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)
It’s always an interesting exercise for a winemaker to have to size up a vintage and compare it to what has gone before it. Keep in mind that as a winemaker, I am now focused on what we are going to do in 2015, as far as ordering barrels and securing our fruit source. We are also taking care of the 2014 vintage in barrels that has been racked post malolactic fermentation. We are also in the cellar starting to put blends together of the 2013 wines in anticipation of bottling those wines throughout the spring and summer. It’s an interesting perspective, one that I enjoy but when I have to jump back to a vintage like 2012 to draw some conclusions I really have to think about it a bit. After all, these wines were bottled last summer and to be honest I had not thought much about them until we started tasting for some of the events for our Fidelitas Wine Club.
So, what do I think of these 2012’s that we are starting to release ? First of all, I do need to point out that we did release our new Red Mountain 4040 blend in September, so the wines being released are not the first wines being released. The reaction to the 4040 has been great, so we had some indication what the wines were like. The 2012 vintage comes right after what could be considered two of most challenging vintages in Washington, those being 2010 & 2011. I do not think we have seen back to back vintages with so few heat units. At least not in my twenty seven vintages in Washington. As it turns out, 2012 was somewhat of a normal vintage in terms of Growing Degree Days. The weather in the fall of 2012 was nearly perfect, and we were able to ripen the fruit perfectly without any rain at all. This turns out to be a very important factor.
Before I give you my conclusions, let me talk a little about the wine media and what they think of 2012 in general. Keep in mind, these ratings are an overall score for Washington Red Bordeaux varietals. The large publications do have what they call vintage charts, which compare the wines from vintage to vintage.
Robert Parker’s publication, The Wine Advocate gave the 2012 vintage a score of 94. This is the highest score it has given a vintage since Fidelitas has been in existence starting in 2000. it also gave the same score to the 2005 & 2007 vintages.
The Wine Spectator gave 2012 a score of 95. Only one other vintage rated by the Wine Spectator has been rated higher since 2000, that being the 2007 vintage which they gave a score of 96. They also rated 2008 as 95 as well.
The Wine Enthusiast publication has rated 2012 a score of 97. This is far and away it’s favorite vintage from 2000 forward. Only 2005 is close and they rate it a 95.
I think the 2012 vintage is one of the top three vintages that we have ever made in the thirteen red wine vintages that have been released. I would put it right up there with 2005 & 2007 as far as comparing vintage to vintage. Both the 2005 & 2007 are drinking beautifully right now. I recommend drinking those wines of Fidelitas if you have them in your cellar.
The other thing to keep in mind in comparing vintages, is how much our product line up has changed since we first started. The 2012 vintage will have our usual array of Boushey & Champoux wines, but will have an expanded selection of wines from Ciel Du Cheval Vineyard and more selections of Red Mountain specific wines. If possible come by and taste the latest releases of the 2012 Red Mountain merlot & Optu blend. Optu is the only wine we have made since our first vintage in 2000.
you can also read this blog post on Charlie's NEW winemaking blog: https://charliehoppesredmountainwinemaker.wordpress.com/
In just a few weeks, I’ll be attending my 9th Taste Washington. Wow. Of the eight I’ve been to (worked at) so far, I have been on the restaurant side twice, and the winery side eight times. I have met amazing people who are genuinely interested in learning more about the restaurant, the winery, or just wine in general. I’ve chatted with Club members from as far as Tennessee who came to Washington just for this event. We’ve met new people who have become dedicated Fidelitas fans as a result of finding us at Taste. It is truly an amazing weekend.
This year, I get to bring a few newbies with me who have yet to attend Taste. I’ve been thinking about how to prepare them and decided to share my thoughts…
There is so much wine at this event. Spend some time perusing the event program in advance and highlight some wineries that you might want to visit. Don’t worry about tasting every wine that a winery might be offering…just go for the one that really interests you. Think about what you want to gain. I’ll encourage my team to seek out wineries they have not tasted from before and to come up with two brand that are really comparable to Fidelitas and two that are really different so they can speak to the great variety that Washington wine country has to offer.
Water. And lots of it. There are water stations everywhere. Grab a bottle and stick it in your purse or swag bag. Chug a bottle between every couple winery visits. If nothing else, it helps to clear the red off of your teeth. Also remember…unless your glass is getting really funky, there is no need to rinse your glass between tastes. Residual water in your glass will dilute the next wine you taste. I always offer to rinse with wine prior to a taste to clear out a white or red or sweet that you had before.
You’ll also note that there is a bunch of beer at the event. I’ll tread lightly here because I know there are some mixed feelings on this. However, remember that beer (like wine) has alcohol in it and that polishing off a pint glass is only going to get you to your finishing point that much earlier in the day.
Similar words here as with the wine plan. Our wonderful Kathleen prints off the map of the venue in advance and circles the restaurant booths that she wants to visit. She has always been better than me on this and ends up eating some wonderful food, where I often just grab things as I see them. Plan on having a big breakfast before you show up and maybe stick a protein bar in your bag if you don’t think you can fill up on little bites.
This is new for me! I’ve always heard great things about the seminars and I get to attend my first one this year when Charlie sits on the panel of the Red Mountain AVA spotlight. There is a great line up of subjects this year where you can really enhance your knowledge of Washington wine.
Watch for it. There will be someone in an all white suit that gets red wine down the front of them, and there will be someone limping over crumpled carpeting in heels. I don’t want to be critical of anyone, but do want to advise that people remember this is a standing event where almost everyone is bumping around with red wine in their glass. I’ll be in black and flats.
Please! Get an uber, call a cab, hop on the bus. Even better, take advantage of one of the hotel packages the Wine Commission has set up and make a weekend out of it. You bought the ticket to taste wine, so taste and have fun! But, with this much wine, it’s really hard to say “oh, I’ll just have a little and then be okay to drive home”. I have to get out on the road with everyone at the end of the day and want to make it home safely to my baby.
I look forward to seeing my friends at Taste this year!
Release weekend is something every club member looks forward to. We have just recently decided that a full day of fun is much better than a few hours in the evening…and what better day than Sundays! February was the first release of the year over here at Fidelitas and what a great release it was. We closed our tasting room doors in Woodinville on Sunday March 1st and welcomed only our club members from noon-6pm. We had a very delicious line up of wines to match the food we offered for this event…
2013 Klipsun Vineyard Optu White
2012 Northridge Vineyard Malbec
2012 Optu Red Mountain
2012 Red Mountain Merlot
2010 Champoux Vineyard Cabernet
Both our Woodinville and Red Mountain locations will be doing this (Red Mountain is a tad different) every release, four times a year. So be sure to keep an eye out and save the date for our pick up parties. They are such fun!
I came to work with Fidelitas in 2008, just as we were releasing the 2005 vintage reds. The tasting room on Red Mountain had been open for a year, but everyone had their stories of where they had experienced Fidelitas before then. For me, I first met Charlie at Canon de Sol (years before starting with Fidelitas), and then again in the Sandhill building. At one point in time, I was lucky enough to get a tour of Red Mountain with Charlie before so many of the great vineyards of today were even planted.
I’ve noticed that most stories have Optu woven in somewhere. My aunt recalls when she ordered some wine as a gift and Charlie delivered the case of 2002 Optu Red Wine to her door, case perched on his shoulder. The 2005 and 2006 vintages were very popular in distribution and so we picked up several new Fidelitas fans who had the wine at their favorite wine bar. This is the wine that has been with us from the beginning, representing our optimum blend of vineyards and varietals from each vintage.
And so now, a brief history of our signature blend, which started as Meritage, became Optu Red Wine, and now represents the region we call home as Optu Red Mountain. Optu first debuted in the 2000 vintage, and is now being released in its 13th variation as the Fidelitas 2012 Optu Red Mountain.
The 2000 Fidelitas Meritage debuted as a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon and 38% Merlot. Our first vintage was limited to just 375 cases of this one wine. We kept the Meritage name and this bottle through the 2001 vintage (a blend of 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Malbec) and gave the wine a friend with the addition of Columbia Valley Syrah.
2002 is perhaps our most exciting vintage by packaging standards, and the origin of the name OPTU. I also happen to LOVE this vintage and was lucky enough to hoard some for several years. A blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, and 9% Malbec. I believe that this is the first wine we included some Red Mountain fruit in, with 10% of the make up coming from Red Mountain Vineyard. We bumped the line up to a total of 6 products in this vintage, most notably with the introduction of Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
By 2003, we came up with a design for the bottle that has stuck with us through the 2013 white wines. This is a great time for a shout out to our tireless designer, Joe Farmer of Whizbang Studio. He does awesome work and is a truly nice guy. Back to the wine…2003 Optu Red Wine is comprised of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Franc. We basically exploded to 9 products in this vintage with the addition of 2 white wines: the Columbia Valley Semillon and Elerding Chardonnay!
2004 sticks out in my mind as one of my favorites during the 10 Vintages of Optu dinner (also known as the flying salad dinner). 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 10% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec…our first blend using all 5 Bordeaux varietals.
In 2005 we introduced the linebacker bottles. Big shoulders, heavier than anything, and could only fit in 6-packs. It seemed like a fun idea until people complained about the bottles not fitting in their cellars. This only lasted us through 2 vintages… 2005 Optu is still showing fabulously now (as evidenced by my 05 Party), as a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Merlot. In this vintage, we also debuted our first Red Mountain dedicated wine, the 2005 Red Mountain Merlot, and created the Boushey Red Wine as a tribute to Dick Boushey’s 25Th anniversary.
In 2006, Optu was made up of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, and 9% Cabernet Franc. My fondest memory from this vintage was Charlie saying…"sure, you can lay them down, but why? They’re great now!” We also introduced Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon in this vintage.
2007 brought another packaging change for some of our wines, thinner bottles, and one of Charlie’s favorite vintages. 07 Optu showcased 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 9% Malbec, and 6% Petit Verdot. We were at 15 products by this point in time with the addition of Red Mountain Red Wine, Red Mountain Merlot, and Red Mountain Cabernet Franc. We also gave Charlie the challenge of focusing just on Bordeaux varietals, and so Syrah fell away from the line up after 2006. 2008 stayed in the same bottled with 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Malbec. 2009 also got to stick in the same bottle (that’s a record!) and is made up of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec. This still stands out as one of my favorite vintages and I am squirrling away as many bottles as possible.
2010 was a turning point for Fidelitas, and for Optu. In this vintage, we released the Optu Red Mountain…a blend dedicated just to the region we call home. Still a blend, this vintage also favored Merlot with 53%, then 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. Love this wine. We got to keep the Merlot dominance in the 2011 vintage of Optu Red Mountain with a blend of 50% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, and16% Cabernet Franc. This vintage sold out in about 2 months. Lucky for those in the Wine Club!
And so now, we end with the current release, our 13th vintage of what is now known as Optu Red Mountain. A big, bold wine at this point in time, that is worthy of time in the cellar for sure as a blend of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. By this point in time, we have 18 red wines and 2 white wines: all Bordeaux-varietals, and 90% Red Mountain grown with the exception of some lasting vineyard relationships that are too good to pass up.
This blog post took me way longer to compose than I intended, but I think it’s because I truly do feel a connection to Optu. It was fun to go back through the vintages and remember different times that I’ve had the wines myself. If anyone has an Optu memory to add, I’d love to hear it.
Jess was right, the menu was amazing at our Winemaker Dinner last weekend. As always we were more than impressed by the magic that comes out of Castle's kitchen. Their crew was on top of it, keeping our almost 80 guests plates full. Charlie's favorite was the 6 hour braised short ribs paired with Estate Vineyard Cabernet. The Salmon two ways came in as a close second, especially with the smoked bacon Brussel Sprouts and a generous pour of Optu White.
It was our first time hosting a dinner at Castle Catering's new venue. Chef Andy gave Team Fidelitas a behind the scenes tour of their new event space and kitchen in Richland. Did you know this used to be a dormitory for Hanford workers? Of course, they've spruced it up a bit since they've moved in.
For more information about Anthology Check out their website.
It's hard to turn your head right now without realizing that Valentine's Day is right around the corner. I've been trying to come up with some interesting ideas to serve my sweetheart for our big night in (I refuse to wait in line to eat dinner somewhere with 5 million of my best friends). Casual searching on Pinterest leaves me feeling inadequate and in need of a heart shaped cookie cutter. Smitten Kitchen and the other foodie blogs make me wish I had more time to cook, and the big food sites and my endless cookbook selection offer me the same things that I peruse weekly. So what to do? How about use the amazing menu for tomorrow night's winemaker dinner as inspiration! Chef Andy Craig has outdone himself this time with a fabulous menu to showcase the 2012 Fidelitas Reds in their new Richland venue space, Anthology. I can't wait to share details and pictures next week. In the meantime, I'll continue to drool over this:
Salmon 2 Ways - Served on Applewood Smoked Bacon Brussel sprouts
Grilled Northwest Salmon with Chimichurri Sauce
Baked Northwest Salmon with Fire Roasted Red Pepper Coulis
Paired with 2013 Klipsun Vineyard Optu White
Garlic Roasted Beet Medley with Sautéed Kale and Fresh Thyme
Coffee & Cocoa Rubbed Smoked Tri-Tip finished with Jalapeno Remoulade
Paired with 2012 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Merlot
Wild Mushroom Risotto with Oyster, Portabella, and Crimini Blend
Finished with Fresh Shaved Parmesan and White Truffle Oil
Paired with 2012 Champoux Vineyard Magna Red Wine
6 Hour Braised Short Rib s & Crispy Pork Belly
Served on Buttery Boursin Whipped Yukon Golds finished with Caramelized
Walla Walla Sweet Onions
Paired with 2012 Quintessence Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
& 2012 Fidelitas Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Chocolate Cake with Bacon Jam
Return to the tasting bar to choose your favorite debut wine
Now that football is over we are left with cold days and no summer in sight. So grab a glass of Champoux Cabernet, sit back, and picture a fun year with Fidelitas. We just recently got together to plan out our 2015 year and it has me motivated to get through these dreary months! With Taste and Talk series to Summer in the City we have you covered, and you won’t want to miss out on these events. In the mean time, come enjoy our February “I love Red Mountain” Happy Hour in our tasting rooms so we can all drink in excitement together. Fridays 4pm to 6pm in Woodinville and Saturdays 11am to 5pm on Red Mountain. Now just look at theses photos to take you to those months we are anxiously awaiting for...
It’s January, which means that although it’s still freezing out there we’re starting to grow tired of winter stews and heavy holiday food. I've been trying to incorporate some fresh dinners at my house as of the start of this new year, and this Cajun seasoned Tuna (and a glass of the new release of 2012 Northridge Vineyard Malbec) is sure to kick up the spice and keep you warm.
You can buy Cajun Seasoning in the spice isle of any grocery store, however, it’s EASY to make yourself with spices you already have in your cabinet. I mixed mine and stored it in a small mason jar.
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Living in Seattle, it’s generally pretty easy to pick up fresh tuna steaks at a nearby PCC or Whole Foods but after a little research I have found that most stores will carry frozen tuna steaks at the Seafood counter if you cannot find fresh. For our friends in the Tri-Cities, I found out that if you call ahead to Yokes a day or so in advance they can usually order in fresh tuna steaks for you (awesome!) or they will always have a stock of frozen you can pick up.
Here’s the recipe for quick, easy, and healthy Blackened Tuna Steaks which are perfectly paired wild rice, an arugula salad, and a glass of our new release 2012 Northridge Malbec. Cheers!