Wine Clubs have been around for a long time. Even the Fidelitas Wine Club has been going strong for almost 15 years. For a lot of wineries out there, there haven’t been a lot of changes other than upgrading from desktop computers to iPads in the tasting room. Most wineries are still following a recipe for their wines, deciding what they think will appeal to the masses, and pre-selecting your Club shipment for you.
As the Fidelitas Wine Club has grown over the years, we’ve always known that what is most important is to give you, the customer, access to our best wines sourced from the most sought after vineyards on Red Mountain, and personalize your experience along the way by giving you what you really want.
A couple years ago, we had to change the way things ran around here because we were finding that we couldn’t make enough of a certain wine to fulfill the whole Wine Club. 96 cases of Ciel du Cheval Petit Verdot isn’t going to go very far when we have a club that needs over 200 cases of a particular wine to give every member just 1 bottle, and these small lot wines are just too good to produce in this way. So, we changed the club from what was once the traditional “we pick for you” model to a more customized club experience. This gave Charlie the freedom to continue to produce vineyard designated (and sometimes Clonal specific) wines and still make our members happy…win win!
How the Club works:
There is a catch…
Our wines are first come, first served. This meaning that if you don’t secure your allocation then you might miss out on our most limited wines. Take the wines we are releasing this fall from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard for example. Members who customize their allocation by October 31 are able to choose from the following wines:
2016 Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Franc – 142 cases produced – SOLD OUT
2016 Ciel du Cheval Merlot – 142 cases produced – 40 left
2016 Ciel du Cheval Red Wine – 288 cases produced – 20 left
2016 Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Sauvignon – 386 cases produced – 19 left
Plus you can add on:
2016 Ciel du Cheval Petit Verdot – 96 cases produced – 13 left
Cabernet Franc, a fan favorite, sold out in a matter of weeks once we opened the Club selection window and Petit Verdot and Red Wine aren’t far behind it. This means that if you have certain wines you know you want, get in there and reserve them as soon as the selection window opens. We like to think our release window opening is just as exciting as tickets going on sale for your favorite concert…and to be honest, our members have broken the internet before with excitement!
Keep an eye on your email for news regarding the wines to come in the new year. They are our most anticipated yet!
First off, I'd like to give a shout out to our cellar crew and specifically my dad and Mitch who were awesome teachers this harvest (with no shortage of sarcasm) and with many loooong days in a row, made Fidelitas' 20th harvest a success.
Look at how chipper and well-rested we look
As I sit here writing this on October 29th it marks (almost exactly) 2 months since we picked and pressed Klipsun Sauvignon Blanc just before Labor Day Weekend to get Harvest 2019 kicked off. We noted that the sugar levels were notably lower than what we had picked it at in previous years, but it tasted ripe and we didn’t think it would benefit from more time on the vines, so we decided to start bringing stuff in. Little did we know, this theme of ripeness at lower sugar levels would carry on into almost every one of our vineyard blocks.
Klipsun Sauvignon Blanc - the base of our Optu White
Klipsun SB was shortly followed by all of our other white blocks Klipsun Semillon, Artz SB, Artz SM, and Quintessence SB. Early September weather was perfect grape-ripening weather with highs in the high 80's and 90's and nighttime temperatures in the low 50's. Things kept moving along like clockwork with Quintessence Merlot, our first red every year, picked on September 4th, followed by other Merlots from around the mountain, Cabernets, Malbecs, and so-on. Working with the same blocks year-after-year my dad has "his rhythm" figured out knowing the order that our fruit tends to ripen in and can work his daily vineyard visits accordingly. In 2019 alone Fidelitas had 13 different vineyard partners that we worked with resulting in 85 individual lots, sometimes as small as 2 barrels, which will stay separate from one another until blending (i.e., a single varietal from a single vineyard block, fermented in a specific way: oak tank, roller barrels, upright barrels, etc...) That being said, even an individual lot is split further into different fermenations like our Blackwood Cab, which was split amongst 1 oak tank and 6 individual roller barrels. A perfect example of the attention this attention to detail: after years of experience on Red Mountain we're now able to match individual clones of Cabernet from certain vineyards and match them with our favorite fermenters, barrels, and winemaking techniques that we think they'll work best with in that particular vintage. It's something that makes for long days throughout every step of the winemaking process but results in wines of amazing quality and classic "Red Mountain" characteristics that we love.
Roller barrels and upright barrels tucked into a corner of the winery during the peak of harvest
One thing I touched in an earlier blog post is how "bright" and lively on the palate all of the wines were as we were tasting samples out of the tanks and press before going into barrel. I think what happened is we didn't have an extremely hot summer, only a few days reaching 100+, followed by mild/warm fall which allowed the wines to ripen at a higher acid level resulting in wines that should have great structure and ageability. My dad reflected on the harvest as being one of those magical harvests you get every so often if you stay at it long enough: "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."
Filling tanks on his birthday
When we look back at this vintage one thing that will sadly be one of the defining moments is the mid-October frost that affected most of Eastern WA. We got hit around October 8-9 which shut down most vines that had fruit still on them and forced a lot of winemakers to pick earlier than expected. Luckily for us we were about 90% of the way done at the time being on Red Mountain which is one of the earlier ripening areas. Looking back, we noted that it was really only a couple bad days that changed things as the weather warmed up immediately after and remained pretty mellow for the rest of October. But that's what happens in agriculture and what makes winemaking so unique in that each vintage and bottle of wine has its own memories both good and bad attached.
Red Mountain the morning after a hard freeze
Other reflections/things I learned/things I was reminded of this year:
Quintessence Merlot #nofilter
Cheers to 2019!
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.
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.
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