(note: we realize it’s a little early to be chatting about wines coming out in April, but the nature of the wine industry is that we are always thinking years ahead! And, this way, we can be thinking about sunnier days while gazing at the holiday décor.)
One thing I’ve known about Charlie for a long time, is that he does not follow a recipe. There is no formula, no strict oak regime, no doing the same thing twice in order to achieve the same results. “Our best wines are yet to come,” he has said for years, which is amazing considering he just concluded his 33rd harvest. Charlie is always fiddling with new blocks, new blends, new clones, new barrels. A word that I would use (I don’t think he ever would, being Charlie), is that he is an innovator: someone who refuses to be complacent and wants to continue trying and learning new things in order to present the best possible outcome to our Fidelitas fans.
All of that is a preface to something that we’re changing up this year. Something that makes me, the detail-oriented (dare I say type-A), planner a little uneasy. We’re releasing Ciel du Cheval Vineyard wines in the springtime. But we don’t do that! They come out in the fall! And yet, we’ve done that not because it has anything to do with the wines themselves, but because in my little planning world, it’s easier to just follow a similar release schedule each year.
So why Ciel in the spring? It actually has nothing to do with the Ciel du Cheval Vineyard wines. Talking to Charlie about those five wines, he tells me: “we know we’re going to like the wines from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard. Being a more established site, with older vines, and a high demand, we do use the same blocks each year. We can count on the fruit being amazing. It’s a lower elevation site than a lot of the other vineyards we work with on the mountain, which I think gives it a little softer profile. I am now thinking that it is perhaps the most elegant of the vineyard designated Cabernets that we produce.”
So really, it comes down to the other wines. Those Quintessence Vineyard and Blackwood Canyon Vineyard Cabernets that we have traditionally released in the spring, but are now shifting to a fall release. Why the fall? These wines are getting more time in both the barrel and the bottle before they come to you in an allocation. In fact, the Quintessence Vineyard Cabernet was just being bottled this morning, in December, before the sun came up (most of our other wines were bottled back in August, before harvest started).
“What we’re trying to achieve with the Blackwood and two Quintessence Vineyard Cabernets – Clone 191 and the clone blend – is a bit more flavor integration on these big wines,” Charlie relayed. “They are so big that they could benefit from a little more barrel aging. We’ve previously dialed it in to 22 months in barrel, but what I’ve noticed is that they could go quite a bit longer. I think we’re going to see a better integration of the components with this extended aging. There are phenolic components that come from both the grapes themselves, as well as the barrels. In wines like these that are more concentrated to begin with, they could pick up some of the sweeter tannins and tame the tannins that may be harsh to being with. Of course, the Ciel du Cheval Vineyard wines are giving us the structure and complexity that we look for in that site, however we've always liked the 22-24 months in barrel and don't think they require these few extra months."
More to come soon on the 2017 vintage, as we get ready to release our first 2017 red the first weekend in January (hooray, Red Mountain Malbec!). “In general, we really like these 2017s, a lot. We source from all over the Red Mountain AVA, but really everything is in pretty close proximity. I think this AVA gave us great quality in the 2017 vintage that we are already seeing reflected in the wines.”
It’s Thanksgiving time! Not a one of us can believe that 2019 is winding down, and that once again, we are just about to run out of wine. In the spirit of the holiday week, let’s check in with our team to find out what we are each thankful for.
I know that I have said this before, but it still holds true. I am thankful for Team Fidelitas. All the way from the production staff, which includes the cellar, lab, and winemaking team who make the wines and get it into the bottles, to the great staff people in the tasting rooms who make that final sale. Everyone has a role and they are doing a great job with it.
I am thankful for the wonderful people that I have the opportunity to work with and learn from, as well as all of the amazing club members that come in and brighten each and every day!
Where to begin!? Most importantly, I'm thankful to work with people who now double as friends. From weddings and birthdays, baby showers and trips, I have memories with Fidelitas that will last a lifetime. And to our members, I'm thankful that you have made my job so enjoyable these past 5 1/2 years! Many stories and laughs have been shared over a bottle of Fidelitas and I look forward to more of that in 2020.
I’m thankful for team Fidelitas and our Fidelitas wine club! Im alway look forward to sharing the excitement of limited release wines with our club members!! There’s no better group to geek out with.
Things I'm thankful for:
I am thankful for our hard-working winemaking team! They make our jobs easy in the tasting rooms. Every wine, every vintage is just amazing, and it is a pleasure to share their work with our guests.
I am so very thankful for all of the people I have met while working at Fidelitas. They have started out as friends and become family. I am very blessed!
Running a winery is no joke, and so it is easy for me to recognize all of the people and things I’m thankful for, knowing that there is no way I could do it alone. Thank you to...
Team Fidelitas: we have a bunch of new faces in Fidelitas leadership this year, and my newest members (Josh, Allie, and Bryce) each bring a unique quality and special talent to the team. In many ways, I feel like I’ve known them forever! Mix them with such a strong tasting room force in both locations, Stacey keeping me on track, my absolutely amazing Club team, and CHARLIE HOPPES at the helm, it’s magical.
Our Members: we started 2019 with 0 available bottles to sell and are going to be ending the year in just about the same boat. That means every wine we released this year, we sold, and almost all of that is going to our Club members. Thank you, thank you, for bringing Fidelitas into your homes and sharing it with your closest friends and families. It means to so much to us. You all are faithful, loyal, and true.
Red Mountain Wines (and the people who make them): There is no way we have such happy members or such a strong Team without absolutely incredible wines to showcase. Charlie and his winemaking team have committed to finding, sourcing, and producing the best blocks of fruit on Red Mountain, and we are all so thankful for that dedication to quality and craft.
It hasn’t always been like this. For those who have been with for a while, you may remember that I used to throw full, themed dinner parties for my friends to try out recipes with each new release from Fidelitas. But, eight years and two kids later, I find myself in the middle of a 1.5 hour kid pick-up commute, listening to ‘Let It Go’ for the 119th time, and pondering the inventory counts I did earlier in the day. Could we really be down to 15 cases of Quintessence Cabernet? Only 35 cases of Malbec? When was the last time I went to the grocery store and what exactly am I going to make for dinner tonight? Somewhere between the Quintessence Cabernet and the thought of going to the grocery store with two kids after 5pm, I remembered an Instagram post I saw for a recipe that promised I had all the ingredients in my pantry…and then remembered I had Quintessence Cabernet in my cellar.
Was my finished product as beautiful as Smitten Kitchen? Certainly not. But did it turn out delicious, feed the fam, and pair awesome with Cabernet on a rainy night? Yes, yes, and yes.
|Deb's version||my version||kid version|
In one of the first wine courses I ever took – a food and wine pairing class – the teacher told us “it’s not so much about the perfect pairing, but about the perfect wine with the perfect meal with the perfect company” and that was certainly how this dinner ended up. Sooner than later, I am positive that I’ll be enjoying that glamorous wine country lifestyle again. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the small wins of grown-up spaghetti-os and awesome wine on a weekday night.
We're now heading in to the time of year where I barely see Charlie and am happy to get quick texts from him and pictures from Will. Harvest is underway! Here is what we're hearing from Charlie: "We picked our first reds on Wednesday: Merlot from Quintessence Vineyard. The fruite seems to have more, riper flavors this year but at lower Brix than normal. I believe it is from having nice warm weather but not having super hot days exceeding 100F during the growing season. All of the whites we have picked have been lower brix than normal but have had great flavors. Things are looking great so far!"
pick schedule looks easy to start
Sauvignon Blanc in Artz Vineyard
out for the first pick: Klipsun Sauvignon Blanc early on August 29
first day of harvest...still smiling
the pick schedule is getting fuller...but he's still smiling!
Merlot in Quintessence Vineyard, consistently our first red block of the year
Quintessence Merlot coming in to the cellar
and then finding a rest spot to ferment in a Boutes tank
When I started with Fidelitas in 2008, my job was solely to work directly with the members of the Fidelitas Wine Club. Over the years, I’ve had the joy of interacting with so many of you on Red Mountain, in Seattle (remember that?), in Woodinville, and lots of time on the phone with those of you who live a little further away. I know dog’s names, locations of vacation houses, and your mom’s favorite beverage (which isn’t always wine). Members remember when I got married on Red Mountain and my kid’s names, but I still manage to confuse many on where exactly I live in the state.
Over the years, my job has evolved, and I don’t get to work with everyone on the individual level as often (shout out to Skye and Michelle on the Club Team who get the pleasure now). However, one thing remains the same since we as a company committed to the Club back in 2008: everything we do is for you. We make products designed with the Club in mind, many of which were requested by you. We’ve opened tasting rooms, hosted unique and educational events, and created a special Club just for people who live out of state.
Our vision for 2020 and beyond is to continue this trend and be even better at it. We have plans in the works to enhance the guest experience in all arenas of the Club and are so excited to share them with you. In the meantime, we’d love to know how you’re doing. Drop us a note, tag us on Instagram (@FidelitasWines), pick up the phone, or come visit us in the tasting room. We’d love to hear all about it.
Thank you for being a member. We truly appreciate your being faithful, loyal, and true to Fidelitas.
Jess Zander, Fidelitas GM
Magna Dinner, June 2019
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.
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…)
Note: a big hats off to Chef Pauline Garza and her team at Drumheller's for hosting Team Fidelitas’ holiday party this year. This restaurant, found in the Lodge in Columbia Point in Richland, is awesome. However, of the amazing dishes we enjoyed that night, the one that stood out to me most was Chef Pauline’s showstopping Curried Lentil, Tomato and Coconut Soup. She was kind enough to share the recipe with us, since the whole team wanted more. I did make some minor adjustments to bring it down to family sized (versus restaurant sized) cooking portions. This also errs on the side of caution with the ginger because I was serving it to small children but I’d say the more the merrier! Chef Pauline had some chunks in hers that made the dish.
Thank you, Chef, for sharing!
I’ve never been a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions. Mostly because I don’t like to fail, and setting something like that for myself is pretty much guaranteed failure. Also, I love the concept of some healthy eating after the holidays but most of my Januarys involve playoff football and a trip to Napa, and that’s just not the time to limit yourself. To those who can…kudos.
So – post Superbowl resolutions tend to be more my thing. Add in this snowstorm we’re experiencing in Seattle, and it make it the perfect time to reshare this tasty, and healthy lentil soup. For those who just can’t say no to wine with dinner (🙋♀️), the Optu White Wine is pretty much a perfect pairing. The rich body tampers the heat, while the bright acidity lifts the fresh ginger and cilantro tones. As a bonus, if you didn’t make it to strip the grocery shelves bare, many of these ingredients are things you may have on hand around the house.
Curried Lentil, Tomato, and Coconut Soup
I am in no way a chef, food stylist, or photographer. I just like to cook it and eat it. And drink wine with it. I hope you do to!
Selling wine can be so hard.
Before we can present a new wine to our customers, there is so much preparation that goes in to the release. I’m not talking about the effort that the growers put in to each vine, or the work that Charlie and his team dedicate to carefully crafting each product, or even the hours I log deciding on glass and labels and all of the other packaging details. I am talking about all of the wines that we HAVE to taste and information we gather prior to release to make sure that they are just perfect.
Below are a handful of (unofficial, personal opinion) notes on the releases we have coming out the first half of 2019, in order of their release.*
Tasting this recently with Charlie we asked “where are all of those new flavors coming from?”. He explained that compared to 2014 and 2015, which were so toasty on Red Mountain, the 2016 vintage was a tad cooler, and that really allowed for the flavors of the varietal to come through. Charlie has been cited as “Washington’s top Malbec producer” by a number of authors, and with good reason. This Malbec has the power you’d expect from Red Mountain, along with the elegance I expect from a Charlie Hoppes Malbec.
Associate Winemaker, Hillary Sjolund, working on tasting notes for the 2016 reds.
2016 Red Mountain Merlot
Red Mountain Merlot is the first AVA-designated wine that Fidelitas made on Red Mountain. For years and years, this was a favorite around the Zander household. I have to admit, these recent warmer vintages (2014/2015) threw me a little bit on the Merlot but tasting this 2016 vintage has me right back on track as a favorite in the line-up. The wine is bright and cheery, bursting with red fruit tones and enough structure to make it exciting but not too bold to be saved for special occasions. I’m excited to pair this with some quiet time on the couch after the kids go to bed.
Oh Optu, you lovely wine. At last weekend’s preview tasting, members kept asking for my favorite wine in the room. And while I would NEVER play favorites, my heart kept tugging towards the Optu. Perhaps it’s the Cabernet-dominate blend. Or the heavy role that the Fidelitas Estate Vineyard plays in the make up (a first with this vintage!). Or maybe it’s the fact that I know Charlie actually does put a little extra love in to this blend. It’s the ‘wine that started it all’. The one we have made in every vintage since we began in 2000. And as our optimum blend, it’s perfectly yummy right now and so age worthy for those who can wait.
Happy Optu + Magna members at the January 2019 Preview Tasting in Woodinville.
2016 Blackwood Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon
This is our third vintage released from Blackwood Canyon Vineyard. Many are familiar with this landmark Red Mountain vineyard and have stories to share from over the years. What we know is that the fruit is AMAZING. This is old vine Cabernet from the AVA, using grapes that were originally planted in 1984. The vineyard went through a few years of neglect but were lovingly brought back to full glory in the past decade. The result is a rich, dense Cabernet with exceptional structure and depth. We are so excited about this vineyard site as it sits adjacent to the blocks of our own Estate Vineyard that were planted in 2015. To think of what we’ll have to work with in 30 years!
The Canyons Vineyard is aptly named for the deep ravines that cut up the side of Red Mountain from the Yakima River below. The gives us vines growing on crazy sideways slopes up and down each canyon. We source Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Merlot from this site and put all three together to make this blend. I think it’s a perfect summertime blend and can’t wait to enjoy a bottle on the deck with some BBQ as soon as these temps warm up. (dreaming of warmer days on this super cold morning in Seattle…)
Now, Charlie doesn’t play favorites either, but we all know he is a HUGE fan of Quintessence Vineyard and really loves to work with Merlot. Any chance he can get, Charlie is telling us stories about when he first started making wine in Washington, and that Merlot is really what put Washington on the map as a growing region. This is our first vintage of Merlot from Quintessence Vineyard and we all agree that it’s an awesome way to start! Across the board, we see a bit more structure to the wines from Quintessence. This Merlot provides much darker fruit tones than the Red Mountain Merlot, and has some added aging potential as well.
During our team meeting last week, we tasted through the whole line up and Skye refused to keep tasting after the Quintessence Malbec. “I’ll just spend the rest of my day with this wine,” she said. Like the Merlots, this vineyard designated Malbec provides a deeper, richer, more complex profile than the Red Mountain counterparts. Quintessence is a relatively young site and Charlie actually got to give a little input on what he’d like to see planted. Malbec was high on his request list with dreams of making exactly this wine, just for Fidelitas Club members.
Will tasting the 2016 Quintessence Vineyard Malbec.
2016 Quintessence Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
We’ve been working with Quintessence Vineyard fruit since the 2012 vintage, and it has been so great to see it evolve over the years. We use two French ENTAV clones, 169 and 191, in the Quintessence Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. That means, these are grapes that are registered with the French government and might be found in some of those lovely wines from Bordeaux. To me, it gives the wine a multi-dimensional profile that has the earthiness we’d see in Old World wines, coupled with the bold tannins and bright fruit tones are icons of the Red Mountain AVA. This is definitely worthy of some time in the cellar and I cannot wait to see how each vintage continues to evolve over the years.
Fair warning: at the time of writing this blog post, we have 4.5 cases left of this wine. If you are reading this on January 16, and want this in your allocation…do it now! The other 43 have been allocated in less than 48 hours…
Charlie called me during his blending trials last year and said “we HAVE to do 2 single clone Cabernets from Quintessence”. I told him he was crazy and called Michelle who told me it was the coolest idea ever. So, I countered by asking him to choose just 1 clone and 2 days later he settled on the Clone 169. Why? To him – it just has the most unique qualities that stand out. Tannic structure, depth, complexity are all big markers of the ENTAV Clone 169, and those surely show in this wine. If you can’t wait to try it once you get it home, please pass it through a decanter or let it breathe in the bottle for a bit first. It’s a big guy that opens up so beautifully with a little time.
*a note about release dates: the actual date will vary based on Club level. Many wines are Club only and will not be seen in the tasting rooms.
Fidelitas fans made this year one to remember. We launched a brand-new way for our members to buy Fidelitas wines; allowing the Club to select from our newest releases and create their own, unique allocation. Through the loyalty and dedication of our Club, we have now (nearly!) sold out of every wine we released in 2018. These faithful, loyal, and true members push us to keep ‘making our best wine yet’ as we look for new ways to surprise and delight them in vintages to come.
Magna Dinner, Red Mountain, July 2018
Summer in the City, Seattle, August 2018
Charlie is what makes our jobs easy. Obviously, he makes amazing wines, and that is the best part. But he’s also just an amazing guy to work for and work with.
This year, Charlie was awarded 2018 Vintner of the Year by his peers at the Auction of Washington Wines. This recognition gave credit to the 30+ harvests he has committed to making wine in Washington. Charlie’s effort and dedication, along with that of his peers, is what continues to advance the Washington wine industry.
Charlie Hoppes, Honorary Vintner, and Marshall Edwards, Honorary Grower, at the Auction of Washington Wines, August 2018
Skye, Jess, Will, Charlie, and Michelle at the AWW Picnic and Barrel Auction, August 2018
We call this tiny AVA home. At just 4,040 acres, with nearly every plant-able acre now under vine, this is a really special place. Charlie often remarks that there are only a few growing regions in the world where you can stand in one spot and see the whole AVA, block by block. The unique terroir, devoted growers, and outstanding neighboring wineries, have established Red Mountain as one of the most premium wine producing regions in the world.
Fidelitas Estate Vineyard on Red Mountain, September 2018
Estate Vineyard Dinner, September 2018
We’d be nowhere without our staff! On a very personal level, I am so grateful to have such a dedicated, positive, and all around great team representing Fidelitas every day. They tell our story and share the wines with our customers, sweep the floors, pack boxes, haul wine, make dinner reservations, throw parties, and SO MUCH MORE.
Team Fidelitas Staff Vineyard Tours, July 2018
Team Fidelitas at the Mariners, June 2018
Team Fidelitas of the Future: Charlie and Brynn, January 2018
Seems simple enough. As a winery, you make wine, you pour wine, you sell wine. But our wines were somehow extra special this year and I am thankful for that.
10 of the 19 wines we released in 2018 were sold exclusively to our members in Club allocations, meaning they never even made it into the tasting rooms. We had exceptional releases such as varietal Malbec from Quintessence Vineyard, intense Cabernet from Blackwood Canyon Vineyard, old vine Merlot from some of the oldest blocks on Red Mountain, found in Kiona and Ciel du Cheval Vineyards, and of course our own Fidelitas Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
Washington wine is growing. Red Mountain wine is growing. But, Charlie’s longstanding relationships with growers allows us to select fruit from specific blocks to make exceptional wines for our members, and this is what sets Fidelitas’ wines apart.
Fidelitas 2018 Releases, start to finish!