wines (and the people who make them): There is no way we have such happy members or such a strong Team without absolutely incredible wines to showcase. Charlie and his winemaking team have committed to finding, sourcing, and producing the best blocks of fruit on Red Mountain, and we are all so thankful for that dedication to quality and craft.
I don’t know about you, but I have spent many a year, too many, trying to create the perfect Thanksgiving gathering for family and friends. Now that I am of a certain age, I have become wise to the fact that shooting for perfection is boring for others and stressful for me – and highly disappointing for EVERYONE in the end. So PERFECTLY IMPERFECT is my mantra for the holidays now. Run out of time to make homemade cranberry sauce? No worries grab a can opener and embrace the art deco lines from the can on that jiggly version. No flowers for the table? Got it covered. Send the kids outside to gather some colorful leaves and a few interesting twigs and berries. Aunt Helen and Uncle Frank going to be there an hour earlier than everyone else? Hmmm. That’s going to be a bit more challenging. And that, as we all know, is why wine is so critical to the IMPERFECTLY PERFECT holiday season.
Trying to find the perfect wines to go with the Thanksgiving meal can add even more stress for some. But the real secret is to let go of the “perfect pairing” and simply choose “delicious”. Delicious wins every time. And fortunately for you, Fidelitas is the go-to wine for DELICIOUS across the board. We sadly sold out of our Optu White before summer even ramped up this year BUT it’s back and better than ever! You name the dish; the answer will always be Optu White for your white wine fans (and many red wine fans as well!). The creaminess the Semillon brings and the crisp, bright acidity that Sauvignon Blanc delivers is the best combination. It is perfectly balanced and will take you from appetizers to dessert. It’s the only white you need for the entire meal.
For the red wine lovers, the wines I would choose to please a wide audience is the Fidelitas Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Franc (current vintage is sold out, so those of you who have it, POP IT!) which always delivers softer tannins and subtle spicy and herbal notes. Others I would add to the table are the 2016 Ciel du Cheval Merlot (which is a Wine Club only wine) and the 2016 Red Mountain Merlot (available to all!). Both bring beautiful structure, velvety tannins and fantastic fruit like only Red Mountain can deliver.
Team Fidelitas wishes you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. And we are sincerely thankful for all of you and your support of the wines crafted by Charlie and his team! And just a final thought: keep in mind that at the center of every great gathering is the connection we make with everyone in that space not the appearance of perfection. We all want to feel included and seen and special, no matter our age or calling in life. In my opinion, there is no better way to say that than letting people know you love them just the way they are – knowing they will always be PERFECTLY IMPERFECT! Please take the time to just BE this holiday season and enjoy the moment just the way it is…...with a glass of Fidelitas in hand of course!
Wine Clubs have been around for a long time. Even the Fidelitas Wine Club has been going strong for almost 15 years. For a lot of wineries out there, there haven’t been a lot of changes other than upgrading from desktop computers to iPads in the tasting room. Most wineries are still following a recipe for their wines, deciding what they think will appeal to the masses, and pre-selecting your Club shipment for you.
As the Fidelitas Wine Club has grown over the years, we’ve always known that what is most important is to give you, the customer, access to our best wines sourced from the most sought after vineyards on Red Mountain, and personalize your experience along the way by giving you what you really want.
A couple years ago, we had to change the way things ran around here because we were finding that we couldn’t make enough of a certain wine to fulfill the whole Wine Club. 96 cases of Ciel du Cheval Petit Verdot isn’t going to go very far when we have a club that needs over 200 cases of a particular wine to give every member just 1 bottle, and these small lot wines are just too good to produce in this way. So, we changed the club from what was once the traditional “we pick for you” model to a more customized club experience. This gave Charlie the freedom to continue to produce vineyard designated (and sometimes Clonal specific) wines and still make our members happy…win win!
How the Club works:
There is a catch…
Our wines are first come, first served. This meaning that if you don’t secure your allocation then you might miss out on our most limited wines. Take the wines we are releasing this fall from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard for example. Members who customize their allocation by October 31 are able to choose from the following wines:
2016 Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Franc – 142 cases produced – SOLD OUT
2016 Ciel du Cheval Merlot – 142 cases produced – 40 left
2016 Ciel du Cheval Red Wine – 288 cases produced – 20 left
2016 Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Sauvignon – 386 cases produced – 19 left
Plus you can add on:
2016 Ciel du Cheval Petit Verdot – 96 cases produced – 13 left
Cabernet Franc, a fan favorite, sold out in a matter of weeks once we opened the Club selection window and Petit Verdot and Red Wine aren’t far behind it. This means that if you have certain wines you know you want, get in there and reserve them as soon as the selection window opens. We like to think our release window opening is just as exciting as tickets going on sale for your favorite concert…and to be honest, our members have broken the internet before with excitement!
Keep an eye on your email for news regarding the wines to come in the new year. They are our most anticipated yet!
First off, I'd like to give a shout out to our cellar crew and specifically my dad and Mitch who were awesome teachers this harvest (with no shortage of sarcasm) and with many loooong days in a row, made Fidelitas' 20th harvest a success.
Look at how chipper and well-rested we look
As I sit here writing this on October 29th it marks (almost exactly) 2 months since we picked and pressed Klipsun Sauvignon Blanc just before Labor Day Weekend to get Harvest 2019 kicked off. We noted that the sugar levels were notably lower than what we had picked it at in previous years, but it tasted ripe and we didn’t think it would benefit from more time on the vines, so we decided to start bringing stuff in. Little did we know, this theme of ripeness at lower sugar levels would carry on into almost every one of our vineyard blocks.
Klipsun Sauvignon Blanc - the base of our Optu White
Klipsun SB was shortly followed by all of our other white blocks Klipsun Semillon, Artz SB, Artz SM, and Quintessence SB. Early September weather was perfect grape-ripening weather with highs in the high 80's and 90's and nighttime temperatures in the low 50's. Things kept moving along like clockwork with Quintessence Merlot, our first red every year, picked on September 4th, followed by other Merlots from around the mountain, Cabernets, Malbecs, and so-on. Working with the same blocks year-after-year my dad has "his rhythm" figured out knowing the order that our fruit tends to ripen in and can work his daily vineyard visits accordingly. In 2019 alone Fidelitas had 13 different vineyard partners that we worked with resulting in 85 individual lots, sometimes as small as 2 barrels, which will stay separate from one another until blending (i.e., a single varietal from a single vineyard block, fermented in a specific way: oak tank, roller barrels, upright barrels, etc...) That being said, even an individual lot is split further into different fermenations like our Blackwood Cab, which was split amongst 1 oak tank and 6 individual roller barrels. A perfect example of the attention this attention to detail: after years of experience on Red Mountain we're now able to match individual clones of Cabernet from certain vineyards and match them with our favorite fermenters, barrels, and winemaking techniques that we think they'll work best with in that particular vintage. It's something that makes for long days throughout every step of the winemaking process but results in wines of amazing quality and classic "Red Mountain" characteristics that we love.
Roller barrels and upright barrels tucked into a corner of the winery during the peak of harvest
One thing I touched in an earlier blog post is how "bright" and lively on the palate all of the wines were as we were tasting samples out of the tanks and press before going into barrel. I think what happened is we didn't have an extremely hot summer, only a few days reaching 100+, followed by mild/warm fall which allowed the wines to ripen at a higher acid level resulting in wines that should have great structure and ageability. My dad reflected on the harvest as being one of those magical harvests you get every so often if you stay at it long enough: "The quality level of this vintage is exceptional and reminds me of 2009 and to a certain extent, 1999. Both of those vintages turned out to be incredible years. We are consistently able to reach the flavors we are looking for at lower than normal Brix levels, leading to slightly lower alcohol levels and higher natural acids. My theory is that with more moderate summer temperatures, we had less days when the vines shut down to protect themselves from the heat. We were able to accumulate sugar at a more even pace and thus, a great year. It might be a bit premature to declare 2019 the vintage of the decade but it does show tremendous potential."
Filling tanks on his birthday
When we look back at this vintage one thing that will sadly be one of the defining moments is the mid-October frost that affected most of Eastern WA. We got hit around October 8-9 which shut down most vines that had fruit still on them and forced a lot of winemakers to pick earlier than expected. Luckily for us we were about 90% of the way done at the time being on Red Mountain which is one of the earlier ripening areas. Looking back, we noted that it was really only a couple bad days that changed things as the weather warmed up immediately after and remained pretty mellow for the rest of October. But that's what happens in agriculture and what makes winemaking so unique in that each vintage and bottle of wine has its own memories both good and bad attached.
Red Mountain the morning after a hard freeze
Other reflections/things I learned/things I was reminded of this year:
Quintessence Merlot #nofilter
Cheers to 2019!