The Red Mountain AVA (American Viticulture Area) and the Horse Heave Hills AVA equally have vines dating back to the early 1970’s. This is one of the many significant factors that lends a creative hand to these premier viticulture regions. While the Horse Heaven Hills is home to about 5 wineries the Red Mountain AVA is home to about 14. Many people may wonder, how does the Red Mountain AVA compare to the Horse Heaven Hill AVA?
Red Mountain was established as an AVA (American Viticulture Area) on April 2, 2001. The defined boundaries of the Red Mountain AVA are currently the smallest in Washington and only cover about 4,040 acres. The significant characteristics that make up Red Mountain include soil, the southwest facing slope, wind, temperatures, and it is home to Fidelitas. How does Red Mountain compare to our Horse Heaven Hill neighbors?
The Horse Heaven Hills AVA was established on August 1, 2005. It is fairly larger region that borders the Yakima Valley AVA and the Columbia River. The total acreage of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA is 570,000 with about 12,444 planted acres. Like Red Mountain, many of the vineyards are planted on a southwest facing slope with sandy, well-drained soils. They also have steady winds blowing from the Columbia Gorge that help to reduce the risk of diseases in the vineyards.
Average Rainfall: 5-7 inches
Soils: Sandy loam and gravel
Planted Acreage: About 2100 acres
Main Grape Varietals:
HORSE HEAVEN HILLS
Average Rainfall: About 9 inches
Soils: Sand loess, sediment, rubble
Planted Acreage: 12,444 acres
Main Grape Varietals:
How could we not celebrate the birthday of an AVA that is so dear to our hearts? Red Mountain was established as an American Viticultural Area on April 3rd, 2001. It all started with Jim Holmes (of Ciel du Cheval Vineyards) and John Williams, great pioneers of this lovely place we call home. Both men were trying to purchase inexpensive property in the 1970s and stumbled upon an area that seemed to have been deserted. They were able to purchase land for roughly $200/acre (what?!) and the planting began. Once some of the first wines had been produced people started to recognize what an amazing place Red Mountain actually was. Now, fourteen years later, there are 4,040 acres on Red Mountain and its home to some of the most sought after vineyards in Washington.
What did this birthday party consist of? Cupcakes, popcorn, balloons, and wine! All of the ingredients to make for a perfect evening in both of our tasting rooms. The party went from 5-7pm and we poured all of our delicious wines sourced from Red Mountain.
2012 4040 Blend
2012 Optu Red Mountain Blend
2012 Quintessence Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Sauvignon
2013 Klipsun Vineyard Late Harvest Semillon
If you were unable to attend this event, we hope you were able to celebrate at home. Cheers to Red Mountain!
Here I am the day after Champoux Showdown and I'm still gushing over last nights soiree at the Coterie Room.
First, I'm going to take a minute to fill everyone in on the amazing Fat Cork here in Seattle where we picked up the Champagne for this event. If you don't know about them already, you are sure to become a fan! They are a direct to consumer grower Champagne retailer that says 'We’re the Champagne version of the farm-to-table lifestyle.' It's true they live up to providing excellent service while offering a range of quality (and affordable!) bubbles. Plus, they're Wine Club is way cool.
A glass of bubbles was the perfect start to the evening with everyone arriving right at 6 o'clock to begin their weekend early. Truffled gougeres, salmon crostini, and chicken croquettes were passed with the first tastes of Magna Red Wine and Champoux Merlot (both coming up in the next club release). Paul and Judy Champoux arrived and Charlie toasted to the guests of honor and the fabulous grapes he's been purchasing from Paul since 1995. This is the first event of ours that Paul and Judy have been able to attend since his retirement at the end of the 2014 harvest and it was such a treat to have them join in on the fun. We had about 50 people in attendance and it was so much fun to mingle with old members, new members, friends and even family.
We tasted the May club release of Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon which as usual, knocked our socks off especially with the 24 hour braised short rib sliders and lamp tartare. I will take this moment to admit that I am not a lamb fan but I actually went back for a seconds with these. Chef duo McCracken | Tough did a beautiful job preparing the bites for this event. I will be making a point to head to Spur to check out their regular menu.
As a special treat the evening was finished off with both of the elusive 2010 and 2009 vintages of Champoux Vineyard Block One Cabernet Sauvignon. Yes, I also went back for seconds of these to have with the melt in your mouth dark chocolate sea salt truffles.
By the end I was blissfully full of belly warming food and the elegant wines from Champoux Vineyard. On the ride home we already started planning this event for next year. Thanks to everyone who came and indulged with us!
I first started working with Red Mountain fruit in 2005, initially from Red Mountain Vineyard. Started with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon & Cabernet Franc. I currently making, Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot & Malbec from the Red Mountain AVA. For Fidelitas. I am currently using 7 different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon in the various wines we make. Those clones being 2, 4, 6, 8, 21, Entav 169 & 191. In addition to these we will be planting this coming spring in our estate vineyard Entav 421. So in total 8 different clones of just Cabernet Sauvignon. We are buying grapes from eleven different vineyards, twelve if you count our own estate vineyard, and in 2015 we fermented 20 different lots of just Cabernet Sauvignon for Fidelitas. We keep every clonal selection wine separate usually through the entire first year to allow us to see the expression of each individual site and clone that we are buying. Needless to say we are creating a whole lot of components to work with when it comes time to put blends together. For other varieties we are also using some different clonal material but at the most maybe two clones.
It would be easy to say all of Red Mountain is homogenious, but it is not. Each individual site has unique attributes. Soils can be different, slope, aspect and elevation. In addition let’s not forget that component of terroir we all sometimes forget, the human element. We have excellent viticulturists, owners making decisions everyday that shape the vineyards of Red Mountain.
I think a common expression of all Bordeaux style wines on Red Mountain is for me structure and concentration. The depth of concentration, for me what is unique to Red Mountain. Also, I believe tannin structure from wines lend to great structure and ageability. These tannins must be managed specifically during fermentation to result in wines that are age worthy yet drinkable upon release.
Look for our wines to continue to evolve and improve. The best of Fidelitas may still be a new vineyard planting.
This past weekend, I was lucky enough to sit in on the Red Mountain Seminar that was a part of Taste Washington weekend. We gathered in one of the conference rooms at the Seattle Four Seasons and were lucky enough to watch ferry boats come in and head back out while listening to the wise words of the panel before us. Our moderator was Sean Sullivan, who has his own blog, Washington Wine Report, and is a contributor to the Wine Enthusiast, reviewing wines from Washington and Oregon. I love Sean because has this never ending thirst for knowledge, meaning he asks real questions and honestly wants detailed answers. In an industry that seems to be changing daily, that type of inquisitiveness is a perfect fit.
When I first sat down to write this article, it quickly turned in to an 8-page essay. Knowing that will never be read in the world of small, winery blogs, I decided to revise and just add a few amazing (paraphrased) quotes that I heard that day.
Only the upper 200 feet of Red Mountain was showing during the Missoula Floods, meaning that the portion underwater received some great rocks from all over. In addition to the basalt, sand, silt, and gravel you find all over Red Mountain, there are some “weird rocks” like marble and granite mixed in.
What he looks forward to in the next 5 to 10 years? Jumping in more pits as vineyards are developed.
So much good stuff. The first people on Red Mountain were geeky and passionate about quality. They embodied the culture of terroir. Wines from Red Mountain can be picked out of a line up because they are richer/thicker/darker yet balanced/fresh/fun. People looking for a good wine story get “I went out, smelled the air, stomped the ground. That’s it.”
In 5 to 10 years? Jim sees new adventures, which makes farming constantly exciting. His definition of success is making what you’ve already done even better.
Fidelitas is currently sourcing from 11 Red Mountain vineyards and producing 17 different Red Mountain wines from a wide array of clones. Charlie loves Red Mountain for the intense fruit, tannic structure (which is managed in the cellar), and great variety within such a small region.
Charlie sees that there is still a lot to learn in the next 5 to 10 years, with new plantings and new clones bringing new flavors to experiment with.
Red Mountain brings so much to a wine, which can been seen in the phenolic make up of that wine. The chemical compounds that add to the flavor, color, and mouthfeel of Red Mountain wines are almost exaggerated (my word, not Bob’s) in Red Mountain wines, making for some pretty intense stuff. 2012 is what could be considered a “Goldilocks Vintage” with 2011 being too cold, 2013 being too hot, and 2012 being just right in between.
Bob believes that in the next 5 to 10 years, the coming development will add to the dynamics and awareness of Red Mountain, but there are naturally acreage constraints in play as well.
If Rhone can do it, why can’t Washington? Paul took the vineyards on Red Mountain literally to new heights with the Force Majeure planting, where elevation and slope are drastically different from the rest of the AVA. Additionally, he brought in more Rhone varietals (Syrah, Mourvedre) to otherwise Cabernet dominated region, and has been pleased with the results.
In the next 5 to 10? An increased presence in the AVA, means more marketing, meaning national and international recognition. The people will be the ones who balance quality and passion.
In addition to hearing these five experts speak about the region, we got to taste through six incredible wines and hear from these wineries as well. The room was truly jam packed with people passionate about Red Mountain. All sourced from the same 4,040 acres, these wines could not be more different from one another. What a great way to start day 2 of Taste!
(62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Cabernet Franc, 14% Merlot)
(85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot, 4% Syrah)