From Jess: this is a repost from last February. However, as we are entering Taste Washington Wine Month and releasing our 14th vintage of Optu Red, I felt like it was worth sharing again.
Last fall I heard Kathleen in the tasting room introduce the Optu Red Mountain as "the wine that started it all." I love that phrase because it really does stand for everything that is Optu and Fidelitas. A product that has grown with Charlie as a winemaker and Fidelitas as a Red Mountain focused winery, while always representing the best fruit and vineyards in a given vintage.
Each year at Taste Washington, we feature the Optu Red Mountain, and it never fails to delight all that visit our table on that busy weekend. We hope to see you there to taste the newest addition to the legacy of the wine that started it all.
I came to work with Fidelitas in 2008, just as we were releasing the 2005 vintage reds. The tasting room on Red Mountain had been open for a year, but everyone had their stories of where they had experienced Fidelitas before then. For me, I first met Charlie at Canon de Sol (years before starting with Fidelitas), and then again in the Sandhill building. At one point in time, I was lucky enough to get a tour of Red Mountain with Charlie before so many of the great vineyards of today were even planted.
I’ve noticed that most stories have Optu woven in somewhere. My aunt recalls when she ordered some wine as a gift and Charlie delivered the case of 2002 Optu Red Wine to her door, case perched on his shoulder. The 2005 and 2006 vintages were very popular in distribution and so we picked up several new Fidelitas fans who had the wine at their favorite wine bar. This is the wine that has been with us from the beginning, representing our optimum blend of vineyards and varietals from each vintage.
And so now, a brief history of our signature blend, which started as Meritage, became Optu Red Wine, and now represents the region we call home as Optu Red Mountain. Optu first debuted in the 2000 vintage, and is now being released in its 13th variation as the Fidelitas 2012 Optu Red Mountain.
The 2000 Fidelitas Meritage debuted as a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon and 38% Merlot. Our first vintage was limited to just 375 cases of this one wine. We kept the Meritage name and this bottle through the 2001 vintage (a blend of 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Malbec) and gave the wine a friend with the addition of Columbia Valley Syrah.
2002 is perhaps our most exciting vintage by packaging standards, and the origin of the name OPTU. I also happen to LOVE this vintage and was lucky enough to hoard some for several years. A blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, and 9% Malbec. I believe that this is the first wine we included some Red Mountain fruit in, with 10% of the make up coming from Red Mountain Vineyard. We bumped the line up to a total of 6 products in this vintage, most notably with the introduction of Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
By 2003, we came up with a design for the bottle that has stuck with us through the 2013 white wines. This is a great time for a shout out to our tireless designer, Joe Farmer of Whizbang Studio. He does awesome work and is a truly nice guy. Back to the wine…2003 Optu Red Wine is comprised of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Franc. We basically exploded to 9 products in this vintage with the addition of 2 white wines: the Columbia Valley Semillon and Elerding Chardonnay!
2004 sticks out in my mind as one of my favorites during the 10 Vintages of Optu dinner (also known as the flying salad dinner). 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 10% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec…our first blend using all 5 Bordeaux varietals.
In 2005 we introduced the linebacker bottles. Big shoulders, heavier than anything, and could only fit in 6-packs. It seemed like a fun idea until people complained about the bottles not fitting in their cellars. This only lasted us through 2 vintages… 2005 Optu is still showing fabulously now (as evidenced by my 05 Party), as a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Merlot. In this vintage, we also debuted our first Red Mountain dedicated wine, the 2005 Red Mountain Merlot, and created the Boushey Red Wine as a tribute to Dick Boushey’s 25Th anniversary.
In 2006, Optu was made up of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, and 9% Cabernet Franc. My fondest memory from this vintage was Charlie saying…"sure, you can lay them down, but why? They’re great now!” We also introduced Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon in this vintage.
2007 brought another packaging change for some of our wines, thinner bottles, and one of Charlie’s favorite vintages. 07 Optu showcased 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 9% Malbec, and 6% Petit Verdot. We were at 15 products by this point in time with the addition of Red Mountain Red Wine, Red Mountain Merlot, and Red Mountain Cabernet Franc. We also gave Charlie the challenge of focusing just on Bordeaux varietals, and so Syrah fell away from the line up after 2006. 2008 stayed in the same bottled with 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Malbec. 2009 also got to stick in the same bottle (that’s a record!) and is made up of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec. This still stands out as one of my favorite vintages and I am squirrling away as many bottles as possible.
2010 was a turning point for Fidelitas, and for Optu. In this vintage, we released the Optu Red Mountain…a blend dedicated just to the region we call home. Still a blend, this vintage also favored Merlot with 53%, then 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. Love this wine. We got to keep the Merlot dominance in the 2011 vintage of Optu Red Mountain with a blend of 50% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, and16% Cabernet Franc. This vintage sold out in about 2 months. Lucky for those in the Wine Club!
And so now, we end with the current release, our 13th vintage of what is now known as Optu Red Mountain. A big, bold wine at this point in time, that is worthy of time in the cellar for sure as a blend of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. By this point in time, we have 18 red wines and 2 white wines: all Bordeaux-varietals, and 90% Red Mountain grown with the exception of some lasting vineyard relationships that are too good to pass up.
This blog post took me way longer to compose than I intended, but I think it’s because I truly do feel a connection to Optu. It was fun to go back through the vintages and remember different times that I’ve had the wines myself. If anyone has an Optu memory to add, I’d love to hear it.
FAITHFUL, LOYAL, TRUE.
Where do these words come from?
Translated from Latin, Fidelitas means faithful, loyal, and true. Think about the word fidelity and it starts to make sense. Ponder our logo, realize the circle is not an O, it’s a ring or circle of fidelity, and it makes a bit more sense. Know Charlie Hoppes and it all comes together.
Charlie and his wife, Terri, have been married for 33 years. They started their family as Charlie started his winemaking career. When they launched their own family winery in 2000, Charlie looked to Terri’s family for the name, settling on Fidelis (extended to Fidelitas). Like his winemaking style, Charlie’s approach to life is simple and pure. Honor those who are important to you, respect everyone, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Knowing him is knowing what it is to be faithful, loyal, and true.
Charlie, Terri, and their first daughter, Emily. Photo taken within the year Charlie first discovered Red Mountain fruit.
I don’t say all of these nice thing about my boss because my annual review is coming up, but because these 3 words have truly permeated all aspects of our business. We are faithful to grape varieties from the Bordeaux region of France (with a particular soft spot for Cabernet Sauvignon), loyal to modern craft winemaking techniques, and true to Red Mountain’s unique terroir. My team here aims to show everyone how they are faithful, loyal, and true through the relationships we have with visitors, members, and one another.
Each February, we celebrate the region we call home: Red Mountain. We host special tastings of our Red Mountain wines, and offer our customers the chance to stock up on some truly special releases. We hope that you’ll join us in the tasting rooms, or bring some Red Mountain in to your home so you can celebrate being faithful, loyal, and true along with us.
Join us Valentine’s Day weekend (February 13 + 14) for special Red Mountain wine flights and sweet treats. DETAILS
Club Members are invited to join us February 20 + 21 during our Release Weekend with a tasting of the new Optu Red Mountain and Red Mountain Merlot, along with a few nibbles. Please note: Woodinville will be open to Members ONLY both Saturday and Sunday. Red Mountain will be open for all visitors with a designated Club area. DETAILS
Order 2012 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, as we spotlight one of our staff favorites at a very special price. Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine we make each year to feature the unique characteristics of Cabernet from the Red Mountain AVA, using Clone 8 Cabernet from top Red Mountain vineyards. Toast your true love with Red Mountain Cabernet and we’ll toss in a couple truffles for you to enjoy as well.
Order by February 7th to have 2-Day Air shipping included in the price of a 6-bottle purchase.
During my workout this morning, the class instructor announced that she had some (a bottle) of champagne the night before. While I admired her for being so honest with us, it also made me realize that the indulgences of the holidays really do get to all of us (even those who teach fitness classes for a living rather than peddling wine, like me).
I love food. I love looking at pictures of it, dreaming about making the most complex of dishes, planning the menus, pairing the wines, and even going to the grocery store. While the food magazines and websites will tell us that this is the time of year to pull out all the stops, it’s not. They are wrong.
This is the time of year to slow it down. Pick simple, comforting, and beautiful dishes that are easy to execute, because we all know that at the same time we are wrapping gifts, wrangling sugar/gift crazed children, and zipping between holiday parties.
Here is a round up of things that caught my eye to make between now and 2016:
Renee Erickson’s Sauteed Dates (via Food 52, even though Renee’s a hometown here)
Baked Camembert with Pepper Jelly: just throw a little wheel in a cast iron, bake it, add some hot pepper jam (this one is amazing) on it towards the end and serve with baguette…so easy!
Smitten Kitchen’s Baked Orzo with Eggplant
Harissa Stew for something hearty yet not so rich
Finally, I cannot bake to save my life by these Ambrosia Macaroons are soooo easy (my 2-year old pretty much made them), were fan favorites at the Holiday Party, and are exceptional with Late Harvest Semillon.
‘Tis the Season of last minute gift grabbing: heading to someone’s house, a party, or an appointment, and wanting to give something better than a regift from last year. Keep a case of easy drinkers and pretty tissue handy all season long so you never show up empty handed.*
Perhaps the most obvious, but for a reason! People work hard to throw a party at their home and always appreciate the acknowledgement of a gift. And – if you call it a hostess gift instead of a bar contribution, they feel like they get to keep that special bottle to themselves.
…are always better with a little wine. Don’t trust Uncle Jack to have enough supply to keep everyone going through the course of a family get together. Bring a bottle of your own to make sure there is enough for the duration!
I was getting my hair done 2 weeks before Christmas last year and someone popped in to give my stylist a bottle of wine. There I was, a winery employee, and totally empty handed. A nice bottle can go a long way for the people with whom you have a great relationship, but maybe didn’t make the major mall shopping list.
*Note: in no way am I suggesting that these wines should be consumed in your car, which is illegal. If you think you might be tempted, keep the corkscrew at home. Also, be careful about the weather! Wines left outside overnight when the temps drop could freeze, and that is really sad.
My husband just sent me a picture from the grocery store that already had a bunch of Christmas decorations on display. He was truly sad that “the grocery store skipped Thanksgiving!” and also confused as to why someone would want a planter in the shape of Santa’s boot. I can’t blame him on both accounts.
In all honesty, I don’t mind getting a little ahead on Christmas and gifts and whatnot (I’ll be honest…I just sent out a gentle gift pack blast to our email list…but waited until after Halloween!). It’s always been a personal goal to have my shopping done before Thanksgiving, with an extra case of wine on hand for last minute gifts. That way, I can just enjoy the weeks that follow.
However, I am not okay with skipping Thanksgiving all together. It is truly one of my favorite holidays. Good food, beautiful décor, and my best friends and family all in one place. I keep hearing people talk about serving cheap wine at Thanksgiving so one’s obnoxious uncle doesn’t get into it. However, I don’t worry about that in my house, and would like to drink good wine that pairs well with great food on this day of feasting.
This year, my picks for Thanksgiving are 2014 Klipsun Vineyard Optu White (quite possibly my favorite vintage of Optu White), along with 2012 Red Mountain Merlot and 2012 Champoux Vineyard Magna Red Wine. The Optu White is to serve with appetizers – a simple cheese board and a gorgeous crudité platter.
Both of the reds are perfect for Thanksgiving. They have bright acidity (good because they’ll help cut through all of those rich foods on the table), soft tannins (good because they won’t overwhelm any of the dishes), and are down right elegant wines to drink. We’ll serve these wines with the dinner itself to match all of those rich and earthy toned foods common to the Thanksgiving table. If you have people that want to drink white wine with dinner, I guarantee that Optu White is rich enough to stand up to the dinner and is going to be an awesome pairing with the turkey.
While we’re at it, I think I’ll throw in a bottle of the Late Harvest Semillon. This is a special occasion…a great time to open a special bottle! This wine is one of my favorites for any fruit based desserts, but is going to be great with that pumpkin pie as well.
Cheers! No matter what your own agenda is during these final weeks of 2015, I hope you find the time to celebrate one holiday at a time with the ones you love.
When I grow up (or don't have a 2 year old to tear the house apart), I am going to create beautiful scenes like this for Thanksgiving.
To say that we are in love with our new baby vines might be an understatement. This spring, as we planted our Estate Vineyard, the staff at Fidelitas anxiously awaited any new information and pictures coming from Charlie and the Vineyard crew. The road was marked? End posts delivered? IRRIGATION? What’s getting planted today? Are they greenhouse plants? Dormant rootings? Who knew we could be so excited.
When planning our Staff Retreat this year, visiting Inland Desert Nursery was perhaps the most requested activity. Team Fidelitas wanted to see where it all begins. We wanted to see the grafting and dormant vines, and tiny, tiny plants. To us, this was thrilling, so we were pretty excited when Ryan welcomed us in (I think we may have been the first group who actually wanted a tour). Inland Desert is a family owned and run operation dedicated to propagating and distributing clean vines (we’ll come back to that later) across North America. Based between Benton City and Prosser, they do much more than just Washington vineyards and send plants to more than 30 states.
At the risk of going on and on about baby vines, I’ll try to summarize what I learned that day:
Inland Desert works with the Clean Plant Center to ensure that all vines are CLEAN. This means that the vines they are working with have been certified as free from targeted viruses. Since wine grapes are propagated via cuttings, it is so, so important to make sure that they are virus free, otherwise these viruses can spread quickly, affecting entire vineyards.
They sell more grape varieties and clones than I knew existed. I’ve gone through my Sommelier training, plus some other wine coursework, and read a million wine books, and they have grapes I’ve never heard of before (Kay Gray?). If they don’t have it, they’ll find it for you. The catalog these guys carry around looks like a phone book. Remember, a grape varietal (eg. Cabernet Sauvignon) can have many, many clones. We have 3 Cabernet Clones planted in the original 2009 planting and 5 in the 2015 planting. Clones are genetically identical but offer different characteristics, like earlier ripening, looser grape clusters, more tannins. Think of it like identical twins but one is taller and can run a little faster.
cuttings from the mother plant
The talented staff has many ways of giving us little vines. As you know, there has been A LOT of planting on Red Mountain this year, which meant that we got to plant dormant rootings and green potted plants. In Washington, we have a low presence of phylloxera (a tiny little louse that likes to nibble on the roots and nearly wiped out France in the late 19th century), mostly due to our sandy soils, which these critters don’t like, so we can plant vines on their own rootstock. However, areas like Oregon and California battle it a bit more so they need to have vines grafted on to a rootstock that is phylloxera resistant. Here is the coolest part: to grow a new plant, they get a stick of an old plant (a mother plant) and stick it in the dirt. That stick starts growing and once it has two buds, they clip it, put that new stick into dirt, and it starts growing. That mother plant just keeps going and going and going (as good mamas do) and pretty soon you have a greenhouse full of little vines.
red mountain bound merlot
There is so much more to learn about this whole process. If you are at all interested, I’d highly recommend checking out the Inland Desert Nursery website (and searching for the amazing Charlie picture while you’re there).
This past weekend, we hosted a group of members from our Magna Wine Club for a dinner on Red Mountain. This was our third annual event, and some dared to call it the best yet!
We started the weekend with an early morning hike through the new Estate Vineyard. I'm not sure that we could call our attempt to beat the heat succesful.
Past years have allowed for dinner on the patio, but the triple digit temps forced us into the AC in the tasting room. It was cozy but the food was great and the wine was flowing! (take a peek at the awesome centerpieces: little cabernet vines!)
Guests loved doodling between courses...
...and loved the impressive display of library wines even more.
A wonderful weekend for all! Thanks to my great staff who put this on. They were working so hard this weekend, we didn't have the time to take pretty pictures of our own activities.
Jess and Charlie hosted a wonderful group in Suite 25. Fidelitas wines were flowing and the Mariner's played an awesome game! (if you squint, you can maybe see Michelle just above the scoreboard)
How great are our members, James and Kristi?
Erin took her husband for a suprise Father's Day game.
Chelsea chose wine over baseball and checked out our neighbors.
And Skye got to do a little babysitting...
Ben and I celebrated our 5-year anniversary this past week. Time flies. Since we got hitched on the slopes of Red Mountain, it only seemed appropriated to do a wine themed trip to celebrate the date. We headed to our neighbors to the south to explore the Willamette Valley. Our three days of vacation took us to 6 wineries, a slew of restaurants, and one tiny little ferry. Here is what I learned:
Willamette Valley is over 52,000 square miles, subdivided into 6 sub-avas. Most vineyard sites lie between 200 and 1000 acres, but the AVA hosts mountains as tall as 1,600 feet and is protected by the 3,500’ elevation coastal range. My point? There is a lot of variability. Some
vineyards cited sediment from the Missoula floods like we have on Red Mountain, others said they hosted marine sediment from when the Pacific Ocean covered the region. Alexana Winery told us that they have 15 different soil types in their 80-acre property, with 8 of those on display as the front of their tasting bar.
When you are essentially working with just one varietal (pinot noir) and all of that variability in the landscape, it makes sense that growers and winemakers are going to get geeky about clones. It was fun for me to see it in action since we are exploring the best clones for our own Estate Vineyard right now. (Remember, clones are genetically identical to their parent, reproduced via bud or shoot. Using clones is a way of promoting grapes that are more disease resistant, provide more or less skin to juice ratio, produced a desired yield…overall picking the right plant for the right vineyard. This is not genetically modified stuff…just natural selection with a little assistance via grafting.)
PS – I know that there is more than just pinot noir. We tasted some lovely pinot blanc and chardonnay as well :)
Willamette Valley is much more temperate than Washington’s growing regions. Higher rainfall, fewer growing degree days, cooling coastal breezes all contribute to being pinot friendly, but it also means that we can really taste the difference vintage to vintage. Just a little more heat in 2012 showed a lot more ripeness in the wines (in some cases, to a point of being uncharacteristic of pinot noir). Pretty much every winery mentioned that their overall tonnage and case production varied greatly based on the harvest year. We’ve seen a bit of this in Washington (2004 in Walla Walla, 2010/2011 in the Horse Heaven Hills) but definitely not to the same extent.
Just like Seattle and Portland. So close that to an outsider, you might not tell the difference, but there definitely is one. The tasting rooms were GORGEOUS. Most of the ones we visited were the ‘lifelong dream’ of a couple that had established their resources elsewhere then came to the Valley. The overall feeling from a visitor is that everything was just a little more palatial and polished than us Washington folks. More so than that, the stories were different. Many wineries almost justified the fact that they sourced their fruit from other vineyards and every rose we had was introduced as being an ‘intentional’ part of their line up. Biodynamic, organic, and sustainable certifications were a big part of the selling points as well. All great stuff…just different.
Yes - we work hard. But part of the fun is getting out and exploring what's around us!