Dear Friends of Fidelitas:
2020 has been unique and challenging to say the least. For nearly everyone, this year has been the first time we have faced an event that has altered how we do business so significantly. With that being said, I cannot thank each and every one of you enough for stepping up and making the effort to support us during these very challenging times. We have had to be flexible in the past year and appreciate everyone who has adapted with us…and enjoyed some good wine along the way.
The 2020 vintage is the 21st vintage for Fidelitas and my 23rd vintage as a Washington winemaker. As many of you know we started with one wine. The 2000 Meritage (Optu Red Wine) was a product that we sourced from around the Columbia Valley. As the Washington wine industry has grown up, so has Fidelitas, and we now have expanded to well over 20 different wines all from the impressive Red Mountain AVA.
In 2021, we will release our red wines from the 2018 vintage. 2018 is another in a long line of great vintages on Red Mountain. We will have a few new wines to offer to our Wine Club members. The first release of the year will feature two new wines from Heart of the Hill Vineyard: Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Heart of the Hill is owned and farmed by the Williams family who own Kiona Winery on Red Mountain. This family has been growing grapes on Red Mountain since the mid-seventies and we feel very fortunate to be able to buy grapes and make wine from these sites. Heart of the Hill is a newer planting that shows great promise, and we are excited to have everyone try these wines this winter.
Our Estate Vineyard on Red Mountain will increasingly be a focus of the wines that we will make in the future. As I have mentioned, before we have just over 12 acres planted with mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, but with Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc as well. As this Vineyard matures you will see more wines being released from the Estate as unique products. The 2018 vintage will see us release our first ever varietal Malbec and a red wine from the Estate Vineyard. The red blend is unique in that it is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon with Petit Verdot at 25%, which give it a bit more power and concentration than our other red blends. The new Estate wines will launch in the fall along with our Estate Cabernet Sauvignon to give those wines a little more bottle age before release.
We continue to do everything possible to continue to improve the wines that we are making by using techniques in the cellar to emphasize continuous improvement. Those techniques involve the size and shape of the fermenters we are using along with fine tuning our barrel aging programs. I am very happy with strides we have made to get better with each vintage, and at the same time look forward to the wines we will make in the future. The fruit we have access to on Red Mountain is not only some of the best fruit in the Pacific Northwest but is truly world class and I think our wines reflect that.
Our Fidelitas team has been so very resilient this year and I cannot thank them enough for their continued efforts every day. These people are telling the Fidelitas story to you, our customers, and their efforts are appreciated.
Again, thank you for the continued support of Fidelitas. I look forward to seeing many of you in the very near future.
Charlie Hoppes, Fidelitas Owner + Winemaker
Dear Friends of Fidelitas:
2019 was another banner year for us at Fidelitas and would not have been possible without the incredible support of each and every one of you, our loyal customers. Not a day goes by where I am not completely humbled by the continued support we receive from all of you who buy and consume the wine that we make. Simply put, thank you.
This 2019 vintage we just experienced in the fall, is the twentieth vintage for Fidelitas. With humble beginnings of just one wine produced form the 2000 vintage, much has changed and evolved for us to be where we are now. In 2006 we purchased land in the Red Mountain AVA and built a tasting room that opened in 2007. In 2008 and again in 2015 we planted land to vineyard and now have twelve acres of producing vineyard. The 2019 vintage is the first vintage where the entire vineyard was in full production and entirely under our own control. Dick Boushey, a legend in the Washington wine business and his amazing team manages the property daily. The future of the Fidelitas Estate Vineyard looks bright as we incorporate the fruit into existing products as well as introducing new products to our line up starting with the 2018 vintage.
I am very excited about the release of the upcoming wines from Fidelitas from the 2017 vintage. Mother nature provided an excellent year for us and I cannot wait to share these wines with you. We will be releasing two new wines in 2020, Quintessence Vineyard Red Blend and a varietal Petit Verdot from a few different vineyards in the Red Mountain AVA. Look for those new wines along with the entire lineup of great wines during the year.
The Red Mountain AVA continues to provide our winemaking team with what I think is the best fruit in the Pacific Northwest. As many of you know, we only make wine from the Red Mountain AVA and I am impressed with the improvement that we see every vintage. Some of this comes with the maturity and consistency of the vineyards, but also, the grape growers who we source fruit from on Red Mountain have really worked at improving in every vintage. This makes our job as winemaker so much easier and will continue to do so in the future.
We continue to make small changes to what we are doing in the winemaking process so that we are continually improving. Fermenting in various shapes and sizes of wood fermenters seems to be a something we not only continue to do but have increased the amount of wood we are using during fermentation. Another area of fine tuning of the process would be matching clonal Cabernet Sauvignon with what we believe to be the proper fermenter as well as the best barrels to age the wine in.
I cannot say enough good things about our entire team of people at Fidelitas. They continue to tell our story and offer relentless customer service to everyone of you. Again, thank you for your continued support.
Charlie Hoppes, Fidelitas Owner + Winemaker
I’ve been saying this since the first day we brought fruit in: 2019 is just a great year. Again, it’s a unique year in that we’re able to ripen fruit with lower than usual brix. The flavors that we’re finding out in the vineyard are just incredible, and we’ve been able to make the decision to follow a picking schedule based on tasting instead of waiting for certain sugar levels to show up.
We only have about 20 tons to go in the Fidelitas Estate Vineyard. We’re going to pick the remaining blocks between Saturday and Monday of this week. This is all Cabernet, and mostly our older blocks, 3a, 2, and 1, and then block 5 on the northern half of the vineyard. At that point, we’ll be about 80% done for Fidelitas, only still needing to bring in Cabernet from Blackwood Canyon Vineyard and The Canyons.
This is the first year I’ve had my son, Will, in the Cellar with us. It’s been just great having him and Mitch working together on the same shifts, and he’s learning everything from the floor up. He’s digging tanks, filling barrels, everything.
We haven’t taken a day off since September 3rd, so we’re working towards 30+ days in a row…and it’s great. Each day I’m writing pump over orders that take place at 6am and 1pm each day. Currently, it’s taking us about 4 hours to complete pump overs, so we basically do one round and then start all over again. Mitch, Will, and I sit down at 10am daily to taste through the wines in each of our fermentation vessels. This is invaluable for Will to start building his own database with his palate. It’s natural for Mitch and I and we’re able to make decisions based on a quick taste, and Will is learning quickly.
I generally consider Halloween my first day ‘off’ from Harvest. I remember looking forward to it when the kids were little, getting to go home and see their costumes and just spend time with the family. While I don’t have little ones at home anymore, I still think we’ll be on track for that Halloween day off, although still with plenty to do in the Cellar. Harvest keeps us busy, but it’s the best kind of busy.
winemaker in training, Will Hoppes, sporting a lovely blond wig
The first white grapes were picked and pressed from Klipsun Vineyard, starting August 29th. Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon were all completed and to barrel, Ovium barrel, or concrete egg by September 5th. We got started on reds with our first pick of the year being Merlot from Quintessence Vineyard on September 4th. Now, all Merlot from Red Mountain is complete along with Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, which will be completed by next week. I imagine we will be finished with fruit for Fidelitas by the end of the week of October 7th. Things move quickly on Red Mountain.
Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Block 75 Merlot in the Cellar
The quality level of this vintage is exceptional and reminds me of 2009 and to a certain extent, 1999. Both of those vintages turned out to be incredible years. We are consistently able to reach the flavors we are looking for at lower than normal Brix levels, leading to slightly lower alcohol levels and higher natural acids. My theory is that with more moderate summer temperatures, we had less days when the vines shut down to protect themselves from the heat. We were able to accumulate sugar at a more even pace and thus, a great year. It might be a bit premature to declare 2019 the vintage of the decade but it does show tremendous potential.
Clonal Cabernet from the Fidelitas Estate Vineyard
On Monday, August 26th of this week I found myself needing to know what the latest number and flavors were on our Sauvignon Blanc block at Klipsun Vineyard on Red Mountain. With that thought in mind, I grabbed what I needed and headed out the door, into my truck for the drive to the vineyard. Once I arrived, I paused briefly and thought to myself: it’s good to be here getting to start anew with this next vintage. In other words, I am excited to get going with harvest this year. It also made me reflect on how long I have been doing this and how fortunate I have been to be able to do something that I am passionate about for this long.
Winemakers measure their time in the industry by how many vintages that they have worked harvest. Since harvest is when a big chunk of winemaking takes place, it only seems appropriate that our year starts around September 1st. This year is no exception with our first grapes coming in the door, tomorrow, August 29th. We will be bringing in both Klipsun and Artz Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc.
This year will be my 32nd vintage in Washington. I specify Washington because I worked a couple of short crush stints in California while I was going to school at UC Davis. At that time, classes did not start until the first part of October, so I was able to get some short experiences in while attending school. I guess this is technically my 34th vintage.
I have a very vivid recollection of my first work experience in the fall of 1986 in California. I was a Lab Technician on 2nd shift at Buena Vista Winery in the Carneros AVA. I rented a room in Sonoma and worked every day for about six weeks. My basic duties were taking tank readings and doing analysis on both juice and wine samples. Jill Davis was the Winemaker and one of the few woman winemakers at that time. Her Assistant Winemaker was David Rosenthal. My boss was Mary Hall-Brown. It was a grea experience and a pleasure working with the great team at Buena Vista.
I also had the opportunity to meet and have some interaction with the legendary winemaker André Tchelistcheff, who was then working as a consultant for Buena Vista. At the time I did not really know who André was, but later realized the significant role he played in post-Prohibition American winemaking. I worked again with Andre in the early 1990s when he consulted for Chateau Ste. Michelle and I was the Assistant Winemaker to Mike Januik. André Tchelistcheff was the considered the “Dean of American Winemaking” and had a huge influence on creating the style for California winemaking after Prohibition. He also had a huge influence on winemaking here in Washington with his many years of consulting for Chateau Ste. Michelle.
2019 will be the 20th vintage for Fidélitas – my family-owned winery. Thinking of my history in the industry, I have to say that twenty years with my own label is hard to fathom. Nevertheless, it is here, and I honestly believe we have yet to make our best wines. Am I happy with the wines we have made so far? Yes! Very happy, but I still think the best is yet to come!
Cheers to our 20th!
Here on Red Mountain, we have had snow on the ground since the Super Bowl. It’s packed around the chairs on the patio and covers the entire Fidelitas Estate Vineyard. Here are a few, quick facts, about the snow and potential impact that we can expect on Red Mountain.
With grape vines, we look at potential damage to the buds, as well as the phloem (bark) and Xylem (wood). We are lucky to have WSU’s Viticulture and Enology program providing us with real time cold hardiness monitoring. So far, they are showing that the outside temperatures are tracking well above what we’d consider critical temperatures that could lead to damage in the vines.
You’ll notice on these graphs that the temperatures and critical temps tend to track closely together. We were fortunate this year to have a slow decline in temperatures that allowed the vines to acclimate to the outside temperatures. A quick cold snap could have had a different result.
In addition to the cold temps, we saw a lot of snow, which is a good thing. A lot of people think snow = cold = bad. But, the snow is an insulator that allows the ground to freeze only to a depth of around 6 inches sparing the vine from root damage. Without the snow cover the level that the soil could freeze would be deeper, with greater potential for damage. Think about what our front yards look like now. The grass is dead, but we know the healthy new green grass is below the earth, waiting to come up soon.
If we have a concern right now, it is the long-term impact that this will have on the season. Bud break could be 2-3 weeks later than usual, which could drastically impact the growing season. This is a time where we feel lucky to be on hot Red Mountain, where we’ll still expect the fruit to get fully ripe. Cooler regions such as Walla Walla the certain sites in the Yakima Valley may experience some ripening troubles. On the flip side, extreme heat could potentially get the sugars to the proper levels, but the grapes won’t be physiologically balanced.
I suppose it’s the farmer in all of us who worry about the worst possible scenario. We all like to talk about the weather but so much can happen between now and September. At this point in time, we’ll just hope for the temperatures to slowly warm. A slow melting of snow will allow the moisture to go directly into the soil as opposed to a quick thawing where the soil not able to absorb the water quick enough resulting in water running off quickly causing possible flooding. This is one of the joys of farming and winemaking…every vintage presents a new challenge and we get to still work with Mother Nature to create wonderful wines.
Dear Friends of Fidelitas:
2018 proved to be a banner year for Fidelitas. We recently completed our 19th vintage in Washington and have had a retail presence on Red Mountain now since May of 2007. Our first planting of the Fidelitas Estate Vineyard took place in 2008 and the future continues to look great for us.
In 2018 we released a few new products that proved to be highly sought after by you, our friends. Specifically, we released our Old Vines Merlot and our Quintessence Malbec. In the future, we will continue to offer these products along with a wide range of wines from what I believe to then finest AVA in Washington that being Red Mountain.
Looking forward to 2019, and the release of the 2016 vintage reds, we will introduce three more new wines. A new red blend that we will call Montis is a Red Mountain specific blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with a tiny bit of Malbec. We realize the popularity of blends and will add this blend to the Optu Red Wine and Ciel du Cheval Red Wine. This is a very exciting wine from some of my favorite vineyards, with great concentration and layers of flavor. We will also offer two new wines from Quintessence Vineyard: a varietal Merlot and a clonal specific Cabernet Sauvignon (ENTAV 169) in very limited quantities. These new vineyard specific wines show what an outstanding vineyard site Quintessence is.
We continue to try and find ways that we can continue to improve the wines that we make for Fidelitas. Continuous improvement is a constant theme for our winemaking team made up of me, as well as Hillary Sjolund and Mitch Venohr. Areas that we are looking at include fermentation vessel size and shape, as well as the use of more wood during primary fermentation. We also continue to look at fermentation itself and how we can up our game and take our wines to new heights.
The Estate Vineyard from Fidelitas continues to progress with time. We now have nearly 12 acres of vineyard planted to five different red varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. Although we were able to get a small crop off our new planting in 2017, from the second leaf, 2018 was our first sizeable crop. Every single block was kept separate during fermentation and we are evaluating the wines as they continue to age. Clonal Cabernet Sauvignon is big theme for our Estate Vineyard with six different clones planted. We are very happy with what we are seeing so far and how we will mesh these wines in to our current lineup. Many thanks to Dick Boushey and his entire team who farm this property on a daily basis. We could not ask for a better partner.
I cannot say enough about how great our staff is at Fidelitas. The people that interface with you as customers on a daily basis see this and share it with me whenever I have a chance to talk with you at our tasting rooms or many events. I feel very blessed to have such a great team lead by Jess Zander.
I would like to simple say thank you to each and every customer that continue be so supportive of Fidelitas. Needless to say, we could not exist without your Faithful, Loyal & True support.
As we come in to the end of April, I thought I’d take the time to talk a little bit about what’s going on here at the winery and in the vineyard.
We’re working hard in the cellar. Already, we’ve bottled some of the 2017 whites, including Quintessence Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, which came out of the Ovium Barrel, and later this week will be the Semillon. With the Optu White Wine, we are going to let things age out a little bit longer. We have equal parts of the Sauvignon Blanc for this blend in our new concrete egg, and in the standard French Oak that we’ve used in the past. We want to see what each component is like and can bring to the blend and will either use one or the other, or maybe a mixture of both in the final blend. Overall, we like to give the Optu White just a little more time to pick up some creaminess and a bit more flavor.
On the reds side, we’re doing some testing with letting the 4040 spend some time in the oak upright tanks before bottling. That blend doesn’t get a bunch of oak aging otherwise, so we’ll see what this ‘flashing’ at the end does as far as boosting the final product. This is another example of how we aren’t ever following the same recipe and are always willing to try new things to make excellent wines. Beyond that, in June we’re planning to start bottling some 2016 reds, including that 4040, as well as some Malbec, and Merlot, and then the Cabernets and bigger blends will fall later in to the summer.
4040 spending it's final days in Oak Upright tanks, prior to June bottling
Out in the vineyard we’re starting to see some bud break, and it’s like we’re starting anew. Like in the fall, when we’re in the cellar and starting to make wine again, you feel like you’re starting a new vintage. Really, that vintage starts right now when you’re starting to see some growth and are starting to prune things a certain way. I think one of the things that is great to see is that there is a lot of new planting on Red Mountain. A lot of the fruit we take, and wines that we make, are from these newer sites. This includes Quintessence, which was planted in 2010, and we took the first crop in 2012. Same thing with The Canyons Vineyard, that was planted in 2009, and we took our first crop in 2012 as well. As these vineyards age out, I think that these wines are going to settle and even out, and we’re excited to work with them long term.
Bud break in the Fidelitas Estate Vineyard
The other thing that is exciting for us to see is getting to third leaf in our new planting of the Fidelitas Estate Vineyard. These are the 9 acres we planted in 2015, that we will now be coming in to perhaps half production this year, based on what we’ve seen so far. This is really going to give us the chance to see what the wines might be like. Not only with some new Cabernet Sauvignon clones that we planted out there, like 412, 33, 169, but also some clones 2 and 6 in addition to the original planting of 2, 6, and 8. We’ll also be looking at how the Merlot is going to come on, as well as the Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. We’re really looking forward to seeing how those are going to start turning out and are thinking about the next chapter of the vineyard.
Exploring the new plantings of the Fidelitas Estate Vineyard
Overall, on Red Mountain, things look good. We’re maybe a little bit behind a normal year, but as we know, a nice little heat boost along the way can push things forward really quickly. Already, we are scheduled to get to 86 later this week, which is really warm for the end of the April, and believe me, will push shoot growth and get us closer to a normal year.
As far as newly released wines, we are focusing a lot on Quintessence Vineyard right now. I really think that this is a great vineyard. The main blocks we take from give us extreme southern aspect, we are working with some great clones, and probably the most essential part of the vineyard, is the human factor on the terroir and what a great job they are doing there. The Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon are all tasting great upon release.
Dear Friends of Fidelitas:
2017 proved to be a great year for Fidelitas. The Fidelitas Estate Vineyard is continuing to develop, and the other vineyards we source fruit from on Red Mountain are outstanding. The future looks bright for the wines we will continue to make.
This fall, in addition to pulling fruit from the 2009 planting, we were able to harvest a little bit from our 2015 Estate Vineyard planting. We are eager to see how these young wines mature over the months ahead. Also in September, we released our third Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2014. If these first three vintages are any indication of the future of our Estate, then the future looks good. I have been very happy with the wines we have made from our own vineyard. With 2014 being one of the warmest vintages on record, we really looked to make these wines very consistent and a true reflection of Red Mountain.
We also released our last wine ever for Fidelitas from Champoux Vineyard, closing a long term working relationship with Paul and Judy Champoux. With Paul’s retirement following the 2014 vintage, we decided this would be the last Champoux Vineyard wine we would make. This is, to say the least, the end of an era for Fidelitas. We made our first Champoux Cabernet Sauvignon in 2002. In total, we made 27 wines from 13 vintages from Champoux Vineyard. Many of you enjoyed these wines over the years when we expanded our offerings to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon from Block 1 and our Cabernet Franc based blend we called Magna. Paul and Judy have been great to work with over the years and we all will have lasting memories every time we open these wines from our cellars. Check with any of our team members to see what might still be available from Champoux Vineyard.
Looking forward to 2018, we have many great wines we are extremely excited about from the 2015 vintage of red wines as well as some very unique 2017 white wines to look forward to. As many of you know, we make wines from many sites on Red Mountain, giving us a great cross section of what the mountain has to offer. A few highlights of exciting new offers we will have in the upcoming year will include a 2015 Old Vine Merlot from Ciel Du Cheval and Kiona Vineyards. This wine comes from some of the first plantings on Red Mountain from both the Holmes and Williams families from the mid-1970s. We feel fortunate to have been able to source this fruit and look forward to sharing this with all of you. 2015 will also be the first vintage of Malbec sourced from Quintessence Vineyard. We currently make a Cabernet Sauvignon for this vineyard as well as limited release Sauvignon Blanc. Having the Malbec will be a nice addition. I have had a chance recently to go back and try some of the upcoming 2015 vintage releases and am looking forward to sharing some really stellar wines.
As always, we aim to continually try and improve our wines from Fidelitas. We continue to experiment with oak fermentation, use new barrels we have never worked with before and pushing the envelope in winemaking to continually improve.
Fidelitas exists as a winery because of our faithful customers. Thank you for your continued support. Many of you have been with us from our very first vintages and we truly appreciate your loyalty. We are All in on Red Mountain!
Harvest is in full swing on Red Mountain, with fruit coming in quickly to find it's place in the cellar. Here is where we are so far:
We are 80% completed with Merlot. We have a new block of Blackwood Canyon Merlot along with the old block at Kiona remaining.
Fidelitas Estate Merlot, picked September 21
Quite a bit of Quintessence Cab Sauv has been picked and in tank or barrel already. We have completed block 7 (clone 169), block 9 ( clone 191), Block 10 ( clone 8) and block 47 (clone 2)
Tasting fruit in Quintessence Vineyard
The white wines are progressing nicely through fermentation. There is distinct difference in the “ovium” barrel and just regular barrels. The Ovium barrel will be the limited release Quitessence Sauvignon Blanc. The Klipsun Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon are really nice as a result of a little cooler vintage.
The Ovium: one of a kind in the U.S., made specifically for Sauvignon Blanc
We are enjoying a little cooler weather than in the most recent vintages. Last week we had several days with the high’s of the day in the 60’s. That trend will change slightly this week to a few days in the lower 80’s. This should move ripening along nicely. The quality of the vintage shows promise and reminds me a lot of 2012. This is a somewhat of a normal vintage, we just have not seen one for a while.
New signage in the Fidelitas Estate Vineyard
The plan is to continue to harvest and ferment all the new estate blocks separately and see how each block expresses itself. We do have Estate Merlot fermenting in a tank and we will keep you up to date on its progress.
We should start to see some Malbec and other Cab Sauv coming in the next 10 days.
More to come as more fruit arrives!