“5 Cabernets? Don’t they all taste the same?” No way, man.
I love September. The month we release a whole slew of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, all from tiny Red Mountain. But don’t let the varietal or AVA trick you into thinking that these will be similar…they are far from it. Here are a few factors that play a role in creating a unique wine.
Seems obvious, but when the vineyards are within a mile of one another, you might not think that they’d be so different. However, if I compare just Quintessence Vineyard (which makes up the northeastern corner of the AVA) and our own Fidelitas Estate Vineyard (close to the center of the AVA, but definitely over the western ridge), the differences are remarkable. These two vineyards were even planted at about the same time but Quintessence lies further east, with intense slope, and rockier soils. The Fidelitas Estate Vineyard does not have as much slope, exhibits more silty loam, and is subject to more late afternoon. In 2015, we picked Cabernet Sauvignon a full two weeks later from our Estate Vineyard, than the Cabernet sourced from Quintessence. Red Heaven sits just between these two vineyards, with just a bit more age, while Ciel du Cheval lies further downhill from the rest, but was planted in the 1980’s…giving us some of the most established vines on the mountain.
Fidelitas Estate Vineyard (left), versus the slope at Quintessence Vineyard.
I won’t go too far in depth on clones here, but feel free to peruse previous posts for more detail on clones. Here are the basics: Charlies sources different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon to give us different attributes in the wines. While still being the same varietal, we may use one clone for more concentration and color, while another gives us bright fruit tones to lift the style of the wine. Charlie is looking for different Cabernet clones from each vineyard to create our varietal Cabernets. Quintessence Vineyard (clones 169 and 191) and Fidelitas Estate Vineyard (clones 2 and 6), contain none of what we call the “Washington Clone”, clone 8, but the Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is entirely clone 8 from four vineyard sites. It’s just another way to fiddle with the blend.
Clone 169 (left) is a special clone from France, which must be registered with the French governement. Charlie tells us it has elegance and finesse. Clone 6 (right) is what Dick Boushey calls the 'winemakers clone' because it is wonderful in the cellar and a pain in the vineyard. Those smaller berries and loose clusters give excellent structure and color.
Perhaps the most obvious way that two Cabernets may be fully different, but still worth exploring. Some wineries have a recipe that they follow, using the same oak regimen year after year or for each wine. However, for Charlie (who I swear calls me weekly to say “we’re going to try something new”), there is no formula that will work for every wine he creates. Every year is different, every clone is different, and he likes to create a perfect pairing for grapes and barrels that may not be determined until the fruit is in fermentation. Comparing the 2013 Cabernets, two received 100% New French Oak, one received an 80/20 blend of New French and New American, there is a 35/26 blend, and the last is 47% New French with the remainder being neutral wood (coincidentally, that wine was 100% New in last year…what a difference a vintage can make!). Then, even if a wine is 100% New French, there are a bunch of different decisions in the brands of barrels, the toast, and the time in barrel. But – that is a different conversation for a different day.
Harvest means I get text messages from Charlie at 6am on Monday morning. Still - so many beautiful barrels and fermenters.
I could go on and on about how wonderfully unique these wines are, but you are going to have to try them yourself to believe me. Join us for a Friday Evening Tasting in Woodinville, schedule an Elevated Tasting at either location, or let us send you some wines with notes on hosting your own specialized tasting. I’d love to hear any notes you come up with as you try these wonderful new releases!
The smoke cleared and the sun came out this past weekend just in time for our 3rd annual Estate Dinner hosted on our famous pad right in the middle of our vineyards. What a beautiful and delicious evening! Castle Catering didn’t disappoint and made sure that each dish complimented our wine.
Below is the menu from that evening.
Elk Strip Loin & Blue Cheese Duxell Canape
Duck Confit & Savory Goat Cheese Grilled Pizza Wedges
2015 Klipsun Vineyard Optu White - September Product Spotlight!
2014 The Canyons Vineyard Red Wine - 10 Cases Remain!
Fresh Spinach and lentil salad with creamy beet dressing topped with a Parmesan crisp
Freshly Baked Castle Breads with Butter of the Month
2014 Ciel du Cheval Merlot – Releases in November!
Certified Angus Beef Tenderloin Medallion presented atop
Heirloom Tomato with Creamy Fresh Barratta Cheese finished with Basil Oil and Fresh Basil Confetti
2014 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon - New Release!
2014 Quintessence Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon - New Release!
Certified Angus Beef Prime Spinalis rolled and stuffed with Fresh Herbs & Mushrooms
Served atop Heirloom Carrot Puree with Sweet Corn Elote
2013 Fidelitas Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
2014 Fidelitas Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – New Release!
Fresh Graham Cracker dipped in Dark Chocolate & topped with Blue Cheese Marshmallow toasted on site
It was certainly a memorable night with the most amazing sunset. Be sure to RSVP next year for this limited availability dinner in the vineyard!
September is just around the corner and we have been waiting months for one of our favorite releases of the year which include not one, but 3 Cabernet Sauvignons.
The first is our 2014 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, designed to showcase the region we call home. Red Mountain Cabernet sources Clone 8 from our favorite vineyard sites on Red Mountain. This go-to Cabernet is a classic with hints of black cherry, blackberries and an expressive finish. It’s the perfect accompaniment for parties, dinners, and taking in the end of summer.
The second wine to be released this September is the 2014 Quintessence Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s been months since we had our last taste of Quintessence Cabernet, so we are greatly looking forward to the release of this gem. Sourced from our favorite vineyard on the Northeastern edge of Red Mountain, clones 191 and 169 add an old-world style to this wine. We find earthy tones and dark berries on the palate, along with brown sugar and toasted almonds.
Last, but not least, our 3rd vintage of the 2014 Fidelitas Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Sourced from the 3 acre, 2009 planting just outside our tasting room we use clones 2 and 6 of Cabernet Sauvignon to create an intense and expressive Estate wine. The palate is bold and round, offering dark fruit tones of ripe raspberries, dark chocolate, and cedar. This beauty won’t be in a club shipment so don’t forget to snag a few bottles to add to the vertical you’ve been collecting.
During my visit to Tri-Cities this past weekend I was able to listen in on some blind tasting by the Fidélitas winemaking team. My previous experiences in “blind tasting” have been at dinner parties when each person brings a bottle to share or tasting a couple different combinations of varietals in the blending process. Our winemakers, however, were taking it to a completely different level.
Charlie, Hillary, and Mitch were sitting at the end of the long conference room table (it’s this type of business meeting that makes me excited to become a winemaker) with what seemed like 100 sample bottles in front of them, tasting 3-4 wines at a time, sitting in silence taking notes, swirling, spitting, then discussing their notes after each set. Once that was done, another set was sampled and the process was repeated – a testament to how a winemakers pallete must be built-up and trained over time. What they were doing was scientific and fascinating.
As a wine fan we all hear stories of consumers doing blind tastings and them rating a wine higher after the person running the study tells them it’s more expensive (even though it’s boxed wine) or even characterizing a white wine that has been died red with your typical red-wine descriptors. The point is that the human brain plays tricks on your taste buds which is why blind tasting is so important. A winemaker might love a certain barrel type or think that a certain fermentation method produces much higher quality, but can they really make that assessment fairly if they never taste it blindly? Pulling a barrel sample from their favorite barrel that was ferment in their favorite oak tank they are already gearing up to love the wine and even the most honest winemaker can’t be trusted to give their true opinion in that moment.
So back to our winemakers: they were going through and tasting barrel samples of a specific wine (our 2016’s in this case) pulled from a neutral barrel, and 2-3 other new barrel types to see what effects they were having on the wines at about the midpoint of the barrel-aging process. Different fermentation types were also sprinkled in to taste their effects blindly as well. To me this exemplifies how winemaking is the perfect blend of art and science – the method extremely scientific with it being completely blind and a control sample (neutral barrel) to compare everything against + them sharing their opinions on the different flavors, aromas, and mouth feel they’re experiencing. It also shows how committed Fidélitas is to staying true to Modern Craft winemaking techniques. Respecting what we’ve done in the past, but always testing our own opinions and seeing what else is out there to help us make world class wine on Red Mountain.
Harvest is right around the corner and my favorite time of year to go visit wineries. The vineyards are stunning, the weather is ideal, and the bolder/heavier reds start to make an appearance! Who doesn’t love drinking Cabernet while sitting on our Red Mountain patio in 65-degree weather with the sun shining?
We just recently launched our “Fidelitas Estate Experience” and we are so excited to start sharing this with our customers. We start by gathering in the Red Mountain Tasting Room at 10am for our first pour and some great Fidelitas background stories. From there, we will walk through the vines and listen to all the things you need to know about our vineyards. Of course, wine will be enjoyed during the entire tour.
Can’t make it to the winery? Don’t worry! Our Friday Tastings are coming back to Woodinville this September. For more information please refer to that events page or contact Will.
It's August which means that while we're excitedly talking about preseason football and back to school, technically we still have over a month of summer left and it’s still too hot to cook inside so my grill is working overtime. For weeks, we’ve been anticipating our late summer release of 2014 The Canyons Vineyard Malbec and it couldn’t have come at a better time as I’ve been needing something new to spice up dinner time. One can only drink so much rosé, am I right? Only kidding…
So, why do we love this Malbec for summer?
It’s has a bold aroma of black cherry and baked blueberries (two favorite summertime scents) which are really pleasing when you go in for that first sip. While it has darker fruit on the nose which would make you expect a big red, the bright fruit and tannins are softer on your pallet providing a smooth feel from start to finish. Sometimes it can be hard to sit down with a big, heavy tannin, Cabernet on a hot day. This Malbec gives you the bold flavor without being heavy. Win win!
When it comes to pairing it with food, bbq is always a go to. Generally, when grilling you are doing marinated meats with lots of flavors of fresh herbs and spices. Malbec works with those flavors without overpowering them. Try out this recipe for Grilled Pork & Plum Kebabs, pour yourself a big glass of The Canyons Vineyard Malbec, and watch the (smoky) summer sunset. Summers sticking around for a while, and the Malbec is here to help you enjoy it to the fullest.
As I pulled into the parking lot the other day, the vineyard rows were catching my eye a little more than usual. Every day I am fortunate enough to work directly from our Red Mountain tasting room, with that I get the joy of watching the vineyard change and grow with each day.
On this day, I noticed Veraison was taking place in the vineyard. Veraison is the change in color of the grape berries or the ripening of grapes. It’s the turning point in the grapes lifecycle, meaning it’s the moment the grapes begin to form sweetness. Up until this point the grapes are highly acidic. As Veraison is taking place sugar levels rise and the grapes begin to grow and turning them into juicy fruit clusters that make our favorite wines. After this point, we have anywhere from 30-70 for the grapes to become fully ripened, giving us a small countdown as to when harvest might begin. Then, it’s all about balance!
on the varietal, Veraison takes place at different rates. We also keep a close eye on the temperature as it could result in sunburnt grapes. Trimming the canopy and ensuring the vines are properly shaded, all while being exposed to the sun helps this process. As we see warmer temperatures on Red Mountain we need to ensure the acidity and sugar levels are in balance and the fruit is ripening at the desired rate. During Veraison white wine grapes are a yellow hue and red wine grapes are shades of red and purple. On your next visit to Red Mountain take a step out in the vineyard and look at the vines and watch the change!
My favorite thing about wine (besides drinking it) is that there’s always more to learn. Just ask to see the stack of note cards of anyone who’s studied for the Master Sommelier program – I’m sure they’d be more than happy to show you. It seems that every time I’m back in the winery or on Red Mountain I pick up more tidbits of information, and this most recent staff vineyard trip was no exception.
Some of the original vines at Kiona vineyards, the oldest on Red Mountain, were trained to look like a wild tree instead of neatly separating the cordons out to the side for easy management. As JJ explained to us, there was reliance on trial and error back then instead of how-to guides or the internet.
Older vine wines gain complexity, in part, because of variance from the mean. When the vines are first planted in the ground the plants are essentially all identical. But as a block grows older, and the soil, irrigation, sunlight and heat exposure, etc… are all slightly different for each plant causing them to mature differently and bear unique fruit.
“Tannins are different than tannic” – I knew this concept but had never had it explained to me so eloquently. “Tannins” in the oak barrels that are used for fermenting and aging soften the wines and make them less “tannic.”
Barreling down at harvest 2016
I’ve always heard that Red Mountain receives the most sunlight of any growing region in the state, but personally hadn’t sought out the evidence. Thanks to the people at WSU Viticulture and Enology and their work on growing degree days of different Washington AVA’s I can now say this with confidence. Here’s a link for the full description – GDD units = (the average daily Fahrenheit temperature) – 50, all added up during the “growing season” April 1 to October 31 to get the cumulative measure.
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!