Long before the place we call home became riddled with award winning vineyards, wineries, and wines; 2 former General Electric engineers turned wine visionaries planted the first Red Mountain vines in 1975. Scott Williams of Kiona and Jim Holmes of Ciel du Cheval. My dad has recognized the quality from CDC for quite some time – our Ciel du Cheval Cabernet which has become a Fidélitas staple was first produced in 2006. But what is it about Ciel that makes it so special? I doubt this blog post will do 42 years of intensive vineyard management justice, and with terroir it seems there’s only so much we can explain – but here is one of my favorite characteristics:
1, 100-acre vineyard – 39 separate blocks. One of the ways that old vineyards become so unique and sought-afer is how different the individual plants become over time. A little different slope here, slighty more sunlight there, even an irrigation pipe that drips water at a faster rate. All these differences cause each of the plants to develop their own personalities – even if 100 acres or so are all the same exact root stock to begin with.
CDC takes it one step further. Making up some 102 total acres here are 36 separate blocks planted with an average size of 2.8 acres. Each one with its own row orientation, plant spacing, training methods, etc… to create individual terroirs at a micro level. The vineyard management is exhausting and would be much easier to farm the 100 acres in a uniform manner, but this small-lot method shows Holmes’ commitment to producing the best fruit possible. The methodology reminds me of our winemaking team which uses all sorts fermentation vessels, yeasts, and barrels to have multiple components to work with for one wine. A bottle of Ciel du Cheval cabernet is way more complicated than it seems.
This strategy was used to combat the homogenous soils of the vineyard. Example of the sandy, well draining, high in calcium carbonate soil on Red Mountain:
Ciel du Cheval in relation to Fidélitas (note the red hue of the “Red” Mountain cheatgrass):
Often you hear us, and your other favorite wineries, spouting the term “limited release” when debuting a new wine. It’s a common term in this industry where every wine produced is unique. That vintage, those vineyards, the barrels used, and the hard work that goes into each bottle made makes each wine different from one another. That’s what makes collecting wine so fun right? There is quite literally a “limited” number of bottles made of every single wine out there. What that means though, can look different for different wineries.
In larger growing regions such as Napa Valley, for example, it is not uncommon for wineries to make 20,000-30,000 cases of wine annually. A 1,000 case production Cabernet for them would certainly be considered “limited”. Believe it or not, those wineries are still considered “small” according to industry standards. For comparison, Fidelitas produces about 6,000 total cases annually which just kicks us up from “very small” to “small” guys in this big industry.
The wines that we release range between as few as 50 cases, like the very special release of Quintessence Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, to the high end of the spectrum which is about 575 cases of a single wine like our mainstay, Optu Red Mountain.
The point I’m getting to is this: when we say “limited release” we really mean it.
Because of Charlie’s long-standing relationship with growers on Red Mountain we are able to get our hands on some of the most exclusive fruit available. Sometimes that means we only get a couple tons from a certain vineyard block. One example of this is the release of our single varietal wines from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard which will be available to members next month. In the 2014 vintage we produced five wines from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard:
2014 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – 386 cases
2014 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Merlot – 98 cases
2014 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Petit Verdot – 72 cases
2014 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Franc – 94 cases (sold out prior to the release)
2014 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Wine – 190 cases (sold out prior to the release)
Now let’s factor in the amount needed to fulfill Wine Club Member allocations plus Club Member pre-orders...there’s generally a dangerously low amount left over to sell in our tasting rooms or online. This is a good thing, right? Yes. However, we desperately want you to be able to enjoy the wines from Fidelitas that you are most interested in. The only way to guarantee that you’ll get your hands on the most “limited” wines of Fidelitas is by becoming a member of the Fidelitas Wine Club and putting your name on the pre-order or wait lists.
As Fidelitas grows, our wines are becoming more “limited” than ever. Will you be first in line for the most exclusive Fidelitas wines yet?
It’s the best time of year here at Fidelitas because our Ciel du Cheval wines find their way back into the lineup! Who doesn’t love big bold reds from 42-year-old vines? In just a couple of weeks we will be releasing some of my favorites just in time for the holidays. These wines will be available to the Wine Club starting Friday, November 3rd. Not in the Club? Join online today, or email us to get in on these limited release wines before they are gone!
(in both FLT and Optu allocations)
(in FLT allocation)
*Email us to put you on the wait-list
(in Optu allocation)
*Email us to put you on the wait-list
(available for add-on purchases)
(available for add-on purchases)
I woke up a few weeks back, read the headlines, and determined that it would be a better to stay in bed with my kids all day. The news was just too horrible, with too many lives impacted once again. I drug on like this for a day or two until my mom sent me a text: “we cannot control what happens in the world, but we can control our response”. She reminded me, there is nothing we could have done in recent months to prevent these events in the news, but we can send aid and make a conscious decision to help those in need.
Then, this week, the headlines hit much closer to home. The wildfires in Northern California are impacting members of our greater wine community. Beyond the stately wineries, there are the people that run our POS system and website, former colleagues working as winemakers and cellar hands, those who tend the vines, and those who have the exact same jobs as me and my team: selling the wines. A fire in 2017 for a winery can mean years and years of damage. Inventory lost today means nothing to sell for years to come, and all of those lives, and the lives of their families, are impacted for that span of time.
And so this October, I ask that we all give, because that is all that we can control at this point in time. We are still focusing on our Product Spotlight in the first part of October, where 10% of our website and tasting room proceeds will go to Hurricane Relief funds via Global Giving. In addition, Charlie and I feel passionate about generating additional funds that can go to those affected by the fires in Northern California.
October 20 – 22: we are joining forces with other wineries in the Red Mountain AVA to benefit relief efforts in Napa and Sonoma. Fidelitas will be donating a portion of our proceeds from the entire weekend, including the Harvest Party on Red Mountain. In addition, we ask that our guests consider making a cash donation, or contributing gift cards to stores such as Target and Home Depot that can distributed to families in Northern California so they can purchase the essentials they need to start rebuilding.
I have been fortunate enough to visit both Napa and Sonoma several times over the years, including a trip when I was very young, and again when I was just 21. Every visit, whether as a newbie, or as an industry member, I have been warmly welcomed and treated wonderfully. It truly is a special place.
Each month, Fidelitas offers a Product Spotlight, where we feature a certain wine at a special price. Recent events, however, have impacted our friends and members near and far, and have us wanting to shine that Spotlight a little broader this month.
GlobalGiving is the largest global crowdfunding community connecting nonprofits, donors, and companies in nearly every country. GlobalGiving connects nonprofits, donors, and companies in nearly every country around the world. We help local nonprofits access the funding, tools, training, and support they need to become more effective.
Walking around the vineyards with the Wine Boss a few days ago at the very start of harvest brought back some fond and not so fond (long hours) memories. Here are some interesting tidbits, musings, lessons learned, etc… from harvest:
The rain on Red Mountain isn’t as much of a pain as it is in the Willamette Valley. On Sunday of last week on my way from Seattle to Tri-Cities it had rained the whole way, including all night in the vineyards. Luckily the wind picked up that morning – as it always seems to do – dried off the fruit, and we were able to pick some Quintessence Cab early afternoon. Harvest 2016 in the Willamette Valley, from what I can remember, had fortunate weather. However with the chance of it raining more often and for longer periods at a time (it’s usually just short bursts in Eastern WA) and the Pinot Clusters being tighter and harder to dry precipitation definitely gives OR winemakers fits.
Harvest 2016 - Bishop Creek Vineyard, Willamette Valley
Sampling Cabernet at Quintessence
A vineyard looking more well-manicured (see Quintessence above) doesn’t mean it’s necessarily “better managed” – I think it’s more up to particular style of that vineyard manager. Perfectly groomed rows look amazing and you can appreciate the work that goes into them, however grape vines are wild plants and don’t need to be completely tamed to produce amazing fruit (see our Estate vineyard below).
Estate Vineyard 9/21/2017
A roller fermenter only yields about 1 barrel of wine (25 cases) – this small quantity alone should tell you how much our winemaking team loves them vs. doing larger stainless steel fermentations.
Grape-sampling and getting accurate Brix readings is a crucial part of making pick decisions. Here’s how I’ve been taught: pick at least 2 rows to walk down from the block that you’ll be sampling – take a certain number of steps, turn either left or right (switching back and forth each time), and choose the first cluster you see. With everything being handpicked you can assume that any green clusters or anything else that looks funky won’t be brought into the winery, but by making it as random as possible you avoid just selecting clusters that look delicious, or have a little green in them and getting an inaccurate reading.
The 2015 “Old Vines Merlot” is amazing and you can catch some pretty amazing sunrises in Tri-Cities getting up at 5 am to taste through fermentations. Cheers to a successful harvest.
Harvest is in full swing on Red Mountain, with fruit coming in quickly to find it's place in the cellar. Here is where we are so far:
We are 80% completed with Merlot. We have a new block of Blackwood Canyon Merlot along with the old block at Kiona remaining.
Fidelitas Estate Merlot, picked September 21
Quite a bit of Quintessence Cab Sauv has been picked and in tank or barrel already. We have completed block 7 (clone 169), block 9 ( clone 191), Block 10 ( clone 8) and block 47 (clone 2)
Tasting fruit in Quintessence Vineyard
The white wines are progressing nicely through fermentation. There is distinct difference in the “ovium” barrel and just regular barrels. The Ovium barrel will be the limited release Quitessence Sauvignon Blanc. The Klipsun Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon are really nice as a result of a little cooler vintage.
The Ovium: one of a kind in the U.S., made specifically for Sauvignon Blanc
We are enjoying a little cooler weather than in the most recent vintages. Last week we had several days with the high’s of the day in the 60’s. That trend will change slightly this week to a few days in the lower 80’s. This should move ripening along nicely. The quality of the vintage shows promise and reminds me a lot of 2012. This is a somewhat of a normal vintage, we just have not seen one for a while.
New signage in the Fidelitas Estate Vineyard
The plan is to continue to harvest and ferment all the new estate blocks separately and see how each block expresses itself. We do have Estate Merlot fermenting in a tank and we will keep you up to date on its progress.
We should start to see some Malbec and other Cab Sauv coming in the next 10 days.
More to come as more fruit arrives!
“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.