“I think it’s our best vintage yet.” I can’t count how many times I’ve heard Charlie utter this statement about our newest release. Usually I just laugh and mutter an ‘okay Chuck’. I've thought hard about this statement: Best Vintage Yet. What does that mean exactly? Does it mean that previous vintages weren't good? No. It means that the newest vintage is the optimum example of the great wines we produce.
Each vintage we learn more about the region we call home and about the vineyards we’re sourcing from and what characteristics come from the grapes planted there. Now we’re even getting down to the root and specifically choosing which clones are going to give us the perfect balance for our blends. We know the optimal time to pick the grapes because we’ve experienced heat waves (such as 2012-2013) and we’ve experienced cold spells (such as 2010-2011). Over the years we’ve experimented with barrels and aging and know what grapes hold up well with French Oak or American Oak treatment. But beyond that, we’ve got Charlie. Not just a winemaker, but a man who has spent over a quarter century making wine in Washington, that’s a long time in this relatively young industry. His experience gives him the knowledge and skills needed to create wines that are going to knock your socks off, every time. Each vintage he puts under his belt he’s producing wines that are better than ever before.
Our Optu Red Mountain is one of the most fun wines to track each year. Each vintage Charlie blends his favorite grapes to create this optimum blend. Each vintage has a make-up that’s a little bit different from the last. Some years, the blend is nearly the same as the last because those grapes are just that good, but often you’ll find an emerging vineyard making its way into the blend or a new varietal from an old favorite vineyard. We hear stories from members (and even our own staff) who have hosted 10+ year vertical tasting parties featuring this Bordeaux style blend. This wine never ceases to amaze you upon release and it’s a treat to open up after a few years in the cellar. We couldn’t be more excited for the release of the 13th vintage because we know without doubt that ‘it’s our best vintage yet.’
to purchase the 2013 Optu Red Mountain click here.
We’re just a few days away from Thanksgiving and I’ve officially been dreaming about mashed potatoes for the last three weeks. I’ll pack up my bags and leave my home in Seattle and travel over the questionably snowy mountain pass to get home to my family in Tri-Cities where we spend the majority of the weekend eating, drinking, watching football and enjoying days off from work. The good stuff!
As I am packing my bags I’m also packing up the wine for the weekend. My initial response is to hold back my most treasured bottles for an occasion where I can selfishly drink them myself… but what’s the point? Isn’t the point of the holiday to celebrate and be thankful for everyone around you? Why are you saving that bottle of 2009 Red Mountain Red anyway? My guess is your answer is the same as mine “to drink on a special occasion.” This Thanksgiving try bringing one or two of your fancy bottles of wine and use them as a tool to bring your family and friends together to enjoy the good things in life. I bet you it will spark up some stories you've never heard about your father in laws time living in France or the first time your mom snuck wine out of her parent’s liquor cabinet.
Most importantly, enjoy one another and enjoy that special bottle you’ve been saving for an occasion just like this.
Now that we are waist deep into 2015 Harvest, what better time to finish out our Staff Retreat blog series with a post about our barrel program here at Fidelitas. Our final stop during our Staff Retreat this summer was to visit the Cellar, where Mitch gave us the low down on exactly how we use barrel components to produce great wines. Between Charlie, Mitch, and Hillary I was able to put together a wealth of information about how we age our wines.
A little summary: Once the grapes are picked on Red Mountain, they are trucked 14.7 miles to Wine Boss headquarters in Richland. The grapes are processed within 12 hours of receiving, then put into fermentation tanks for about 5-7 days, wines then go into barrel where they will age over the next 22 months before they are filtered and bottled, and put to their final rest for approximately 9 months until their release.
Barrels are used to compliment the fruit and the fermenting style you use, but also has one of the biggest impacts on the wines because it's the longest part of the aging process. In creating each wine there is no standard protocol, that's what makes crafting each wine such an art. You want the barrel to add an undertone and aromatic complexity, and not to overpower the fruit. Each barrel is made from a unique wood and toast which adds specific layers to the wine.
Typically, Fidelitas orders around 125 new French and American oak barrels per year which is used in combination with another 200 neutral oak barrels to produce about 7000 cases annually. Give or take! The winemaking team goes to work deciding which barrels are used on each wine. For example, a big bold Cabernet Sauvignon can withstand more oak than a Cabernet Franc which is generally a lighter to medium bodied wine this can also depend greatly on the vineyard which it's sourced from. Another huge impact on the barrels used is depending on the vintage. Wines from the cooler 2010/2011 vintages simply weren't as bold and complex when they were brought in off the vine, therefore they needed a lighter toast or neutral barrel to add a more subtle layer. In the hot vintages we've had the last couple years, we were able to use more new oak and heavier toasts because the wine could handle the extra intensity.
After taking in all of this amazing information we had to chance to see the Cross Flow Filtration system which we use to filter the wines before bottling. This process is state of the art, AMAZING! We're one of the few wineries in Washington who get to use the Cross Flow Filtration system and we couldn't believe what an amazing impact it made to the appearance and quality of the wine. Final stop was to the bottling line where Charlie's daughter Mary and her trusty crew made sure each wine was bottled to perfection and put into cases.
Now the bottling truck has left and cellar is busy taking in tons upon tons of grapes. We'll see what Charlie and the crew have planned for aging the 2015 vintage!
Not that I pick favorites, but I tend to always have a pretty big crush on our Champoux Vineyard Merlot. Check out my interview with Charlie on this current favorite:
“So Charlie, I know you're a fan of Merlot. Let's talk about the Champoux Vineyard Merlot which is being featured in the May Club release.”
Question 1: When did you make the 1st vintage of Champoux Vineyard Merlot and how/why did it come into the line up?
2005. I didn’t really ask for it, Paul asked me if I wanted some and so I took it. There have never been too many people who have made it. I was making Champoux Merlot for 3 Rivers back when I started Fidelitas, and we have since that vintage.
Question 2: What Vintage of Champoux Merlot has been your favorite so far and why?
I think if I remember right I really liked the 2005 because it was one of the greatest vintages in WA. And really, the 2012. In our recent Champoux Showdown, I thought that it was really standing out in the line-up. If there was a third, it’d probably 2009. A vintage where it’s not too ripe or too warm…it needs a little hang time because it’s an early ripening variety. These were all maybe a little warmer vintages but the grapes still got the hang time.
Question 3: Do you tend to have special wine making practices that are unique to the Champoux Merlot?
Yes in that the Champoux wines can be so big and so tannic that we really monitor our fermentations to know when to pull things off so they don’t get too extracted. We’re using 2 ton fermenters and smaller on these wines. Keeping them small and manageable gives us different components. This is also a wine that can stand up to more new wood because it’s already so concentrated. It borders on one of those wines where it could almost be mistaken as Cabernet…I love to make that style of merlot and try to push it as far as I can in that direction.
Question 4: What’s the biggest difference between Champoux Merlot and Red Mountain Merlot?
Red Mountain can also provide big Merlot, but we’re generally not grabbing from just one vineyard spot. I find Red Mountain Merlot maybe has a little more finesse than these powerful, concentrated wines from Champoux Vineyard.
Question 5: Whats a random fact about the Champoux Merlot that we couldn't hear from anybody else?
Not very many people make it! It’s unique as a varietal wine.
Bonus Question! Favorite food to have with Champoux Merlot…
Hmmmmm. Probably something red meat. Like a filet.
Here I am the day after Champoux Showdown and I'm still gushing over last nights soiree at the Coterie Room.
First, I'm going to take a minute to fill everyone in on the amazing Fat Cork here in Seattle where we picked up the Champagne for this event. If you don't know about them already, you are sure to become a fan! They are a direct to consumer grower Champagne retailer that says 'We’re the Champagne version of the farm-to-table lifestyle.' It's true they live up to providing excellent service while offering a range of quality (and affordable!) bubbles. Plus, they're Wine Club is way cool.
A glass of bubbles was the perfect start to the evening with everyone arriving right at 6 o'clock to begin their weekend early. Truffled gougeres, salmon crostini, and chicken croquettes were passed with the first tastes of Magna Red Wine and Champoux Merlot (both coming up in the next club release). Paul and Judy Champoux arrived and Charlie toasted to the guests of honor and the fabulous grapes he's been purchasing from Paul since 1995. This is the first event of ours that Paul and Judy have been able to attend since his retirement at the end of the 2014 harvest and it was such a treat to have them join in on the fun. We had about 50 people in attendance and it was so much fun to mingle with old members, new members, friends and even family.
We tasted the May club release of Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon which as usual, knocked our socks off especially with the 24 hour braised short rib sliders and lamp tartare. I will take this moment to admit that I am not a lamb fan but I actually went back for a seconds with these. Chef duo McCracken | Tough did a beautiful job preparing the bites for this event. I will be making a point to head to Spur to check out their regular menu.
As a special treat the evening was finished off with both of the elusive 2010 and 2009 vintages of Champoux Vineyard Block One Cabernet Sauvignon. Yes, I also went back for seconds of these to have with the melt in your mouth dark chocolate sea salt truffles.
By the end I was blissfully full of belly warming food and the elegant wines from Champoux Vineyard. On the ride home we already started planning this event for next year. Thanks to everyone who came and indulged with us!
Jess was right, the menu was amazing at our Winemaker Dinner last weekend. As always we were more than impressed by the magic that comes out of Castle's kitchen. Their crew was on top of it, keeping our almost 80 guests plates full. Charlie's favorite was the 6 hour braised short ribs paired with Estate Vineyard Cabernet. The Salmon two ways came in as a close second, especially with the smoked bacon Brussel Sprouts and a generous pour of Optu White.
It was our first time hosting a dinner at Castle Catering's new venue. Chef Andy gave Team Fidelitas a behind the scenes tour of their new event space and kitchen in Richland. Did you know this used to be a dormitory for Hanford workers? Of course, they've spruced it up a bit since they've moved in.
For more information about Anthology Check out their website.
It’s January, which means that although it’s still freezing out there we’re starting to grow tired of winter stews and heavy holiday food. I've been trying to incorporate some fresh dinners at my house as of the start of this new year, and this Cajun seasoned Tuna (and a glass of the new release of 2012 Northridge Vineyard Malbec) is sure to kick up the spice and keep you warm.
You can buy Cajun Seasoning in the spice isle of any grocery store, however, it’s EASY to make yourself with spices you already have in your cabinet. I mixed mine and stored it in a small mason jar.
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Living in Seattle, it’s generally pretty easy to pick up fresh tuna steaks at a nearby PCC or Whole Foods but after a little research I have found that most stores will carry frozen tuna steaks at the Seafood counter if you cannot find fresh. For our friends in the Tri-Cities, I found out that if you call ahead to Yokes a day or so in advance they can usually order in fresh tuna steaks for you (awesome!) or they will always have a stock of frozen you can pick up.
Here’s the recipe for quick, easy, and healthy Blackened Tuna Steaks which are perfectly paired wild rice, an arugula salad, and a glass of our new release 2012 Northridge Malbec. Cheers!
This NYE we invited our neighbors (who happen to double as our best friends) over to our place for a night in avoiding the craziness that is New Years in Seattle.
Most of the evening we were sipping the 2011 Champoux Vineyard Merlot. This could be because we are all so happy Charlie finally released a Merlot again this winter after the long time gone Red Heaven Vineyard Merlot that sold out in the spring. It could also be that I gave everyone a bottle of the Champoux Merlot for Christmas because it's velvety, bold, beautiful...and currently my favorite wine in the line up.
The Champoux Merlot happens to be seen in both of these pictures of our favorite games of the evening. Wahoo (a marble game similar to Parcheesi), which we pull out and play almost monthly. Logan, our neighbor actually gifted a hand carved Wahoo board this year to his family for Christmas... seriously impressive carving skills he has.
We also brought out an old family favorite that some of you may recognize as Space Force or Shoot the Moon. Possibly the most fun was had with this one. Note: the more wine you drink the more hilarious the game.
We tried our hand at making an Angel Food Cake from scratch and it actually turned out to be DELICIOUS! Can you read my surprise here? I am by no means a baker. Tossed some raspberries on the side, drizzled with agave which literally made it sparkle, then piled on the whip cream. We served this with chilled glasses of our Klipsun Vineyard Late Harvest Semillon. I meant to drizzle the Late Harvest Semillon over the top of the cake however, by the time I remembered the cake was long gone.
Needless to say, we had a great night and were all happily tucked into our beds by 12:15. Cheers to our Fidelitas filled New Years!
1. The Gift Pack - You had me at hello, gift packs! I've already made so many decisions trying to perfect my gifts this year I just can't do it anymore. Thank you for already being assembled for me AND gift wrapped. With all of the effort I'm saving, I suppose I can sit back and enjoy a glass of wine instead of battling traffic on the way to the mall for the 3rd time this week.
2. The Gift Membership - This my friends, is the gift that keeps on giving...literally! Show your brother in Michigan that you're thinking of him all year with a membership to the Fidelitas Wine Club. We'll send them club releases four times throughout the year with access to Fidelitas' best releases, club only events, and complimentary tastings at both tasting rooms all year long. I must say, I also highly recommend this gift for your best friend who always ends up opening your favorite bottle of Fidelitas when they come to your house for dinner. Take my word for it, they will love you forever.
3. The Co-worker Gift - I owe this idea to some of our brilliant and ever so busy professionals in the club. We all have those people we work with everyday that listen to our rants about the 100 emails that are blowing up the system or those that get us coffee when we're on a 14 day stretch in the office. Without them, we would all have a case of the Monday's everyday, which is simply unacceptable. Give us their name and office address and you're done! We'll send them a bottle with a special note from you. *Hosting an office party? Think Columbia Valley Cabernet Splits as party favors!
4. The Drink Now/Save For Later - Seriously, you can give this to anyone and everyone and it's thoughtful and simply put... great. Here's how it goes: buy one bottle you don't feel guilty for opening up on a Tuesday night after work such as the 2012 4040 Red Wine (retail $32) or 2013 Klipsun Vineyard Optu White ($32) for the Drink Now portion. Then to Save for Later, give them something with a touch more elegance that can stand some time in the cellar such as the 2010 Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (retail $65). You have given them something they can enjoy right away (for us instant gratification people) and something that they can open at a special occasion (say Christmas next year?!).
5. The Experience - Have you been dying to introduce your friends Fidelitas? Do you need more ideas for family time? How about a date with a special someone? Introduce them to Fidelitas with a tasting experience at either one of our tasting rooms. This includes a flight of five Fidelitas wines paired with cheeses for $30 for 2 people. This gift is an experience they will always remember!
Every month I am lucky enough to spend a few days on Red Mountain and every time I'm there it's amazing how the vines transform. This time while I was wasting time waiting for rock blasting on the pass to get over, I spent the last few minutes of sunlight in our Estate Vineyard capturing some of the beauty of October on Red Mountain. It's crazy to think by the time I'm there next month, most of the shades of green will be long gone.