I got a text from Charlie at 6:15 this morning with picutres of him doing pump overs. At that hour, I'm still dragging and dealing with the kids. Charlie's picture, however, showed him smiling, looking at the soon to be wine, while it's still dark outside. Is he a little bit insane? Maybe. But I'm starting to realize that is what harvest is all about.
Here are some memories of harvest over the years from both Charlie and his wife, Terri. Raising 4 kids and being a small business owner is no joke. Throw in some 14 hour work days, 6 days per week, and that's just fun for the whole family.
What were some of your first impressions those first few harvests, starting in 1988?
CHARLIE: It’s always been intense. My first few vintages were crazy, super busy at a big place like Langguth. I was thrown in to the mix quickly, running the crush pad before I really knew what I was doing. That’s Mike Januik’s fault…it was really overwhelming and exhausting. 12-14 hours per day with just Sundays off. After the first few years, I was much more comfortable. Especially being at Ste. Michelle, where the staff works like a machine to make it all happen.
Harvest this year seems like a constant juggling act. I’m thinking about 10 days out while Mitch is trying to figure out where we are putting the grapes that are coming in tomorrow. Hillary is constantly focused on the day to day…getting each wine through fermentation. On any given day, we’re doing 70 lots at a time. Pump overs started at 6 today, and at 9:30 he’s still going. We’ll start this all again at about 2:30 this afternoon.
I’m looking at the new guys and they really don’t know what they are getting in to. Not only is in physically exhausting, but mentally. But, they all come out with a greater appreciation. And I think it gets in to their blood. Some of the guys are turning around to do southern hemisphere harvest too.
TERRI: Was it intense? Yes! You put your life on hold during harvest. Not only is he gone physically but also mentally, but yet he was always there if we needed him to be. We felt like he was here and were his priority. Intensity for me was the worry of his long-distance commutes throughout different harvests - from Walla Walla, Mattawa, Wenatchee, etc. Once I heard him come through the door my prayers were answered - driving with so much fatigue isn’t the best!
Langguth/Saddle Mountain in 1988
Did you ever think that Charlie was insane for making a career shift from Boeing?
TERRI: Never - even if fall can be bittersweet each year. My wish to experience a fall foliage trip in New England with Charlie someday will just have to be a trip to the vineyards!
What are some traditions at home or in the cellar surrounding harvest?
CHARLIE: I always work on my birthday but we always managed to have a party when I came home at night. My birthday and harvest have always been closely related for me.
At the cellar, we’re playing Shakira every morning. This started for me at Three Rivers in 2000 with Holly Turner after she had worked harvest in Mendoza. We’re able to do it with Spotify now…which we definitely weren’t doing in 2000. Nowadays, the cellar crew is requesting it to start the day.
I also try to help the crew out during harvest. Sometimes we’ll do a big bbq for lunch or even go out to breakfast, just to break the monotony. Many years, we’ll also host a lunch for the vineyard crew once the grapes are off the vines.
TERRI: I always remember when our family was young that Halloween was a big deal because Dad was finally home! Harvest was ending, and we would be normal again.
Are there any times Charlie fell asleep at the dinner table after working in the cellar all day? Any other dirt on him?
TERRI: No - no funny story to share about falling asleep. He was just always trying to stay awake once he gets home! And then always waking in middle of the night for a while thinking. He is never able to really rest until end of harvest.
Is there anything you both like to do as you finish up the harvest season?
TERRI: It’s hard to unwind at the end of harvest, especially when you are working many, many weeks with no days off. We just enjoy the time to rest and catch our breath! We’re always looking forward to holidays with family and can’t wait for a new grandbaby coming into our world in a few weeks!
CHARLIE: Just take the time to slow down. You know, in some ways Terri is the one who has really put in all the work. She takes over and raises the family, which is not easy, during fall especially.
This year, we are just really looking forward to meeting our new grandbaby.
At Fidelitas this month we’ve brought in fruit from our neighborhood growers as well as our own Estate. All fruit is hand-picked and then transported to our facility in Richland, where it will undergo fermentation, barreling, and eventual bottling. Here’s a brief rundown of what Charlie and the crew have been working hard on these past weeks!
Handpicked clusters come in on the rakis, so upon arrival at the cellar, they will be de-stemmed and sorted.
Here is some of the Fidelitas Estate Malbec after a 3-Day cold soak. Charlie and the team will pump over this fruit twice a day to ensure heat dissipation and a balanced maceration. Inoculation will occur by mixing our chosen yeast strain into each tank. Right now the residual sugar in this particular lot is sitting at about 10.1 Brix, which means it has a few days to go!
After fermentation is complete and most of the sugar has been converted, the team will begin pressing the fruit. Charlie prefers to use a Basket Press shown below- this is a gentle method of pressing that doesn’t extract all the juice, but will also result in a softer extraction of green flavors and tannins.
The wine will be removed and “racked” which is a method of filtration
While talking with Charlie today he became animated discussing all the new oak treatments he’ll be implementing and the new fermenters purchased which will debut this vintage. Here he is explaining his new roller fermenters:
Stay tuned for this show-stopping vintage! Charlie is excited about them already!
This is our first official harvest off the 2015 Fidelitas planting! One of the most exciting things of the year is pulling fruit for a brand-new vintage. Especially when it comes from our Estate Vineyard which by early next week we'll have most of the Merlot picked. Who’s ready for some Estate Merlot? Our Cabernet Sauvignon is at 24 brix and Charlie is planning to let it hang on the vines for another 2 weeks or so if everything goes according to plan with the weather.
We’re getting active in Quintessence Vineyard as well, snagging some Merlot and Cabernet Entav clones 169 + 191, and hoping to pick some Malbec by early next week.
Given the warm weather we had in August it has compressed our window and we are expected to be done picking by the end of the month. Woah! We've seen Cabernet Sauvignon ready in so many vineyards we source from that we are just going to continue to pick and move fruit into the cellar as fast as we can.
As many of you know, its club processing time this week! Charlie decided to stop by to say ‘hello!’ to us girls and asked if we have listened to the Shakira station on Spotify. Turns out, this is all they have been listening to in the cellar. Nothing like dancing to Shakira on a ladder while doing Punch Down’s!
Harvest 2018 is here! This year we stepped up our game and brought new elements of modern craft winemaking to our whites. This means you get more, delicious, Bordeaux style whites from us and our crew gets to have some fun with their new toys in the cellar…win, win!
Fidelitas kicked off harvest last week with the Klipsun Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc and a little bit of Semillon. The cellar crew is fresh and full of energy, ready to get this harvest undertow!
You may remember this spring when we introduced “Edith” our concrete egg. This will be her first official harvest. The egg shape increases lees contact because of the wider base and natural convection motion of fermentation. It also offers a unique minerality which will add more depth to white blends. Isn’t she a beauty??
What makes it even more special is that this is the first time ever that we are co-fermenting our Optu White blend! This means that both the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are aged together inside the concrete egg instead of being blended as separate wines. We also have lots of Optu White fermenting in barrels like previous years, but we’re excited to experiment with concrete co-fermentation.
Yesterday we brought in our highly sought-after Quintessence Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. Just take a moment to take in those plump and juicy green grapes.
More good news…this vintage we have not one but two Ovium barrels for this wine. The Ovium barrel is one of a kind in the U.S., made specifically for Sauvignon Blanc. This means we are taking our 50 case production of Quintessence Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc to 88 cases to be released Spring 2019. (Get your name on the list now.)
Today we're picking our first red, Merlot from Quintessence Vineyard, and expect our first Cabernet to come in next week. Stay up to date with Harvest 2018 updates by following us on Instagram + Facebook or check back in on our blog weekly.
As we’ve been celebrating Charlie for the last several months as this years’ Honorary Vintner we finally had the chance to celebrate with a week’s worth of festivities. We kicked everything off last Wednesday with the Annual Kick-Off Party that took place over in Woodinville.
Then on Thursday, we participated in the Annual Picnic + Auction. Our Team was representing Fidelitas as we featured some of our favorites, the 2016 Optu White Wine and the 2015 Red Mountain Malbec. Then for the Barrel Auction itself, we featured our 2017 Quintessence Malbec which happened to be what we were auctioning off for the evening and five lucky bidders snagged a case each of this unreleased wine.
On Friday evening we hosted an intimate gathering for Charlie’s family and close friends at our Woodinville Tasting Room. This might have been one of the more fun events, we had the chance to all get together chat, and open some of our favorite vintages, including a few bottles of bubbles to aid in the celebration. It was a lovely evening as we celebrated Charlie’s 30th Harvest. One thing Charlie recently said to all of us was, “I’ve only had 30 tries’ at making wine.” And that really resonated with all of us, for someone who’s been apart of the industry for so long, it’s humbling to know the recipe is always changing and we are always trying to make the best wine yet!
Saturday was the big Auction of Washington Wine’s Gala at Chateau St. Michelle, and it was a beautiful evening. We all gathered together for the big event which raised nearly $4.1 million for Seattle Children’s Hospital and WSU Viticulture and Enology Program. Our piece of Red Mountain: Vintner’s Experience, which we hosted along with the Honorary Grower, Marshall Edwards was auctioned off for $25,000. We are all so thrilled to have been a part of the festivities this year and to have had the opportunity to celebrate Charlie!
When it comes to Red Mountain fruit, both our winemakers and grape growers alike, must show nerves of steel, tenacity, and faith in our soils. Today, while walking through the vines of the Fidelitas Estate Vineyard the truths of the harsh climate, and nearly impossible conditions have become even more evident. Stepping into August we’ve already seen brutally hot days peaking at 111° F, ceaseless winds, all without a drop of precipitation to allow relief. August will take us through version and straight into ripening with an eye on September for harvest. We walk a fine line between insanity and triumph with some of the state’s hottest years and earliest harvests setting record on these 4,040 acres.
This month I wanted to reflect and give credit where its due to our wonderful growers, industry wildcards who challenged the status quo giving possibility to this land, and gusty winemakers such as Charlie who possess the technique and talent to handle our unique region. I’d also like to share with you a few of the challenges tackled regularly on Red Mountain by our Winemaking and Viticulture Team going forward as harvest looms ahead.
Red Mountain’s dry and chalky soils are a very important part of what gives life to our wines. By regulating how much water reaches the roots we can determine the fruit set and corresponding weights and sugar content when we go to harvest. Determining how much water to give the vine is a dangerous game- too little and the vine becomes overstressed, too much and the water weight bulks up the grape diluting the flavors and sugar. Temperatures here can spike dramatically (as we saw these last two weeks), and having a team that can act quickly and decisively to calculate what that means for the vine and fruit is exceptionally important. Signs of over stressing can be seen in the canopy, which Charlie pays particular attention to throughout the growing season. On any given morning you can usually see Charlie driving through our Estate Vineyard looking at the leaves, feeling the soil moisture, and tasting the grapes. Rolling into September, the decision to harvest each lot of fruit will be primarily driven by Charlie’s taste buds- a talent developed over 31 harvests!
A special thanks is always in order to Scott Williams and Jim Holmes who have always supported and influenced the advancement of the AVA. Both of whom were kind enough to supply the fruit going into our Old Vines Merlot set to be released this fall to our club. It’s lasting relationships such as these that allow Charlie the opportunity to source from the top vineyards on Red Mountain.
Changes are happening quickly now! Take a look at the changes our Fidelitas Estate Vineyard, 2008 planting has gone through in only seven days! This fruit will be harvested this year, and the wine will be released in 2020. If you find yourself wanting to learn more about our Estate Vineyard, our Red Mountain Team hosts our Fidelitas Estate Experience tours on select dates this fall. Its our opportunity to share and explain the magic happening in our very back yard. Mark your calendar guys- this fruit is already looking exceptional.
This week, we are celebrating Charlie as the Auction of Washington Wines’ 2018 Honorary Vintner. And, in the midst of our excitement and party planning and wine coordination, Charlie is keeping on as his steady self, preparing for another harvest in Washington…his 31st to be exact.
I recently celebrated my 10-year anniversary with Charlie and Fidelitas. It was so exciting for me. It was the longest job I had ever held, and I know that there is limitless growth and opportunity working with Charlie. However, I now realize that my decade is nothing in comparison to his three in Washington. And if I feel so inspired by my 10 years, there have to be so many others out there who have been influenced and taught by Charlie over the years.
Here is a bit of what Team Fidelitas had to say about Charlie:
I first met Charlie while working for Bob and Roger Gamache. I had recently completed my degree at WSU, and was eager to start my winemaking career. Charlie was always supportive and encouraging, and now 12 years later we are getting ready to start our 9th harvest together. Along the way I have had an amazing opportunity to not only learn about wine and winemaking, but more importantly how to be a good husband, father, and member of the community. I will always be thankful for all that he has shared with me. - Mitch Venohr, Associate Winemaker
There is so much to say about Charlie as a person and not just his talent as a winemaker. Having the blessing of knowing and working for him for almost eight years has given me a perspective from behind the scene as to his character; who he is on the inside. I have observed Charlie’s kindness to others, his friendly easy-going nature always respectful to a situation and people around him. He is so very generous of his time and knowledge for others and he has a funny bone that comes out with wit and ease. He also lives his life with integrity, true to his beliefs inside and out before family, friends, and coworkers. It is my honor to work for this compassionate man. - Kathleen Batchelder, Team Fidelitas
I met Charlie in 2010, sitting across a picnic table at a little restaurant in Benton City, where I boldly convinced him that I could build a laboratory in his new winery. From that moment on, Charlie has supported all of my crazy mad scientist experimentation and winemaking ideas. He understands my passion for learning and lends me the platform to develop new techniques that drive our winemaking style. I often get an eye roll and a laugh when I tell him, "I have an idea" and lead him to the white board in my office. Then he says, "ok, lets try it...." - Hillary Sjolund, Associate Winemaker
From hearing Charlie's drive to make 'the best wine yet', to traveling to various wine regions together for education, and learning how connected he is throughout the industry, or sharing beautiful bottles of wine over great meals, every experience with Charlie is awe-inspiring. I feel so honored to be a part of his Fidelitas family. Some of my favorite memories are from spending time with Charlie during harvest on Red Mountain last year, drinking our morning coffee, and listening to him talk about all of the careful and meticulous processes that he puts into each wine we make. Charlie's passion, paired with his overwhelming kindness and humbleness is inspirational for us all. - Michelle Marsh, Fidelitas DTC Manager
It's been a pleasure working with Charlie over the years, he has showed me time and time again, how meaningful and supportive the wine industry can be. His kindness and generosity reflect in every aspect of his business. It's also eye opening to work for someone who constantly has nice things to say about his peers, he is always positive and shows us daily that we can't do our jobs without the support of everyone who works in the wine industry. It all starts from the ground up! Charlie has also taught me how to enjoy wine and champagne (to never get a house palate) and to always stop and enjoy the simple things in life! His general passion for a nice bottle of wine, sharing a meal with family and friends over great conversation is what it's all about! - Chelsea Larson, Fidelitas Red Mountain Tasting Room Manager
When I first met Charlie he had been named Winemaker of the Year by Seattle Magazine just one year prior. Now, 5 years later, he has been named Honorary Vintner by The Auction of Washington Wines. In these past few years working with him I have learned that there is no one more deserving of these amazing titles than Charlie himself. I'm lucky enough to witness his profound love for Washington wine, Fidelitas, and his family. It's been an honor to say I've learned from Charlie and because of him, there is no other industry I would rather work in. - Skye Dissette, Fidelitas Club Concierge
I thank my dad, Charlie, for laying out the path for me and the many second generation Washington winemakers. His work ethic, thousands of hours spent in the vineyard and winery, determination to never cut corners, commitment to making the best wines in the world, and relentless joy for wine-making are incredibly inspiring. Here's to another 30 years of making wine in our home state! - Will Hoppes, Fidelitas Woodinville Tasting Room Manager, Charlie’s kid, and second generation Fidelitas
My own personal story began more than 10 years ago, when my interview with him consisted of driving around Red Mountain vineyard sites in his dusty pickup. Listening to him that afternoon, I saw his passion for making wine in Washington state and knew instantly that I had so much to learn. Since then, he has become a part of my family, a baby-whisperer for my girls, a mentor, and someone I look forward to awesome new ventures with. I used to dread when he called me during harvest or blending because I knew he was going to ask about making some crazy wine. But now I see that it is all a part of the amazing experience of working with Charlie. There is no recipe, no consistency…just something we call modern craft winemaking that promises to still produce ‘our best wine yet’.
1) The uniquness of the Fidelitas Estate Vineyard: Charlie and Dick Boushey are bringing 60+ years of winemaking/vineyard experience to collaborate on one 12 acre, 5 varietal, 6 Cabernet clone vineyard, with one winemaker's vision in mind. A little different than the standard Washington model where some of the top vineyard sites like Red Willow, Champoux, Quintessence, Ciel du Cheval, Boushey, etc... are selling to 30-40 different winemakers.
2) Don't sleep on the food in Tri-Cities: we had amazing sandwiches and salads from Graze and pizzas from Brickhouse for staff lunches, and (hot take alert) the best Barbeque in the state of Washington: Porter's in Richland, for our all staff dinner.
3) Ciel du Cheval is a jungle and Quintessence is groomed like a golf course - this is not meant as a slight, but as a compliment to both parties. These are some of my favorite vineyards in Washington and more than anything shows the beauty of different vineyard management practices.
CDC Cab Franc
4) Our winemaking team is nerding out about fermentation vessels more than ever . The team did a tasting in the production facility of one lot of Clone 169 Quintessence Cabernet, but fermented in 5 different oak containers: new roller fermenter, used roller fermenter, upright wood tank, etc...
5) Calling Red Mountain "one South-Western facing slope" is technically true, but is a bit of a disservice to the diversity of growing sites within the AVA
A block of Malbec from the Canyons vineyard, named after the extreme slopes and unplantable canyon that runs through the planting:
Shaw Vineyards tucked in the very northwest corner of the AVA boundaries - you'll have to take a few dirt roads to get a peek of this planting:
On the opposite corner of the AVA is Quintessence which has some plantings in rocky soils that are south-eastern facing:
None of these pictures come close to doing it justice - go out and explore Red Mountain for yourself! (just watch out for snakes and badgers)
Every July we celebrate Team Fidelitas Month to say, Thank you to our Wine Club Members. We always brainstorm new ways to add value to the benefits we offer our members. Fidelitas Optu and Magna Wine Clubs are invited to join us for a preview of wines slated for release in the second half of 2018.
It’s one of the many benefits we offer our Wine Club Members. Charlie creates each wine with our wine club in mind and this is the perfect event for our Optu and Magna members to taste the wines before they are even released, so they can make an educated decision for their fall allocations. Below is a list of which wines will be available for tasting.
2015 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
2015 Fidelitas Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
2017 Red Mountain Optu White Wine
2015 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Merlot
2015 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
2015 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Franc
2015 Old Vines Merlot
limited case production, won't be available for tasting
2015 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Wine
limited case production, won’t be available for tasting
The Preview Tasting event is an invitation only event for our Optu and Magna members who will have the first opportunity to select their club allocation. If you are a current Faithful, Loyal True member and want to upgrade your membership, our Wine Club Team is happy to help with that. Or, if you are a current club member and unable to attend our preview event, not to worry as a member you can pre-order any of the wines above at any point during the year. Contact our Wine Club Team if you have questions, they’d love to hear from you!