Every year we are met with the same signs that summer is here. At Fidelitas it’s a once brown and bare vineyard turned to lush green, the release of our Semillon for patio season, and our dreadfully quiet tasting rooms once again filled with friends and new faces. One less obvious indicator that summer has arrived is bottling week at Wine Boss. There’s nothing like watching the bottling truck pull up knowing that soon the wine that been waiting in barrel for the last 2 years is finally going to make its way into bottle, and eventually out into the world.
Bill Hamlin of Custom Mobile Bottling spent much of his early career bottling and packaging fruit juices and wine at Ocean Spray then Chateau Ste. Michelle which is where he and Charlie met back in the ’90s. At that time, Charlie encouraged Bill to branch out on his own and what do you know, he just as well did it, and he’s arguably the best in the biz.
His mobile bottling truck doesn’t look like more than a semi-truck from the outside, but on the inside is state of the art bottling machinery. Most small to medium-sized wineries, like us, choose to use mobile bottling as it’s more cost effective than investing in a $50,000 bottling line that only gets used a few times per year. Instead, we call in the expert who does this every day. He and his truck are an invaluable part of the final process before wines get introduced into the world.
In addition, Bill uses a cross-flow filtration system for filtering wine before bottling. Yeasts that escape the filtering or fining process, for example, can result in refermentation in the bottle and can alter the flavor. His equipment is the best for filtering out all the leftover junk and leaves nothing but the purest juice. You can actually see and taste the difference between the wine before and after cross-flow filtration, the latter being less murky and much softer on your pallet.
His truck has a bottom-feed volumetric filler, designed to minimize splashing as the wine is transported into bottles. After the bottles are vacuum-sparged, wine pumped from tanks into the filler is measured into the bottles, and then automatically leveled to a consistent volume. Then bottles are sealed with a cork and pushed off the line and placed in boxes. From there the wines are palletized, 56 cases per pallet to be exact, and sent to Vintners Logistics until they are ready to be released.
This week we are bottling the 2017 vintage red wines for Fidelitas, roughly 7500 cases or 90,000 bottles. These wines will be released in 2020.
Honorable mention to our team of bottlers who put loads of manual labor on bottling day. Thank you for waking up with the sun and lasting through the long, hot, hours in the truck.
Ideas and facts for this post came from https://www.goodfruit.com/bottling-on-wheels/. Thank you for the great publication.
Tasting wines completely blind is one of the most humbling things you can put yourself through especially if you consider yourself somewhat of a connoisseur. When we open a bottle of wine, pull a barrel sample, or step up to a familiar tasting bar we bring all sorts of baggage with us that effects our perception of what we're about to taste and makes it impossible to be unbiased. For example, in the winery, if we walk up to a barrel that's holding our favorite varietal from our favorite vineyard site and the specific barrel producer is one that we love we've already decided our opinion of the wine before even taking a sip. We constantly go through and taste blends and barrel samples blindly to make sure that we're critically and fairly judging all of our wines.
Here are some tips for you and your friends to throw your own blind-tasting party!
It’s that time of year again. The days are getting longer, the temperatures are (inconsistently) warming, I can smell BBQs around the neighborhood, and white wines and roses are starting to fill my inbox. It must be time for Semillon!
This upcoming weekend marks the official release of Fidelitas’ 2018 Red Mountain Semillon. Charlie sources this fruit from Klipsun Vineyard, which is the perfect site for white wines on Red Mountain. While it gets the hot days the region is known for, this lower elevation block, also experiences cooler nighttime temps, which lets the grape take a break and retain a nice acidity. In the 2018 vintage, Charlie used a 225L French Oak egg with a small portion of the Semillon, which subtly rounds out the finished product. It’s a perfect summertime sipper, brimming with bright, fresh fruit tones.
We love this wine around my house. Pre-children, my husband and I would share a bottle on the front porch, watching people stroll by and enjoying the summer nights. We don’t have quite as many quiet moments now days, but I still love a glass on a sunny evening, cooking dinner and watching the kids tear the house apart. Here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy Semillon:
Nothing kicks off a Fidelitas party quite like a long line up of pretty glasses, filled with Semillon.
We always pack a few bottles with us on our summer trip to Lopez Island. Semillon and fresh crab? Yes, please!
It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. While writing the technical notes for this new release, I whipped up a quick dinner of roasted sweet potatoes, purple cabbage and edamame slaw, and coconut rice. This may have been one of my favorite pairings I’ve ever done with this wine.
This is by far the BEST way to enjoy Fidelitas’ Red Mountain Semillon. I hope everyone can make it to Red Mountain at some point to relax in an Adirondack, soak in some sunshine and views, and enjoy a glass of white wine. With friends…or on your own for a bit of quiet time (again: yes, please!).
With only 157 cases produced…this won’t make it til the end of the summer.
What are your plans for Memorial Day Weekend?
Every year Fidelitas hosts BBQ + Band on everyone's favorite patio. Did you know it's supposed to be in the 80's at our home on Red Mountain this weekend? What better way to celebrate the sunshine than by enjoying some delicious BBQ by Outlaw Catering, and listening to some soulful jams by Black Dolly? Pair that with some of our 2016 The Canyons Vineyard Red Wine and your weekend really can't be beat. An insider tip...we may be featuring a special wine that isn't being released until June. Any guesses what it is? Hint: we only produced 190 cases and it's our favorite summer sipper!
We hope to see our members and their friends this Sunday, May 26th. We'll have a glass waiting!
We prepped the days before getting everything ready for lots and lots of packing and formatted our email late in to the night Tuesday until it was just right. We fiddled with our UPS strategies making sure the promotion was set up correctly and you’d receive free shipping just like we promised. Team Fidélitas was in place ready to field calls and emails and tell you all about the amazing wines that we could send your way.
When we sat at the computer early Wednesday morning and tried to send the email, unfortunately, we ran into technical difficulties. Of course, this happens on Free Ship Day! The posts were already out on social media so we thought that would be good enough and we worked all day with the amazing support team at WineDirect to get our emails back on track and try the email again Thursday. It turns out that the Facebook and Instagram algorithm didn’t like our posts because it included text on the image. We got only 20 likes (shout out to you 20 people!).
Yesterday, technology was not on our side. The cool thing about it was the amazing people who worked together to resolve the issues and get us back on track today. Did you know that our small team sees every single order that comes in and, quite literally, does a little happy dance every time? Free Ship Day is more than a promotion to us. It’s a day when we get to send a little piece of Red Mountain out to all of our friends. We pack each box in house, by hand, with care obsessing over every detail.
Some days these are the tales of being a small business. We are so excited that today is (finally) Free Ship Day. We hope we get to send a piece of Red Mountain to you.
This past Tuesday the entire Fidelitas management team met for our First Annual Leadership Summit to plan our attack for the rest of the year + set our big long-term goals. As is custom at these type of meetings we pepper my dad with questions about Fidelitas history, vineyard philosophy, his career, etc... Every time I hear him talk I learn new things and I'm reminded of things that I haven't heard in a while. Here's my top 5:
1. The original 400 cases of the Fidelitas Meritage had "Fidelis" printed on the corks which was the original name of the winery before we got a cease and desist letter from Safeway re: a "Fidelis" liquor brand that was in their posession. Does anyone have any of the original Fidelis brandy that they're willing to share?
2. Although his first "official" vintage in Washington was in 1989 at Snoqualmie-Langguth working under Mike Januik the first ever Washington wine that my dad made was a 1983 Riesling from a vineyard just outside Pasco, WA made in my grandfather's, his father-in-law's kitchen. His name, Daniel Fidelis O'Neil.
A young Daniel Fidelis O'Neil picture in the Seattle Times
3. He got hired on at 3 Rivers in 1999 as their first winemaker with the agreement that he'd be able to start his own wine label. He spent the 2001 & 2001 harvests there commuting from Tri-Cities everyday.
4. In 1993 he was hired as the head Red Winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle after focusing on their white wine making from 1990 to 1992. His first task was to manage the Canoe Ridge facility which was the first, modern, large-scale red wine-making facility in Washington state. He said from 1993-1998 so much was getting thrown at him that he was able to learn massive amounts in such a short period of time all while at the forefront of red winemaking in the state.
A bottle of 1993 Ste Michelle Cab that we were able to enjoy recently courtesy of Compass Wines. We were amazed at how well this wine was holding up, Mike Januik wasn't lying!
5. His first job in the wine industry was in 1985-86 as a lab tech at Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma while studying at UC Davis.
As we near the end of club season, some might be wondering how they are going to wait until September for a whole new set of releases. Don’t worry, Fidelitas will always have you covered (except for that one time we ran out of wine). To pair perfectly with your summer BBQ’s, family reunions, and parties galore we have two wines that you'll need to add to your collection.
coming in June
coming in July and only 96 cases produced
But before we add those two new additions to the tasting lineup, there are a couple of wines you might want to snag now before they sell out.
only 55 cases remain
only 95 cases remain
members only, contact me to order
All four of these wines together create the perfect bundle. Does someone want a 100% Semillon, or something with a little more acidity like the Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend? Do you have a big Malbec lover at the party, or someone who likes a blend but still enjoys what Malbec has to offer? Be sure to get on our mailing list if you’re not already so you can stay up to date on our newest releases.
The Feast of St Fidelis is our longest running annual event dating back to when we first opened our tasting room on Red Mountain in May 2007. While this is only my 6th time attending, I must say the Feast is my favorite way to ring in warm Spring days on the patio while celebrating our wonderful members and the anniversary of making our home on Red Mountain.
Five Reasons You Should Attend the Feast This Year:
Members can purchase tickets here. See you in the taco line!
I almost hate to admit it, but I have worked every Taste Washington since 2007…making this year my 13th consecutive celebration of Washington wine. (writing that out, it makes me realize that is the same number of years I spent in my K-12 schooling…yikes) Year after year, it is a wonderful chance to see old friends and meet a few new ones. And with this many Tastes logged, I think I’m close to calling myself an expert. Here is my updated survival guide for Taste Washington.
This is so key in advance. You do not want to plan on you or someone in your party being able to drive home. If you are going to consume any wine…do not plan on driving. Extra fun this year: did you know that it’s the Mariners’ home opening games versus the Boston Red Sox? That is just going to make traffic and parking even worse. Since my last post, we now have the light rail, ride share options are so easy, and the Commission has partnered with even more hotels around town.
The 2019 Taste Washington event guide is now available! Take the time to scan through and highlight your must hit list. Challenge yourself to try a few new things! I love meeting people for the first time who have never encountered our wines before. Try a new winery (and learn their story!), a new varietal, or a restaurant dish that you’d never order on your own.
For the second time in this post, I’m going to age myself. Somewhere in my first few years, the slogan of Taste and associated events was “Hip to Spit”. Not the most hip slogan, but it’s a good message (super sorry, Taste WA 2019 - I don’t totally believe in must.taste.everything). You can’t have it all, nor is it responsible, nor will you remember it all (or your weekend) if you do. Try some amazing wines and be okay with spitting a few out. Use a spit cup to be discreet and dump at one of the many, many receptacles around the venue.
There is more to Taste than the 235 wineries at the Grand Tasting. There are dinners, lunches, seminars, and high end, intimate tastings. Charlie and I will be at Red + White this Thursday sharing some sold out, old vine wines out of the library. At the time of this writing, there are still Red + White tickets available! Find your red or white super suit and come down to see us on the waterfront.
Here is the basic sequence of tasting a new wine: smell, swirl, smell, sip, swish, swallow or spit! You want to experience the wine right when it’s poured, see what air does to the aromas with a light swirl, give it another whiff, and then taste it. Allow the wine to hit all areas of your mouth to get a feeling for the acids, the fruit, the tannins, and the structure of the wine. And then (see point 3) decide what you’re going to do with it.
Other basic etiquette involves caring about the wine beyond if it's red or white and holding your glass steady while someone is pouring (you don’t know many times I’ve poured wine on the table from people pulling their glass away - just because you move your glass doesn’t mean I’m going to stop pouring). If you really want to know what winery people are thinking, read THIS, which I’ll admit is old, but it makes me laugh every time I read it.
I can’t wait for another great Taste Washington weekend. Charlie, who has many more Tastes in the books, considers this a true celebration of the Washington wine industry, where we all gather to celebrate this amazing corner of the wine world. Please come by to say hi and check out the special wines we’ve brought to share. (hint: there is always a surprise for those who ask…)
For those who aren't up to date on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (bettter known as Triple D), stop reading right now, reevaluate how you spend your free time, find a way to stream the episode that aired on March 8th called "Southern to South American" featuring Richland Washington's own Porters Barbecue and you may recognize a certain winemaker chowing down on a dino beef rib:
Talking to some club members recently and helping them plan their trips to Red Mountain, suggesting food places that may or may not show up on a Google search got me thinking that I should gather all the food recommendations from team Fidelitas and create our own:
Bale Breaker Brewing Company, Yakima - if your getting mezmerized by the rows, rows, and rows of hops and need a little beer to warm up your palate
Los Hernandez Tamales, Union Gap - authentic tamales from James Beard award winning chef, Felipe Hernandez
Wine o'Clock, Prosser - wine bar and bistro located in Prosser's Vintner's Village
Miner's Drive In, Yakima - obligatory since I stopped here every away game for high school sports
Graze, Richland - soups, salads, and sandwiches, located right next to Porters for those who don't want the Dino Ribs
Tacos Super Uno, Richland - taco truck just off the highway on your way to Red Mountain from Tri-Cities, you need to have Mexican food while you're in Eastern WA. Your best bet is coming to our Feast of St. Fidelis event May 3rd for some of this:
and this view:
Drumheller's, Richland - located on the second floor of the Columbia Point Lodge overlooking the Richland waterfront, make sure someone at your table orders pasta
Anthony's, Richland - their back patio may be the best dining view in Tri-Cities
The Bradley, Richland - tapas bar
Fat Olive's, Richland - most popular after work spot for workers in the Tri-Cities research district
Carmine's Italian Restaurant, Kennewick - family-owned, it'll make you feel like you're at your Italian grandmother's for dinner
Aki Sushi, Kennewick - best sushi I've had, Seattle included