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!
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!