There is so much more to the 4,040 acres that make up Red Mountain than just dirt and vineyards. I am reminded of it every time I take that turn onto Sunset Road. A promise of sunshine and a persistent breeze when you are overlooking our estate vineyard. The quiet (seriously quiet!) evenings that host vibrant Eastern Washington sunsets over Rattlesnake Mountain, and the miles of hills that make up the Horse Heaven’s that seemingly surround you. It’s a sense of community seeing the small handful of wineries coming together to share their taste of the mountain and of course, the friendships made with those visiting, whether local Washingtonians bringing their friends and family out for a weekend picnic, or those who have traveled quite a distance to experience the uniqueness of all that we have to offer from our small, but highly acclaimed AVA. As Red Mountain continues to grow, quite literally with the new plantings already taking place, the experience grows with it and gives us something to look forward to every time you take the Benton City exit.
I was lucky enough to spend most of last week on the mountain and it was hard to convince me to leave. In the busyness of our Feast of St Fidelis party on Friday night, I snuck this shot and to me it sums up so much about what I love about our home on Red Mountain.
Spring is my favorite time of year! I love the hope and early promise that the season’s first warm days and sunshine bring. All winter long I’ve watched as our little estate vineyard has laid dormant, patiently waiting for the longer days, sunshine, and wind that spring brings to Red Mountain.
My excitement for bud break and the 2014 season grew as the trees around our Red Mountain tasting room started to produce their first buds and blossom into gorgeous pink and white flowers! My anticipation for things to come was barely contained when on March 31st we pruned the three acres of our Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The blue sky peeked through the clouds as I wandered around taking photos of the action; it was almost as if I was receiving a (slightly late) birthday gift from Red Mountain!
These last few days as I have traveled down Sunset Road, exploring different portions of the AVA, I noticed other vineyards had started to magically sprout small, green leaves. Each morning I would race to our vineyard to see the slightest hint of green on our beloved vines… not quite yet...
Charlie stopped by earlier today to pick up some wine. After a quick chat, we said our goodbye’s and I went back to my tasks. As he was leaving, his well trained eyes picked up what I had previously missed! The first buds of the season on our vines!! Such a happy sight for me!
Here are a few more photos of our Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and early bud break for your viewing pleasure. I hope all of our Faithful, Loyal, and True wine family is just as excited as I am for the upcoming season.
I wish everyone a happy and hopeful Spring Season and I cannot wait to share more wine, stories, and laughter with all of you in 2014. Cheers to a fantastic Spring!
It all started when Alissa found out that I had a bottle of 2005 Fidelitas Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon in my cellar. Since that moment, months ago, I have received a text every couple of weeks to ‘schedule our 05 party!’
So, we rounded up a few friends (Marilyn and Nedra from Red Mountain, Alissa and Dara from Woodinville) this past weekend to sample some wines from the 2005 vintage. From Fidelitas, we had 2005 Optu Red Wine, 2005 Boushey Red Wine, and 2005 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon. There were a few other wines from other Washington wineries of note, but (and I’m only being slightly biased here) Fidelitas blew them out of the water so I won’t name names.
We tried to rank them, but each of us had a different order of favorites, which means that they were all fabulous. The Walla Walla Cabernet (which we tried first: 100% Cab from LaTour, Windrow, and Dwelley), was deep, concentrated, and full. The fruit had really softened to make something round and beautiful. Boushey Red (53% Merlot, 40% Cabernet, 7% Cabernet Franc) truly just tasted like Boushey, which is such a great wine that I’m certainly not complaining! Still earthy with red fruit and soft tannins, yet beautiful structure. The Optu Red (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec) was AMAZING in that you would never guess that it was a nearly 9 year old wine. Bright fruit, balanced acidity, present yet not overpowering tannins. Truly, had I tasted it blind, I would have thought it were a much younger wine.
These wines were special for me to revisit. The 2005s were the current releases back when I started in 2008. The big, heavy bottles, vineyards, and stories brought back some great memories for me. I guess that is probably the best part of pulling things from the cellar!
This weekend, we have opened the library doors (or rather, unearthed some library vintages from our secret hiding place) to share with visitors to our tasting rooms. We are featuring wines from 2007, 2008, and 2009. These special vintage wines have gotten me to thinking about which wine I’ll be sharing with my Valentine next Friday…
After rattling around in my own cellar, I came across a bottle of 2007 Red Mountain Red Wine, and determined it would be our wine for the evening. Besides being a fabulous wine, its red label makes it an obvious choice for Valentine’s Day. Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, my original tasting notes refer to black cherry, cranberry, and cedar. I anticipate now that those bright red fruits have deepened in intensity and the oak tones have really settled in to creating a round, full palate.
I’ll be working that day, so my goal is to have a simple, yet elegant meal ready to go when I get home. We’ll put the baby to bed and whip up dinner together. Here’s the plan:
baked brie with honey and apples
served with a split of Agrapart e Fils Champagne
flank steak with herb butter, smashed potatoes (these have become a valentine’s tradition), and sautéed brussels sprouts
served with 2007 Fidelitas Red Mountain Red Wine
chocolate pudding and raspberries to finish (can be made the night before!)
I wish you all a wonderful and fuss free Valentine's Day, whether you are spending it with your sweetheart, a group of friends, or just a special bottle from your own cellar!
We are getting spring fever here in Woodinville so our lovely Erin on Red Mountain sent some pictures of the estate vineyard to remind us that although the vines are bare, spring is not far off and there are blue skies ahead on our beloved mountain! Upon receiving these photos I thought to myself “what exactly do those vines do in the winter anyway?” I gave Charlie a call and his response: “they’re sleeping.” Simple enough. He then went on to explain that technically speaking in winter, grape vines are dormant, meaning “having normal physical functions suspended or slowed down for a period of time,” and I’ll admit I got a little envious of those grape vines in their deep slumber. He expects pruning to start within a few weeks which means nap time is almost over for these guys!
2013 was my 26th vintage in Washington and with each vintage comes new surprises and challenges. I think that is what makes winemaking so intriguing to me in that each year “Mother Nature,” gives us challenges to deal with in the vineyard and we try best as we may to make the very best possible wine.
2013 happened to be one of the warmest vintages on record. Historical weather data show it to be one of the warmest heat accumulation years on record, especially early accumulation of heat. As a result we started harvesting grapes for the vintage before Labor Day, which in 2013 fell on September 2nd. For only the second time since I started making wine in Washington, we picked grapes in August to get things started. One of the more unusual factors that influenced the vintage was how much heat was accumulated early in the vintage. By September 1st the amount of heat accumulated over the summer was significantly higher than any vintage I had seen previously in my 26 years. As a result, nearly everything was ready prior to October 1st. The final heat accumulation numbers ended up being lower than 2003 in total but the way in which we got the heat was very unusual. Many reviews of the vintage talk about early ripening and then a cooling period before other varieties got ripe. Most of our fruit for Fidelitas with the emphasis on Red Mountain did not experience this type of ripening.
What does this mean when we look forward to the vintage. I guess I could equate this vintage to a number of warm vintages since 2000. Vintage 03, 05, 07 & 09 were very similar in that we would consider these warm vintages and the subsequent wines have faired quite well. For Fidelitas, the 05, 07 & 09 ‘s have been my favorite vintages since our start in 2000. The wines themselves show incredible intensity and concentration on the palate. Great ripe fruit flavors, lower acids and potentially a very good to great vintage.
The current releases of the 2010 & 2011 vintage wines from Fidelitas come from two of the cooler vintages on record. For 2011, a couple of things stand out from the vintage and how they will affect Fidelitas. First of all, the harsh winter temperatures from the winter of 2011 caused the loss of fruit from the vintage over all. Total state tonnage dropped to 142,000 tons which was down from 160,000 tons in 2010. So, a significantly lower total number of tons harvested from the vintage. The second significant thing to note from this vintage is the 2011 was the coolest vintage on record with heat accumulation totals at 2312 GDD (Growing Degree Days). A normal year is around 2628 GDD. 2013 finishing at 2860 GDD for comparison.
What does this mean in terms of Fidelitas and the wines we are producing from the vintage? Keep in mind that a significant amount of Fidelitas production from 2011 came from the warmest AVA in Washington, Red Mountain. Getting the crop ripe on Red Mountain was not a problem. Getting fruit ripe from growers that we have worked with over a long period of time was not a problem at all. We did however experience a complete loss of some varietals from the vintage. We will miss the entire vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon from Champoux Vineyard. Critical temperatures were such that significant bud damage resulted in no grapes being harvested at all. We did get a very limited amount of Merlot from Champoux Vineyard, so we will continue with Merlot for the vintage.
As for the wines themselves, I am looking forward to some very nice wines from 2011. The wines in general were harvested at lower than normal brix levels resulting in lower alcohols and more supple flavors over all. Higher than normal natural acids will result in very age worthy wines that I look forward to trying and enjoying upon release. The beauty of making wine in many different vintages is capitalizing on what “Mother Nature “ gives you as a winemaker.
Coming down the line, we are preparing the 2012 red blends now. The estate vineyard at Fidelitas on Red Mountain consists of Cabernet Sauvignon of three different clones. Each clone is planted to, around 1 acre each. Clones planted are 2, 6 & 8. 2012 was the first vintage that we were able to harvest fruit from the estate vineyard. The wines have been in barrel now for 15 months and are showing tremendous promise. We look forward to putting blends together in the very near future and to getting the wines bottled this coming summer of 2014.
We are at great time for Fidelitas, with renewed focus on Red Mountain. We continue to explore many new vineyard sites and varietals from those vineyards. The future is bright with hope for making our best wines yet from emerging vineyards from Red Mountain.