Not only is it the month where we celebrate club members new and old, but it is also the month where we put focus on staff training! It’s important to us that our staff is always up to date on the latest things happening on Red Mountain, and with Fidelitas.
This past week Team Red Mountain and Team Woodinville got together at the winery to spend a few days exploring vineyards, listening to some Red Mountain legends and of course, try some amazing wine.
We sat with Charlie in our tasting room overlooking our estate vineyard. He discussed his own history and how he started on Red Mountain, clones in our vineyards, and what the future holds for Fidelitas!
From there, we met with JJ Williams down at Kiona. What better way to get some history lessons on Red Mountain than listening to the OG’s themselves! It was fascinating to tour some of the oldest vineyards on the mountain while listening to the family history. If you are planning a trip, this stop is a must. He even had us taste some wine. Darn!
To continue our educational tour we headed to Wine Boss. The place where all the wine magic happens! It’s always great to get a refresher on the process of wine making. It’s also fun to listen to the team nerd out over things like Sauvignon Blanc barrels and cross flow filtration. Charlie, Mitch, and Hillary then had us sit down and go through a Clonal Cabernet Tasting. Let me tell you, it got us excited for future Fidelitas Cabernet!
To end the day we all got together on the Fidelitas patio, ate burgers and drank some of our favorite wines. Including future releases!
On this day, everyone hopped into a 15-passenger van with Charlie to tour some of our favorite vineyards. Fidelitas Estate, Blackwood Canyon, The Canyons, Shaw, Red Heaven, Quintessence, and Ciel du Cheval just to name a few. Seeing the beautiful locations and hearing Charlie speak just confirmed why Red Mountain is so special.
What better way to end Staff Vineyard Tours than eat some BBQ and drink the new 2014 Canyons Vineyard Malbec? That’s exactly what we did!
We like to think one of the best perks of being a club member at Fidelitas is the invitation to party with us all year long, and we provide no shortage of events that you can set your clock by. When you become a member of the Fidelitas Wine Club you are invited regular celebrations to enjoy your favorite wines with Charlie, Team Fidelitas, and other members like yourself. We have a handful of smaller local events that happen every month but a few big ones that you can count on each year include:
Winemaker Dinner at Anthology in Richland – February
Fidelitas in Portland, OR – April
Feast of St. Fidelis on Red Mountain – May
Fidelitas Suite at Seattle Mariners – June + August
Summer in the City in Seattle – August
Estate Vineyard Dinner on Red Mountain – September
Harvest Party on Red Mountain – October
Pick Six Winemaker Dinner at El Gaucho in Bellevue – November
Holiday Shopping Parties on Red Mountain + Woodinville – December
Fidelitas Roadshow visiting new cities every year
As a perk of your Fidelitas Club Membership you receive exclusive and priority access to these events. Join now to attend Summer in the City this August in Seattle!
We always celebrate and appreciate our members but this is a month where we celebrate ALL Members new and old. Just today, I had the opportunity to visit with a faithful, loyal, and true club member of nearly 10 years who is visiting us from Tennessee. It’s always such a pleasure to share the afternoon and tasting room with our local members too! I also was able to chat with some club members who recently joined and I hadn’t had the pleasure of helping them, we recognized one another but I hadn’t helped them in the past, but not today! We were both thrilled to have the opportunity to get to know one another. These are the little things that we appreciate, getting to know our members on a personal level and going the extra mile to make sure they feel appreciated.
If you are a current club member you may have received a special survey from our club team. So often our members get to hear from us but we always love to hear from you! This is your chance to tell us what you love most about Fidelitas. Is it the wines? The people? Charlie? Or, everything! The list goes on and on, do you wish to see more events, user choice options, or do you love free shipping. Sit down with a glass of your favorite Fidelitas wine, this time of year I am reaching for Optu White and fill out the survey that we are offering all month long. The best part is you are entered in a drawing to win one of our lovely Fidelitas logo picnic blankets.
If you haven’t taken the time to join our wine club yet, what are you waiting for? This is the perfect time! We are offering all new members a logo wine key, great for opening your first bottle from your upcoming members only wines that will be released in the fall. All current members who refer their friends to the wine club will receive a $25 referral credit to use on their next wine purchase of a $100 or more.
Upgrading your club membership is easy! Are you a faithful, loyal, true member who has recently visited the tasting room with your friends and you really want those additional complimentary tastings, then upgrade to our Optu level and receive 4 complimentary tasting per visit. The other benefit to our Optu Club is added 20% off all purchases, 25% off all mixed cases and you receive more wine, which is perfect for entertaining or cellaring!
We want everyone to take full advantage of our wine club so stop in today or contact a member of our stellar Wine Club Concierge team and we will get it taken care of!
With the release of our first ever Red Mountain single vineyard Malbec, 2014 Canyons Malbec, coming August 1st, and yesterday’s bottling of our 2015 Quintessence Malbec, I decided to call up the Wine Boss and talk all things Malbec.
As far as vineyard designate wines go, Cabernet Sauvignon, has been the staple for Fidelitas and Washington state as a whole. However, after creating a Red Mountain Malbec for the first time in 2013, Charlie started to notice that Malbec from our AVA was complex and distinct enough to stand out on its own, and like many other varietals stood out in a lineup as being from Red Mountain with its more bold and tannic nature. Fidelitas had traditionally done a Columbia Valley Malbec beginning in 2004, with a single vineyard Northridge Malbec in 2012.
When asked to compare the two Malbecs against each other, he noted that 14 and 15 were both warm vintages so there isn’t much variation there. The Canyons vines are quite literally in a canyon – sitting on an extreme slope down into a pot creating its own mesoclimate. The wine created here is more of a traditional Washington and comparable to South American Malbec with the spiciness showing strong notes of white pepper. The Quintessence sits on more of a traditional gradual south-western facing slope, and is more similar to the 14 Red Mountain Malbec showing juicier and black fruit characteristics, however does have the traditional spice notes that you’d expect just subtler. The extremely dark color (mimicking our black-on-black, phantom, murdered out, matte black, etc… label) tends to be deceiving with how fruit-forward and approachable the wines are.
There’s the possibility of single vineyard Malbecs from Scooteney Flats and Kiona which we’ve worked with in the past, however our staple Malbec blend won’t be going away any time soon. We’re also pulling fruit from the estate Malbec vines for the first time this year so we’ll see how those shape up as well. One interesting things to note is how harsh winters can effect Malbec production more so than the other heartier varietals – meaning that production could vary year to year based off the winter freeze.
Pro-tip: bring a bottle of our 2014 Red Mountain Malbec to have with the “country natural beef short ribs w malbec glaze” at Bellevue’s Black Bottle gastrotavern.
Another pro-tip: doing the cooking yourself and stop by either of our tasting room locations to pick up some Red Mountain Malbec as part of our Pairings for the Grill discounted 6-pack.
Guess what? It's finally summer! Get ready for the BBQ’s, pool parties, concerts, and a lot of dinners on the patio.
I’m sure with these exciting plans you are expected to bring something, probably the wine? Below, I am making it easy with some of our best current releases perfect for those summer extravaganzas! In case you are also expected to provide a dish, I’ll provide a recipe.
2016 Red Mountain Semillon - free 2 Day Air Shipping 12+ bottles!
fruit platters + cheese plates + salads + fish
check out a delicious recipe here!
pork chops + chicken + lamb
check out a delicious recipe here!
anything on the grill
check out a delicious recipe here!
2014 Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon - last vintage!
steak + steak + more steak
check out a delicious recipe here!
Stop by the tasting rooms, go online, or reserve a bottle through your Club Team.
Happy summer everyone!
If you find yourself with some free time, swing by one of our two tasting rooms on Red Mountain or in Woodinville. We’re open daily from 11am to 5pm, featuring a flight of summertime wines, and cheese plates by prior request while they last. Wine tasting is one of my favorite ways to spend a sunny weekend or random day off work. Best of all I like to visit when I have friends and family in town! Stop by anytime or let us know you’re coming for a special tasting.
With hundreds of wineries in Washington it can be overwhelming to know where to visit. The Fidelitas Club Concierge Team has recommendations of wineries to visit, and places to stay and eat in Wine Country. We’re always around to send you some of our favorite places to visit! Contact us by calling or texting 509.554.9191 or email us here.
Schedule tastings with wineries in advance and start early. You can usually plan for tastings to take between 45 minutues to an hour at each winery. Bring snacks like cheese and crackers and drink plenty of water in between tastings to maximize your trip. Make your dining reservations ahead of time so you know where you’ll refuel at the end of the day!
Can’t make it in? Ship orders placed by 9am on Wednesday, June 14th, are guaranteed to be delivered by Friday or give him the gift that keeps on giving with a membership to the Fidelitas Wine Club.
I recently found myself with a stocked fridge of white wines, just in time for the warmer Summers in Eastern Washington. Typically, I have always been a red wine fan and of course a huge supporter of Rosé, until recently. I had the realization that I was shutting myself off to wine, I was developing a “house pallet” and I wasn’t allowing myself to drink wines that would open my mind to new regions, flavors and in the long run improve my tasting skills. I began to sample and purchase several new wines I generally wouldn’t, hence the fridge full of white wine.
Through this, I could explore tons of new varietals and find that I do enjoy white wines more than I thought I did. I love an oaked Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon or even a Chardonnay. Preferably one that’s dry and crisp with a full fruit on the pallet. Luckily for me, Fidelitas has just released our 2016 Red Mountain Semillon that has all those characteristics making it my favorite patio wine this summer.
The 2016 Red Mountain Semillon is all sourced from Artz Vineyard which is located on the lower portion of Red Mountain. The lower elevation and proximity to the Yakima River allow for bright acid retention, while the varietal and slope provide ripe fruit flavors of white peach, bosc pear, nectarine and honey.
For most wine lovers, we are all tasting and enjoying wine for different reasons and that’s great. My challenge to all of you is the next time you are strolling through the Fidelitas website, the grocery store, or your best friends wine cellar grab something you typically wouldn’t try. The Semillon is the perfect pairing for Summertime or even the perfect red wine drinkers white.
Before we make predictions about how Red Mountain will look in the next 5, 10, or 15 years we must look at where we’ve been. More specifically the dramatic change that our AVA has undergone in the past 3 years. Since the completion of the 5-year-long Kennewick Irrigation Districts: “Red Mountain Project” which brought Yakima River water to the southwestern facing “scrublands” (as they were endearingly referred to in this 2015 Tri City Herald article, the total acreage planted has doubled to 2300-2400. Over half of the entire area. Taking a look at EveryVine.com, you’ll notice how dense Red Mountain planting (57.5%) is compared to other famous American regions’ % planted; Napa Valley = 2.9%, Oakville (Napa Sub-Appellation) = 24.2%, Saint Helena (Napa Sub-Appellation) = 5.4%, Yountville (Napa Sub-Appellation) = 12.1%, Sonoma Valley = 9%, and Walla Walla Valley = 0.9%, to name a few.
We know that Red Mountain produces extremely high-quality fruit from older vineyards that we’ve worked with like Kiona, Ciel du Cheval, and Blackwood Canyons planted back in the well-water days and think that the best is yet to come. We’re not alone. Charlie estimates that 5 more wineries will be built within the next 3 years. He’s not worried about the mountain losing its farmland charm as the entire area is zoned for agriculture -- It’ll be all vineyards and wineries for now. Plus the high-profile neighbors moving in, planting vineyards, and building wineries will make Red Mountain even more of a Washington Wine lover’s dream destination.
Although Charlie was first introduced to Red Mountain in 1989 and we’ve called it home for 10 years now, there’s still so much to be done. We’ve been highly impressed by the quality of our estate fruit for such a young vineyard (first planted in 2008). Charlie envisions future bottlings of Merlot, Petit Verdot, an Estate Red Blend, and was specifically excited about offering the wine club Individual Clonal Cabernet releases. As it stands now we have 6 different clones of Cabernet planted. The latest release of the Blackwood Cabernet was also a good sign to see that type of old-vine quality coming from a vineyard so close in proximity to ours.
The Estate isn’t the only young vineyard that we’re excited about. With the quality that we’ve gotten from younger places like Quintessence (established in 2010) and Canyons (established in 2009), Charlie believes that in 10 years’ time Red Mountain will be the best place to make Cabernet in the world. I jokingly told him that I’d quote him on that – I quickly realized he wasn’t joking. At a recent birthday dinner paired with some Santa Maria Tri Tip and grilled oysters we had our 2012 Estate Cab and some 2009 Napa Cab from Martha’s Vineyard, both incredible, but we wouldn’t say that one was of superior quality (although at our un-blind, and biased tasting we preferred Estate).
In the winery, Charlie and his team are also staying true to modern craft winemaking techniques by playing around with new and innovative ways to ferment reds in direct contact with wood. He estimates that 50% of the wines this year will be fermented using some sort of wood method while 100% of the Estate wines will receive the oak treatment. Depending on the fermentation method used the wines are barreled separately them to a) get a better sense on how the fermentation methods are affecting the wines, and b) giving them more to play with come blending time. From my understanding, the roller fermenters offer a more intimate cap contact with the juice since it’s fully enclosed and there’s nowhere for the cap to go – wood in general also provides better insulation that stainless steel. Charlie also admits that he doesn’t fully understand the interchange of the phenolics in the wood and grapes during this process (as opposed to traditional stainless-steel fermentation), however says that in general it gives the juice a more viscous mouth-feel, and that the investment in oak fermenters have been well worth the investment thus far across the board.
I for one am proud to be all-in on Red Mountain, and look forward to what the years ahead bring for Fidelitas and our AVA that we call home.
Charlie always had his heart set on Red Mountain and knew that one day he would own his own land so he would be able to call it home. In 2006 Charlie approached Stan Clarke, a colleague and well-known figure in the industry, and provided a proposal to purchase land even though it wasn’t for sale. The rest was history! He had purchased 5 acres soon after that meeting and already had some ideas of what he wanted to plant. Sadly, Stan passed away in 2007 and that is when Charlie purchased the additional 10 acres from Stan’s widow, Carol.
“I think Stan would be happy with that we have done with the land, I’m certain.” - Charlie
Once water was brought to the mountain, he planted roughly 3 acres with Dick Boushey back in 2009. Cabernet Sauvignon was number one on the list of grapes to be planted so they planted clones 2, 6, and 8. Clones 2 and 6 have both shined, especially clone 2 which we have used every year, and because of this Charlie was sure to plant more of each in the new planting of 9 acres.
In this new planting, they experimented with clones 412, another entav clone which Charlie is excited about, clone 33 which is equivalent to 191. This clone type can be a little more old world in style with a bit of softness to it. Along with those, he also planted clone 169 which is found in Quintessence Vineyard. Charlie has had great luck with this clone and is anxious to use more of it.
Aside from Cabernet Sauvignon we planted the remaining four Bordeaux varietals. Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and some Petit Verdot. Charlie think’s Petit Verdot will do great things for us in the future so they planted a little more than originally anticipated. Dick and his crew have done an amazing job with our vineyards and think everything is in great shape for the 2017 vintage.
So far, we have released two vintages of our Fidelitas Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 being the first. Later this fall we will release our third vintage, the 2014. He mentioned recently that the 2013 vintage might be his favorite so far however, the 2014 is “rich with black fruit and very concentrated, definitely drinkable young because of the warmer vintage.”
We asked Charlie what his vision was for the Fidelitas Estate Vineyard moving forward. He said that the new blocks could possibly contribute to the Cabernet Sauvignon we currently have, and that the different varieties lend itself to a blend. He is excited to see which specific varietals and blocks jump out at him because it could work as a separate wine.
“Wines will determine our destiny.” - Charlie
This upcoming harvest will be my 30th, and I can easily say that I’ve seen night and day differences in the Washington wine industry over the last three decades.
I was hired out of UC Davis in 1988 by Mike Januik to work at FW Langguth, just outside of Mattawa. Our emphasis was definitely on white wines: Riesling, Chenin Blanc, and some Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. We did a few reds (Cabernet, Merlot, and Lemberger) but they were somewhat of an afterthought, and 90% of our production at that facility was sweet, fruity whites that would be released by Thanksgiving of each vintage.
|At FW Langguth with daughter Emily, who called the grapes "peas", in 1988.|
At this point in time, the industry was still fairly small, and grapes were somewhat hard to come by. Chateau Ste. Michelle was dominating the industry, with a few small others starting to emerge, like Preston and Hogue. There were probably less than 35 wineries in the industry at that time. There weren’t as many opportunities or money in the industry, employment wise, but it was a great start for initial perspective.
This probably puts me in the realm of someone who is a veteran in Washington. There aren’t many of us who have been around that long who are still at it now. Maybe David Forsyth, Mike Januik, Joy Andersen, Doug Gore, Gordy Hill, and Brian Carter to name just a few. Not too many people!
When I reflect on 30 years in the industry, and think of where it has been and where it is going, I feel optimistic for our future. We’ve accomplished a lot in the time it has been going on, but I think we’re in a great place and poise to make an impact on the world of wine. Today, it’s easier than ever to enter the business in Washington, and we’ve found a lot of great grape growing sites over the decades. There are new opportunities, that even California wineries are taking advantage of by moving to the Northwest. We still make a lot of white, but often those are lower price blends from larger companies. At Fidelitas, 90% of our production is red wine. We’ve been able to find some really nice white grapes on Red Mountain, but our focus is really on the reds, as evidenced by what is planted in our own vineyard. This is really a trend for Red Mountain as a whole, and different from where I began, with 95% of its planted acres dedicated to red grapes.
Washington is differentiated from the old world, really by the market forces. Unlike France, there is no one telling us what we can plant where, and that has opened us up to being able to adjust with the marketplace demand without having to ask permission first. We can always plant, and pull, depending on what works in a vineyard site, and in the market. On Red Mountain, we are seeing that the plantings are mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, and probably 90% of the red grapes Bordeaux varietals. There are some other varietals planted as well, but in smaller quantities. Right now, I think that shows us the demand and where that is leading us in the future.
I, and now Fidelitas, was drawn to Red Mountain based on the wines that we were making, and wanted to focus on more. I always knew that I wanted to make Red Mountain wines, but the access to the fruit was so limited. We had to look elsewhere for fruit when we first started, and before I could ever make the wines that we are making today, I was tasting wines from other wineries who were able to get Red Mountain fruit. In the early 2000’s, that meant that grapes were sourced mainly from Klipsun, Kiona, Ciel du Cheval, Red Mountain Vineyard, and a bit of Hedges Estate.
|More than just Red Mountain has changed since 1989.|
I’ll always remember my first visit to Red Mountain, and it’s a story I’ve told many times, because it was the day my daughter Allison was born. I was at Lemberger Days at Kiona, on June 11, 1989, pouring Lemberger for Snoqualmie winery. That day, we drove around with my wife, Terri, her mom, and my first daughter, Emily. It was a warm day, with just a small crowd, maybe 50-60 people, and Don Mercer gave a long speech about the benefits of Lemberger and how great it’d be in the future. Ali was born later that evening.
In 1988, Red Mountain had just a pothole infested gravel road that went up the mountain and was otherwise inhabited by just apple orchards, sagebrush, rattlesnakes, and just a few vineyards. Still, I thought this could really be something someday. Trying the wines from this region, I could see they were different, intense, and special.
I worked at Chateau Ste. Michelle beginning in 1990, and as head red winemaker starting in 1993, and by 1998, found myself at a crossroads in my career, ready to try my own style. With a big winery like that, you can become a career winemaker and retire with the company, or decide to create something on your own. At that time, it wasn’t as common to have a label within the company, so I ventured out with the encouragement of family to start my own brand.
I feel like the first 30 years of my career could be called a pioneering stage. I made a lot of great wines from a lot of great vineyard sites, and growing regions, but now that we’ve been making Red Mountain wines since 2005, I’ve decided to completely focus our line up on Red Mountain. When I look at Red Mountain, I know that this is a region that can stand the test of time, and that is evidenced by the wines made by those 40+ year old vines. Everyone in the state gravitates to Red Mountain to make a really great, concentrated, tannic wine. That’s the style I thought I wanted to make, and although I couldn’t access Red Mountain fruit for our first vintage in 2000, we did find some great vineyards like Weinbau, Windrow, and of course, Champoux Vineyard. By 2005, we were able to add Red Mountain fruit to the line up and are now all in on this one region.
I still feel like we are just touching the tip of the iceberg on the potential of Red Mountain. I say that with a biased Red Mountain or Washington palate, but have tasted wines from all over the world, with Bordeaux and California as our competitive framework, and really feel like what we can do on Red Mountain can be every bit as good as those wines. Certainly, they are different, but I’m bullish on the future, and know that Red Mountain will be thought of in the same sense as all of those great growing regions of the world.
Today, our product line up - outside of Ciel du Cheval, and some anomalies like the old vines of Blackwood Canyon Vineyard, and Kiona Vineyard – is sourced from vineyards that are fairly young, including Quintessence Vineyard (planted in 2008), the Fidelitas Estate Vineyard, and the Canyons Vineyard (both planted in 2009). For the most part, we are just starting to see how these vineyards will show in the future, including our own Estate. It’s an exciting time. The winemaking style is constantly evolving, and I don’t feel like it’s ever totally figured out or dialed in, like you may see in California where blocks and barrels are determined without a ton of variation each vintage. Our own style is still emerging somewhat, and at least until the Estate Vineyard is totally up and going, and we continue to move forward with other vineyard sites on the mountain.
On the winemaking side, we’re constantly evolving as well. One of our newer focuses is fermentation in the presence of oak, which started in 2011 and 2012 vintage reds with oak uprights and roller fermenters. This year, we’ll add a few closed top oak fermenters, that will be used in the 2017 vintage, and enable us to have at least 50% of our reds fermented in wood. Over the years, our product line up that once included Chardonnay and Syrah, has been focused on Bordeaux varietals. In 2007, our physical presence on Red Mountain, and then the planting of our Estate Vineyard in 2009, guided that focus. It’s what I’m most comfortable and familiar with after my 30 years, and seems to be a natural fit for Fidelitas.
I am really excited to see what the Fidelitas Estate Vineyard is going to give us. The first few vintages have been great, and we’ll see more come on line beginning in the 2017 vintage. We always felt that establishing ourselves, with a tasting room and vineyard, on Red Mountain would be sustainable for future generations to pass on. This was a goal that we discussed when we first started to build Fidelitas, and are continuing to chat about as we look towards the future.