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.
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’.
This year’s Auction of Washington Wines’ Industry Honorees, Charlie Hoppes and Marshall Edwards have generously donated a full barrel of red wine from the acclaimed Quintessence Vineyard, but that is only a part of this amazing auction lot!
The winning bidder will become an honorary Vintner at Fidelitas. This unique experience will make their winery, your winery, not just for one year, but for years to come, as you harvest, blend, and bottle your own Red Mountain wine.
You will be invited to begin your journey during Harvest 2018. You and your guests will be involved in selecting grapes from Quintessence and Shaw Vineyards on Red Mountain, seeing them through the sorting process, and starting fermentation in the tanks. As the wines age in barrel, join us for your second trip to experience a hands-on blending trial with Fidelitas Winemaker, Charlie Hoppes. You will be able to taste barrel samples and blend with other varietals from the vineyards as the team comes up with their 2018 vintage wines.
The third and final trip will include bottling of your exclusive wines from your personal barrel. After your day on the bottling line, you will have ownership of 25 cases of wines that you can distribute as you see fit. Enjoy with friends, give to employees as gifts, or cellar to enjoy for years to come.
With each visit, two couples will enjoy hotel accommodations, meals, vineyard tours and library tastings to immerse yourself in the history of the winery and vineyard.
This lot includes:
One barrel contains approximately 300 bottles (25 cases) of wine. All Red Mountain experiences are based on a mutually agreed upon date. Transportation to Red Mountain not included.
“We are gathered here today, celebrating Jess and Ben, at a winery who’s name not only translates to ‘faithful, loyal, true’, but at a winery who’s owner, and our host tonight, embodies these words. And I cannot think of a better way to start a marriage.” Those are words that my uncle spoke during a toast at my wedding. And while I’ve pondered the meaning of the name ‘Fidelitas’ many, many times, the weight of it really struck me as I was sitting there, surrounded by the most special and important people in my life, marrying my husband.
That was 8 years ago this month, and while I seem to be attending more baby showers than weddings these days, wine is still my favorite gift for newlyweds. Here are my favorite three ways to share Fidelitas:
A bottle for now and a bottle for later.
This one is super easy. Grab a cute, reusable tote (I love my BUILT bag) and add a bottle of Red Mountain Malbec, which can be enjoyed this summer with BBQ, and a bottle of Quintessence Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, which could be opened on the lucky couple’s 5 or 10-year anniversary.
This is kind of similar, in that you’re encouraging people to hang on to the wine to open for a special anniversary down the road. Even better, grab a couple big bottles and have friends and family sign well wishes right on the bottle with a metallic sharpie. My brother and sister-in-law did a 750ml, 1.5L, and 3L, (for one year, five years, and ten years) used this as their guest book, and then have opened the bottles with friends in the years since. (pro note: contact us for current availability on large formats. we may be able to find something amazing!)
A Wine Club Gift Membership is a great way to give a gift that will last a while. We can give you a gift certificate to include with your card now, and then will send bottles to the couple throughout their first year of marriage. If they live locally, they can come out to the winery to pick up or join us at our upcoming events!
Let our Club Concierge team help you put together a wedding gift that celebrates faithful, loyal, and true, and a happy wedding season to you all!
The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate from Fidelitas, one of the flagship releases from the estate, spent 22 months in 71% new French oak. Its deep, inky purple/ruby color is followed by an impressive bouquet of ripe plums, black cherries, tobacco, and leafy herbs. Picking up more chocolate and graphite characteristics with time in the glass, this full-bodied, rich, nicely concentrated effort has fine tannin, good purity of fruit, and nicely integrated acidity.
The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Quintessence (100% Cabernet aged in 83% new French oak) offers more tobacco, spring flower, and violets characteristics, as well as a full-bodied, pure, balanced style on the palate. With lots of blue fruits, ripe tannin, and terrific purity, it's going to keep for 10-15 years. It's another high-quality, balanced wine from this estate.
Another 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from this estate, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Blackwood Canyon (22 months in 71% new French oak) offers a plumper, more sweetly fruited, sexy style. Blackcurrants, blueberries, scorched earth and Asian spice notes all give way to a full-bodied, plump, rounded, yet still structured effort that has considerable depth and richness, all while not being heavy. It too will keep for 10-15 years. While I found all these 2015s to be outstanding wines, they're certainly more similar than different.
From one of my favorite vineyards on Red Mountain, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Ciel du Cheval spent 22 months in 29% new French oak. Black cherry, blueberries, violets, spring flowers, and lavender notes all emerge from the glass and it has a rich, rounded, voluptuous style on the palate. Nicely balanced, with sweet tannin, it's another rocking wine from Fidelitas to enjoy over the coming 10-15 years.
The 2015 Optu Red Mountain is a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, and 4% Cabernet Franc. It's another inky-colored effort that gives up plenty of graphite, tobacco, and black cherry/currants styled fruits. It has lots of Cabernet Sauvignon character, the savory tannin of the Red Mountain terroir, and a great finish.
The classic 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain (100% Cabernet aged 22 months in 80% new French oak) offers pure, elegant notes of crème de cassis, crushed flowers, and violets, with a medium to full-bodied, silky, nuanced style on the palate. Less powerful and tannic than some of the other cuvées here, it still has beautiful purity and well-integrated acidity, and is a beautiful wine that's going to drink well for 10-15 years.
Fidelitas Owner + Winemaker, Charlie Hoppes, named
2018 Honorary Vintner
by the Auction of Washington Wines
As Charlie marks 30 years of making wine in Washington, we are thrilled to announce that he has been named the Honorary Vintner by his industry peers for the 2018 Auction of Washington Wines.
This recognition is reserved for people who have exemplified leadership in the industry, and for those who have made significant contributions to the Washington wine community. Charlie shares this honor with the Honorary Grower, Marshall Edwards, who manages Quintessence Vineyard, a favored site for Fidelitas on Red Mountain.
“Charlie and Marshall both reflect what makes the Washington wine community so special,” said Shelley Tomberg, Executive Director of AWW. “Their sincerity in building relationships is inspiring, and it results in top-notch, innovative, premium Washington wines that influence the industry on a global scale.”
We look forward to celebrating Charlie, while supporting the mission of the Auction of Washington Wines, at events coming up this spring and summer on Red Mountain and in Woodinville: LEARN MORE
Read more about Charlie's history of Washington winemaking.
A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to sit on a panel in front of industry peers to discuss the benefits of “Custom Clubs”. That is, I chatted about the Fidelitas Wine Club and the hows and whys of letting our members select their own Club allocations. This is a big deal! It’s breaking away from the traditional Club model of “we choose wines and send whatever we want to you” that has been followed since the dawn of Wine Clubs. And while all of the boring (inventory) details may not be best suited for this blog, I think that there are a few key points worth sharing:
Selecting what is best for your cellar
Is your vertical of Optu Red Mountain growing nicely? Wish you had more Merlot and less Cabernet? Allowing members to create their own combination of wines in each allocation gives people the chance to take home the wines that they really want to shape their cellar. We are releasing 3 -4 brand new wines at each Club release, and members can select the exact quantities of what they are going to enjoy the most.
It’s important to note here that some members told us they don’t want the additional work of selecting Club allocations. I get it. Day to day life offers so many choices that sometimes you want wine to be the easy part. So – we will always have a pre-selected allocation as well that means great wines with no effort.
Winemakers get to have more fun
This is maybe the best part. Both for the members, and for us at Fidelitas. If we asked every Club member to take the exact same Club allocation, Charlie would be stuck making large quantities of the exact same wine in every vintage. The problem is, Charlie loves to make small lot quantity wines each year based on what comes in to the cellar. Following a custom club model means that he gets to create wines that are maybe 50 – 140 cases total, and members get to select these wines for their shipments. It’s a win/win, really.
Convenient ship windows and special pricing
We first started offering custom clubs to our out of state members. Knowing that they are often dealing with the inconvenience of having wines shipped when the weather may be too hot or too cold, and needing to have an adult signature for delivery, we wanted to design a Club just for them. Our Electus Club is designed to ship wine only in moderate temperature months, and offers additional discounts and complimentary shipping when 6-bottle shipments are rounded up to a case.
Try before you buy
Just last weekend, we launched our “preview tastings”. Two times per year, Custom Club members are invited to taste through the line up of upcoming releases and build their allocations at that time. We love letting people experience the wines before they make their selections, and also found that it was a great time to just connect with members and help them learn the ropes of our new allocation system.
It’s hard working in the wine industry. Especially during the holidays.
When I arrive at a holiday party, I know the hostess is looking for that special bottle to add to the bar. My hair stylist, nanny, and neighbors, are all a little too excited to see me as the holidays near. Everyone tells me “oh…but you have the good wine” and are secretly hoping that I might gift a bottle. It’s a good problem to have (people like Fidelitas!) but a problem, still.
And so, I’ve gotten good at stacking my case purchases with the right mix of wines for the season. Here is my shopping list this year:
4040 Red Wine and Optu White on hand…always. These are the ones that are nice to have wrapped and ready so I can gift a quick bottle to my daughter’s teachers, or whoever I come across that needs a last minute gift from us. (4040 is available by special request!)
Optu Red Mountain for hostess gifts. This is a crowd pleaser wine. It’ll drink great the night of a holiday party, or will age beautifully if your host decides to cellar it instead of sharing.
A couple of magnums (ESTATE! And probably some Optu) for those on my list who “have it all”. Magnums are always impressive, even for someone with a giant wine collection. They are great at parties, or are amazing additions to anyone’s cellar.
I love to plan ahead and grab a few cases early, so that wine is always on hand and ready to pass out. Of course, I always make sure to grab a couple extra bottles to keep around the house so I can gave a glass in front of the tree!
And just like that, the 2017 harvest is done. The grapes brought in were lovingly turned in to some top notch juice, and are now nestled in to their barrels to rest for a bit. We saw our first fruit of the season, Sauvignon Blanc and then Semillon, come in from Klipsun Vineyard just after Labor Day. Reds started to come in just after that. Mostly from the eastern facing Quintessence Vineyard, but we worked our way west with the sun, and finished up by picking our own Fidelitas Estate Vineyard in mid-October. It is wonderful and challenging to have all of our fruit from the smallest, and warmest, AVA in the state. Everything ripens at about the same time, all vying for space in the cellar. Charlie and his crew worked around the clock to keep things moving along, and just took their first weekend off a few days ago.
A special shout out to Charlie, who just completed his 30th harvest in Washington state. His first winemaking job, fresh out of UC Davis, was at the start of crush in 1988 at Langguth/Saddle Mountain, and he’s never looked back. We have just a handful of winemakers in Washington nowadays who can claim three decades, and I’m proud to be working with one of them. When I asked him about this 2017 harvest, here is what he said:
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.