This spring, we release four wines to our Wine Club that were harvested in the 2010 vintage. Boushey Red Wine, Champoux Magna Red, Optu Red Mountain and Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon join the already released Red Heaven Merlot, Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Franc and Columbia Valley Malbec. In the fall, our Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Sauvignon and Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot will finalize the releases from this distinct growing season. 2010 created quite a buzz around Washington state, and is worth looking at in more detail.
2010 is easily one of the coolest vintages on record. What does this really mean? It certainly meant that it challenged our patience as winemakers. For many, 2010 was a year that had not been seen before, since the 2005 - 2009 vintages leading up to this point were so warm and the grapes ripened easily. To a certain extent, it was a trip down memory lane for me. 2010 was reminiscent of the 1999 vintage, which turned out to be very similar. The key element to making wine in both of these vintages was knowing the right time to pick fruit that in other years would have been considered unripe.
The growing season started off with a mild spring and a relatively cool summer. It was a warmer than normal September and October that allowed grapes to ripen to maturity. We saw many days in September in the high 70’s to low 80’s. These temperatures extended into October as well. If we had not had such a warm fall we really could have been in serious trouble.
Perfect balance would be a great descriptor for this vintage. The vineyards that were able to provide us with mature fruit (like those on Red Mountain), produced wines that almost made themselves. These grapes had nice, high natural acids, with optimal amounts of sugar. We saw an incredible maturity of flavors at a lower brix level. Many of the grapes we picked from 2010 were in the range of 23-24 brix, versus waiting until 25-26 brix in other vintages for the same flavors.
Rarely do we get these ideal conditions. Even after we put the wines through malolactic fermentation, they did not require an adjustment of acid later on. Basically, as a winemaker, all you really had to do was to get the wines through primary fermentation and into a barrel.
For Fidelitas, I have always liked the warmer vintages of 2005, 2007 & 2009. Our first vintage for Fidelitas was 2000, so we have not experienced the likes of 1999 for our wines. The 2010 wines will be different than we have seen in the past, which I am very excited about. Higher natural acidities and lower alcohols with ripe flavors could mean an outstanding vintage with incredible ageing potential.
At some point, we might look back at 2010 as one of the best vintages ever from Washington. Like the wines from 1999, the value of a cooler vintage may become apparent years after the wines are released. Enjoy the 2010 releases that are coming out this year and store a few away in your cellar to test this impressive vintage.
You may have noticed my interest in Red Mountain extends beyond our tasting room with a growing portfolio of wines from surrounding vineyards. I am excited to announce that new releases in 2013 will add to our Red Mountain collection and to let you know we will continue to grow a diverse collection of these limited release wines in the coming vintages.
Why Red Mountain? Well, first and most importantly, the vineyards are exceptional and the site’s varied terroir supports high quality, complex wines, but beyond that, I also hold a personal connection to Red Mountain that dates back to 1989.
Before discovering Red Mountain, life in black and white. With wife, Terri and first daughter, Emily in the spring of 1988.
On a memorable hot June day of that year, when there were fewer than 600 acres planted, my wife Terri and I visited Red Mountain for the first time to attend a tasting at Kiona. Later that evening, she gave birth to our second daughter. Throughout the early 1990s as we were adding to our family (Will and Mary later joined sisters Emily and Ali), we’d pile all four kids in the car and drive to Red Mountain for a Sunday picnic.
Working the crush pad at Langguth in October of 1988.
Long after the kids’ sports and dance competitions replaced our Sunday drives, I continued to visit Red Mountain, so when Fidelitas launched plans for a tasting room in 2005, I knew this is where I wanted to land. Once we were fortunate enough to secure our property, I began looking for Red Mountain grapes to purchase. I managed to buy a small lot of Merlot that year and make our first Red Mountain-designated wine that still remains one of my all-time favorites. I hadn’t worked much with Red Mountain vineyards prior to 2005, and I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the fruit. After harvest, I immediately went looking for more grapes. In 2006, I was fortunate enough to purchase Cabernet Sauvignon from the storied Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, and after making that wine I became even more enamored with the growing region. The rest, as they say, is history.
This year, Fidelitas will add to the collection of wines sourced exclusively from Red Mountain. Our Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon joins the line-up that already includes a Red Heaven Merlot, Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Sauvignon and Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Franc. In May, we will also release the 2010 vintage of our signature Bordeaux blend, Optu Red, made exclusively for the first time from Red Mountain fruit. Watch for more Red Mountain wines to join in coming years, including Cabernet Sauvignons that showcase the unique qualities of top Red Mountain vineyards, our own Estate Blend, and a Petit Verdot from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard.
I look forward to sharing these limited production wines with you in the future and thank you, faithful Fidelitas fan, for your ongoing support. It’s only going to get better from here!
Recognition to kick off the New Year - 4 wines receive 93 Point Ratings
2009 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon: 93 Points from Wine Spectator
“Ripe and generous, this polished red is brimming with blackberry, cassis, bay leaf and toasted brioche flavors that linger easily on the long finish. Fine tannins underline but don’t overpower. Drink now through 2020.”
also: 91 Points from Wine Advocate
2009 Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvingon: 93 Points from Wine Advocate
“The Fidelitas 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Champoux Vineyard – from several blocks on that celebrated property – delivers this site’s trademark combination of sumptuous texture and seamlessly, purely ultra-ripe dark berry fruit with a coursing of energy and a finishing ping. Lightly-cooked ginger, blond tobacco, and salted caramel add mouthwatering detail, while strong notes of fruit pit engender a sort of cyanic glow as part of this wine’s memorably expansive and persistent finish. I suspect it will merit at least a dozen years’ fidelity.”
also: 92 Points from Wine Spectator
2009 Boushey Vineyard Red Wine: 93 Points from Wine Advocate
“The Fidelitas 2009 Boushey Vineyard – 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc matured in all new, 40% American oak – evinces mint chocolate-covered cherry on a very rich, plush, caramel- and spice-inflected palate that somehow manages to avoid a superficially sweet or outright confectionary cast. Allusions to fading lily and gardenia perfume add to the opulently decadent cast of this blend, while smoky black tea adds counterpoint. There is more than enough primary berry juiciness to render this cuvee’s long, luxuriant finish stimulating of the next sip and open for business at the dinner table. I’m guessing it will be worth following for the better part of a decade.”
also: 92 Points from Wine Spectator
2009 Champoux Vineyard Block One Cabernet Sauvignon: 93 Points from Wine Advocate
“…one gets the sort of seamlessly-ripe sweet berry fruit and plush texture allied to uncanny sense of vibrancy that (ho, hum) I by now expect from this vineyard and variety. Soy-like savor, toasted nuts, and iodine serve for welcome counterpoint and saliva-inducement and there is the glowingly cyanic element that was striking in the finish of the corresponding ‘regular’ Fidelitas Champoux Cabernet too…I suggest that one plan on following this bottling’s evolution at between 6 and 12 years.”
After a beautiful early fall, the wind and rain has driven us indoors to begin thinking about the holiday season that lays ahead. Finally, the election commercials are over, only to be replaced by Black Friday ads, where I learn how different the “hottest toys of the season” are from the days Santa came to my house as a kid. I do love the hustle and bustle of December, but always like to pause to reflect on the things that we are thankful for as we gather for a warm dinner surrounded by family and friends.
Less than two weeks ago, I lost two very special family members. My mother’s father passed away at the age of 85, then my father’s mother passed away at the age of 93 the very next day. While the loss is very sad, today I am truly thankful for the long, full, rich lives that each of my grandparents led. The places they have been, things they have seen, and lives they have each influenced are awe-inspiring.
So, this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the legacy they leave behind, my husband, family, and friends that are a part of my life now, my home that has kept me warm and DRY this week, my extended family of wonderful coworkers and Fidelitas fans, and a bottle of my favorite Thanksgiving wine, Optu White, to place on the table tomorrow afternoon.
Here are some words of thanks from a few others around Fidelitas. We hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and look forward to hearing from you in the final weeks of 2012.
Charlie: I am thankful for Team Fidelitas. Every member of the team contributes to making our success possible. Without all if you my dream of having my own label would not be possible. Thank you!
Cyndy: Overall I am deeply grateful for the kindness and generosity from everyone in my world at Fidelitas to my personal life! To my family, to my coworkers, to my friends, my sincerest thanks for your endless gifts of love, patience, and faith:)
Marilyn: I'm thankful for both my families - personal and Fidelitas. And I'm really thankful the election is FINALLY over!!!!
Nedra: This year I'm especially thankful for our many freedoms. Oh, and heated car seats!
Charlie was on hand as workers picked 3 clones of Cabernet Sauvignon from our estate vineyard earlier this week. This is the first harvest from the 4 year old vineyard, and the destination of the grapes is to be determined. Charlie plans to keep the 3 clones seperated for a while to see how they develop in the cellar. We'll keep you posted!
Below are some words from Charlie on Harvest so far. Originally written September 16th.
First Reds To Barrel
We put fermenting juice into barrels today. After bringing in Red Heaven & Ciel Du Cheval Merlot last week, on day six of fermentation we pulled these off skins and immediately into barrels. These lots have got to be some of earliest red to be fermented in the state of Washington. In keeping with tradition that I began going back to 1993 I dug out the first tank of the season. I will attach a picture of me in the tank this morning.
The weather could not be better to ripen grapes right now. Tomorrow will be a high of 84 F with temperatures in the low 90′s the rest of the week. i anticipate most of our Merlot will be ready this week from throughout the Columbia Valley, even from some our colder sites. The accumulation of this many heat units this late into September insures the ripening of late site Cabernet Sauvignon. This could mean a great vintage, but let’s make the wine and see for sure.
Here are some picks from digging tanks, the day Red Mountain Merlot went to barrel:
The first grapes of the season could arrive as early as 2 weeks from now! Fruit from Red Mountain, particularly the Merlot, is starting to look really good. The winemaking team is busy at work in preparation. Last week, 3,500 cases of 2010 Fidelitas wines were bottled. In addition, they've been cleaning barrels, tanks, grape bins and the winemaking equipment. New barrels are arriving at the door, along with cluster samples for analysis. Enomama Hillary just informed us that the Red Heaven Merlot is already at 22.8 brix. Things are moving along!
More to come soon!
This summer, the Washington wine industry is marking a few milestone events: 25 years for Charlie in the industry and the 25th anniversary for the Auction of Washington Wines. (if you haven’t already, check out Charlie’s thoughts on his favorite vintages HERE) Each year, the Auction raises over $20 million for the Uncompensated Care fund at Seattle Children’s Hospital and the Washington State University Viticulture and Enology program. In celebration of 25 years, we are teaming up with the Auction this August during three great events.
The Picnic and Barrel Auction on August 16th is a laid back party on the lawn at Chateau Ste. Michelle. Guests have the opportunity to mingle with winemakers and taste numerous Washington wines, including barrel samples from over 20 wineries. Gourmet picnic fare is provided by the talented catering team from Tulalip Resort. Our 2011 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvingon will be included in the Barrel Auction. Place your bid to win a case of this future release!
The Winemaker Dinners on August 17th are a much more intimate gathering, hosted at a private home. This year, Charlie is teaming up with Doug Long from Obelisco Estate, and Chef Matt Brandsey from El Gaucho. Here is what the auction has to say about this fun dinner: "Some people say Red Mountain is where the best grapes are grown. Some people say El Gaucho grills the best steaks. Hosts, Danna and Craig Kinzer don’t just listen to what people say, they know their winemaker dinner features some of the state’s bests. Come join two of Red Mountain’s finest, Charlie Hoppes of Fidelitas Wines and Doug Long of Obelisco Estate as they bring over one of their 300 days of sun as well as their incredible wines for a fabulous party. Teaming up with a Seattle best, El Gaucho, these wines will pair seamlessly with chef Matt Brandsey’s delicious cuisine. Charlie will be sharing in the 25th anniversary glory celebrating his 25th vintage in Washington and although Obelisco is fairly new in Washington, their roots run deep in grape growing from Napa to Red Mountain."
The Gala on Saturday, August 18th, is truly a grand event, complete with a 6-course dinner prepared by a team of the area's best chefs. Charlie is the host of a Fidelitas table, and will be on hand when our auction item goes LIVE! Check out this great package that will be featured in the live auction at the Gala:
Charlie Hoppes of Fidelitas Wines is celebrating his 25th year in the wine industry and you’re invited to his party! A private jet is in position to intercept six guests and whisk them off to Bend, Oregon for two days of golf, food, fine wine and a little elbow-rubbing. Join Charlie and his friend Damon Huard, former NFL quarterback and Washington Husky, for what will undoubtedly be full of double coverage and long putts.
This package includes:
Private roundtrip flight from Boeing Field to Bend, Oregon
Golf for six at Tetherow Golf Course, named one of Golf Digest’s Top 100 courses
Golf for six at Brasada Canyons, designed by Oregonian Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy
Accommodations at the luxury Oxford Hotel in Bend
Winemaker dinner for six at 10 Below, paired with Fidelitas Wines
Golf gear and apparel for all six guests provided by Nike including duffel bag, one dozen tour balls, glove, shoes, shirt and jacket.
A 6-bottle set of Fidelitas 2009 vineyard series: Boushey Vineyard Red Wine, Red Mountain Red Wine, Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Champoux Vineyard Merlot, Optu Red Wine and Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
We'd love to have you celebrate with us!
your ride to Bend!
There is so much information out there about pairing food with wine, that it can sometimes get overwhelming. I finally sat down with all of the notes from my courses, my texts and a few favorite cookbooks to come up with some simple rules to follow while pairing wine and food. I'll share these rules as we look at each course from our recent wine tasting party.
Starting at the top! Try testing out these points yourself by grabbing a few different wines, a few different bites and seeing if it makes sense to you. When I am tasting pairings, I'll always evaluate the wine by itself first (smell and taste) and then see how a food changes the wine by taking a bite, then another sip of wine.
#1 Taste in order: There is a general sequence to follow when tasting: white before red, dry before sweet, light before rich, young before aged. Follow these rules with your food and menu planning as well by serving lighter dishes first, such as salads, then seafood, then heavier meat dishes.
#2 Be aware of acids: Naturally occurring acids are found in both food and wine. When pairing, be sure that the acids in the wine meet or exceed the dish. Pair citrus fruit, goat cheese, tomatoes and vinegar with sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, riesling, and sangiovese.
Rule #1 seems pretty intuitive by this point in time. White before red is pretty well accepted and it make sense as you start to think about this principle with food. A small salad or sorbet between courses is often great as a palate refresher (although ususally not paired with wine) although most people won't serve a steamed halibut after steak. It will throw your palate totally off balance.
For Rule #2, sometimes you have to test this one out for yourself. Goat cheese is a naturally acidic food. Try a bite of a good chevre with a sauvignon blanc, and then with merlot. That merlot is going to seem awfully thin and tart with the residual acids from the food.
So for the first course, we paired the 2010 Semillon with a sesame-crusted salmon with an orange miso sauce. The light flavors and intensity of the dish certainly didn't overwhelm the wine, or any of the following courses. The bright acidity in the wine was a great companion to the orange notes in the sauce, while the roundness from the salmon and miso complimented the light oak in the semillon. See how we're matching profiles?
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