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!
Dinner for 2 + 6 Fidelitas Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon: $600 (club) │ $700 (non-club) Single Dinner Tickets: $125
Our annual summertime club event was a hit! This year we moved the party the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle, trucked over our famous tacos from Red Mountain, and had our great friends, Dean and Doug Backholm, playing the party hits. Thank you to our amazing members who had the chance to party with us!
My dad and I were checking in on the Estate Vineyard last night after we had heard some rumors about veraison starting at some of our neighbors' places. It's fun to see how much things have changed since Staff Vineyard Tours which took place only 2 weeks ago where we didn't see any signs of color change. Here are some pictures from yesterday of Block 1 Estate Cabernet:
Things are changing quickly but compared to previous years I'd estimate we're still a week or two behind. We had a late bud break due to the intense winter weather, but things quickly caught up with a warm spring and lots of letftover moisture in the soils - canopies on Red Mountain were growing like crazy keeping the vineyard crews busy.
Ciel du Cheval Cab Franc
So far the summer has been quite moderate. We've had a few days reach into the 100's but most days are sitting around the mid 90's with little rain, most of it coming in spurts from thunderstorms. We also haven't had many smoky days compared to the previous years (knock on wood) which has allowed for maximum sun exposure and vineyard crews the ability to work in normal conditions. The prevailing winds on Red Mountain aid in keeping the smoke from sitting over the hillside.
View of the controlled burn on Rattlesnake Mountain used to combat the Cold Creek fires
My early take on the vintage is that it's been mellow, which is great. Not too hot (although we had a warm spring which was looking like 2015 but cooled off) and not too cold - no extreme weather to speak of. The crop looks great so far and I'm excited to be back on Red Mountain for Fidelitas' 20th harvest which is just around the corner! It's such benefit to be here where the soils drain so well, and we're able to fine tune our irrigation to account for wet winters because there's so little rain during the growing season. + we constantly get weather forecasts that resemble this - you couldn't dream of more perfect grape growing weather!
And sunsets like this:
What better way to say thank you for being a member than by throwing the best bash of the year?
Summer in the City is where we host our members, their friends, and their families. We’ve chosen a new venue this year called Block 41. A hip, rustic space that offers an outdoor patio right in the heart of Seattle.
Walk up the stairs to be greeted with some white wine, then find your way to one of the many red wine pouring stations. Once you’re done with the tasting head over to the famous (and incredibly delicious) taco truck, grab a plate, purchase a glass of wine, and take a seat to hangout and listen to live music. This really is the best way to spend a Wednesday evening!
You can find more details here on our website. Tickets are still available and we would love to see you there!
We like you a lot and would love to invite you to join us as a member of the Fidelitas Wine Club.
All Club members receive our most exclusive releases and the option to personally select their allocations, along with special pricing and incomparable service.
for members in the PNW
for members shipping across the country
Fidelitas Club members have exclusive access to our most sought after releases, including:
2016 Old Vines Merlot (142 cases) │ 2016 Fidelitas Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (232 cases) │ 2016 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Franc (140 cases) │ 2016 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (384 cases)
Join today for invitations to our summer Preview Tastings and annual Seattle Club party.
For the team at Fidelitas, July and August are the calm before the storm. At the winery we have bottling, racking, and barrel-sample tasting, but nothing compared to the long and now looming days of harvest. In the tasting rooms we have a few parties to throw and summer traffic brought upon by the warmer weather, but still relatively mellow compared to Fall club release. In anticipation my dad and I have been gradually going through and popping open some of these upcoming releases and comparing notes with other winemakers to see how things are progressing and have been pleasantly surprised with the balance and age-worthiness of these wines coming off the extremely hot '14 and '15 vintages.
Optu & Magna members make sure to make your Preview Tasting reservations so you get the chance to taste all of these before they're gone -- I'll see you there!
Note, the "Club" flag indicates which wines we expect to be club exclusive releases
Good news! You won't have to wait til the fall to get some killer Malbec. Some not so good news, is that we only made 4 barrels worth so it won't be in the tasting room long. Compared to our "Red Mountain" and "Quintessence" releases, the Canyons reminds me most of the high-elevation Argentenian Malbecs that I've worked with which aren't as fruit forward as Washington and have more pronounced spicy and sweeter-pyrazine roasted pepper characteristics. All 96 cases are sourced from a single block on the edge of the Canyon that runs through the middle of the vineyard - we bottled this micro-climate to share with you. This is the second-edition, we made an initial lot of 96 cases in 2014.
The Canyons Vineyard, Block 11 Malbec - Harvest 2018
September | 88 cases | $50
This is our third edition of Quintessence Sauvignon Blanc. It's no surprise that Sauv Blanc excels in the same growing regions around the world as Cabernet Sauvignon. We decided to add one to the lineup in 2016 and model it after other world-class Cabernet houses which took their palates and winemaking techniques from Cabernet and apply them to making the best single varietal Sauv Blanc possible. Since 2016 we've used the Vicard Ovonum barrels which because of their unique shape gives better lees mixing and adds specific texture to the wine that we love. So much so that we decided to leave the juice in barrel all Summer turning it into a September instead of April release. For our SB lovers out there thanks for your patience! Some good news, we've doubled the production this year (we bought another egg) and we promise the wait will be worth it.
Charlie with his freshly picked bins of 2018 Quintessence Sauv Blanc
September | 232 cases | $80
Winemaking and grapegrowing can be the ultimate test of patience. A wise winemaker that I used to work for who's family had been in the wine business for 100+ years, used to think in matters of decades and generations vs. quarters and vintages. There's something about being at the mercy of mother nature year after year, and having a product that you pour your heart and soul into that people may not end up enjoying for another 10+ years down the line that gives you a whole other level of patience. As a young winemaker I try to keep this same mentality when looking at our Estate. For those of you keeping track at home, we planted in 2008, made our first Estate Cab bottling in 2012. Each vintage since then we to try to keep our heads down and make the best wine possible, and each year when we go through and taste through the barrel samples our patience is rewarded as these young vines mature and create wines with more depth and complexity than the year prior. For the 2016 vintage we've used our same blend of Clones 2 and Clone 6 from the 2008 planting with 100% of the different lots fermented in oak vessels, another signature of the Estate Cab: 50% 2 Ton Open Top Oak Tank, 40% 500L Roller Barrel, and 10% 500L Upright Barrel. The combination of the growing site, the specific clones we've selected, and oak fermentation techniques give the Estate Cab a rich and silky tannin structure that sets it apart from the rest of our lineup.
Charlie overlooking the Estate at the 2019 Red Mountain Cab Summit. Red Mountain sunsets seem to last forever because there's nothing West but the Yakima Valley to block the sun and is an important factor to why we consistently get vintages with the most sunlight and heat compared to other growing areas in WA.
September | 626 cases | $55
We've produced a Clone 8 (dubbed the Washington clone, chances are if you have a "Columbia Valley Cab" you're drinking Clone 8) dominant Red Mountain Cabernet since 2010 with the same vision in mind, take those famous "traditional Red Mountain Cabernet characteristics" and put them in a bottle. It's hard to explain exactly what we mean by this but I think we did a mighty fine job in those original 2010 tasting notes: "Fidelitas releases the 2010 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon as it’s first varietal Red Mountain Cabernet using a blend of top vineyards from Red Mountain. The nose offers rich aromas of dark cherry, black currant, vanilla and a dusty herbal quality, rising from a deep hued ruby tone. The lively palate extends additional notes of black raspberry, clove, black licorice and a very subtle gamey quality, all settled within present yet balanced tannins and a lengthy finish." We now a few site specific cabernets with their own unique characteristics like Ciel du Cheval or Quintessence, but with this wine we're taking different vineyards and qualities of different barrels that we like and in a sense making a blend of cabernets. I think this the perfect bottle to share with friends to introduce them to Red Mountain because it 100% Cab, which the AVA has become most known for, is delicious no matter how long you decide to cellar it, and has a definite sense of place.
"Red Mountain vs. the World" tasting at RM Cab Summit, 2019 comparing Red Mountain to other world-class Cabernet growing regions.
September | 336 cases | $50
Montis, Latin for mountain, is an exciting new product named for the Mountain that we call home and the source of a bunch of different growing partners for this bottling. In 2016 with the warm Spring and heavy fruit set, we had more high-quality fruit come into the winery than expected. We've listened in the tasting room for years now and realized that we have tons of members who like blends best and wanted to share a club-exclusive version with y'all. Plus, our winemaking team saw a creative opportunity to create a blend without varietal or vineyard limitations to go along with all of the different single varietal, single vineyard bottlings that we've become known for. Here's what we came up with:
Vineyard breakdown: 53% Quintessence Vineyard, 18% Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, 14% Red Mountain Vineyard, 8% Red Heaven Vineyard, 3% Kiona Vineyard, 2% Shaw Vineyard, 2% Blackwood Canyon Vineyard.
Varietal breakdown: 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 6% Malbec.
September | 142 cases | $60
Our Old Vines Merlot was first dreamt up in 2015 when we were able to get access to the Kiona Estate 1975 Merlot planting. In 2016 we've ran back the same blend of original Merlot plantings at Kiona and Ciel du Cheval, the founding partners of Red Mountain. To me, this wine is the most Old World in style and is much less fruit driven than our Red Mountain Merlot for example. Instead of bright red strawberry and bing cherry we get dried fig, rose, dark chocolate, and scorched earth balanced with a lovely front-palate acidity. Charlie has known since the early 90's that Washington was a world-class Merlot growing region and we believe this wine would stand up to some of the famous right-bank Bordeaux houses (someone want to arrange this tasting for us? We'll bring the Old Vines). This wine was a fan favorite of the 2018 July Preview Tasting, so make sure to order some ahead of its release to get a bottle of Red Mountain history.
Kiona '75 Merlot, Harvest 2018
The famous Ciel du Cheval Barn, Harvest 2018
Ciel du Cheval is one of the most well-known vineyards in the state of Washington and has been a staple of our lineup since the 2006 Ciel du Cheval Cab which was our first 100% single vineyard Cab from Red Mountain. Since 2006, as our relationship with Jim Holmes developed and we were able to get access to more fruit, and in 2012 Ciel du Cheval became a staple of our lineup with us releasing 5 different vineyard designate bottlings. It's amazing that a single vineyard is able to produce such exceptional fruit quality that these varietlas which are usually blending components are able to be complext enought to stand on their own. When we first introduced the Cab in 2006 we were sourcing from all over the Columbia Valley and the Ciel du Cheval bottling, which was our only Red Mountain wine at the time, stuck out as the most concentrated and tannic one in the bunch. Our love for wines like this lead us into sourcing more Red Mountain fruit each vintage to where now the role of Ciel du Cheval has shifted a little. In a sense it's now the elder statesmen of our lineup showing more subtle old-vine complexity and elegance where you have to go searching for these nuances especially when compared to vineyards like Quintessence, Fidelitas Estate, and Blackwood which are anything but subtle - we've had to adjust our winemaking techniques and barrel selectionsa accordingly to accentuate these "CDC" characteristics. Keep that in mind when tasting through the gamut of Ciel du Cheval wines at the Preview Tastings and see if you can pick out those similarities.
More info on Ciel du Cheval:
November | 384 cases | $75
100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Aging: 75% New French Oak
Oak Fermentation: 32% 500L Roller Barrel, 18% 500L Upright Barrel
November | 290 cases | $65
50% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc
Aging: 67% New French Oak, 8% New American Oak
Fermentation: 8% 500L Roller Barrel
November | 143 cases | $60
Aging: 50% New French Oak, 17% New American Oak
Fermentation: 17% 500L Roller Barrel
November | 140 cases | $60
100% Cabernet Franc
Aging: 66% New French Oak
November | 96 cases | $55
100% Petit Verdot
Aging: 50% New French Oak, 25% New American Oak
Fermentation: 50% 500L Roller Barrel, 25% 500L Upright Barrel
Featuring our 2016 CDC Cab vs. some of our neighbors, Red Mountain Cab Summit 2019
November | 350 cases | $35
We've yet to put together the final blend for our 2018 Optu White but we're extremely pleased with how the barrel samples are progressing. If the 2018 Red Mountain Semillon is any indication than it's going to be an excellent vintage for whties. We can tell you that it'll be the classic ~60/40 Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon Bordeaux Blanc style blend and will be released just in time for Holiday celebrations.
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
Every year we are met with the same signs that summer is here. At Fidelitas it’s a once brown and bare vineyard turned to lush green, the release of our Semillon for patio season, and our dreadfully quiet tasting rooms once again filled with friends and new faces. One less obvious indicator that summer has arrived is bottling week at Wine Boss. There’s nothing like watching the bottling truck pull up knowing that soon the wine that been waiting in barrel for the last 2 years is finally going to make its way into bottle, and eventually out into the world.
Bill Hamlin of Custom Mobile Bottling spent much of his early career bottling and packaging fruit juices and wine at Ocean Spray then Chateau Ste. Michelle which is where he and Charlie met back in the ’90s. At that time, Charlie encouraged Bill to branch out on his own and what do you know, he just as well did it, and he’s arguably the best in the biz.
His mobile bottling truck doesn’t look like more than a semi-truck from the outside, but on the inside is state of the art bottling machinery. Most small to medium-sized wineries, like us, choose to use mobile bottling as it’s more cost effective than investing in a $50,000 bottling line that only gets used a few times per year. Instead, we call in the expert who does this every day. He and his truck are an invaluable part of the final process before wines get introduced into the world.
In addition, Bill uses a cross-flow filtration system for filtering wine before bottling. Yeasts that escape the filtering or fining process, for example, can result in refermentation in the bottle and can alter the flavor. His equipment is the best for filtering out all the leftover junk and leaves nothing but the purest juice. You can actually see and taste the difference between the wine before and after cross-flow filtration, the latter being less murky and much softer on your pallet.
His truck has a bottom-feed volumetric filler, designed to minimize splashing as the wine is transported into bottles. After the bottles are vacuum-sparged, wine pumped from tanks into the filler is measured into the bottles, and then automatically leveled to a consistent volume. Then bottles are sealed with a cork and pushed off the line and placed in boxes. From there the wines are palletized, 56 cases per pallet to be exact, and sent to Vintners Logistics until they are ready to be released.
This week we are bottling the 2017 vintage red wines for Fidelitas, roughly 7500 cases or 90,000 bottles. These wines will be released in 2020.
Honorable mention to our team of bottlers who put loads of manual labor on bottling day. Thank you for waking up with the sun and lasting through the long, hot, hours in the truck.
Ideas and facts for this post came from https://www.goodfruit.com/bottling-on-wheels/. Thank you for the great publication.
Tasting wines completely blind is one of the most humbling things you can put yourself through especially if you consider yourself somewhat of a connoisseur. When we open a bottle of wine, pull a barrel sample, or step up to a familiar tasting bar we bring all sorts of baggage with us that effects our perception of what we're about to taste and makes it impossible to be unbiased. For example, in the winery, if we walk up to a barrel that's holding our favorite varietal from our favorite vineyard site and the specific barrel producer is one that we love we've already decided our opinion of the wine before even taking a sip. We constantly go through and taste blends and barrel samples blindly to make sure that we're critically and fairly judging all of our wines.
Here are some tips for you and your friends to throw your own blind-tasting party!