With our first releases of the year coming up in a matter of days, I need to take a moment to publicly recognize and honor a wine that is absolutely as good as one of our Cabernets and can stand up to our Bordeaux style blends with the best of them. I’m talking about our Red Mountain Merlot. “It’s just Merlot,” you say? This isn’t your classic Merlot that movies like Sideways put down back in the day.
Did you know that Charlie says Merlot is actually his favorite grape to make wine out of and fun fact: it’s also the most planted variety in France? Merlot is what put Washington on the map. When Charlie works on creating his various Merlots, he fondly remembers his early days as a winemaker, working with Merlot in the early 90s and wowing fellow producers from neighboring regions with the quality of Washington wine.
Most of the Merlots that we will release this year will be club only and highly limited including vineyard-designated Merlots from Quintessence and Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, plus the super sought after Old Vines Merlot. But first, in February, will come our 2016 Red Mountain Merlot which we intentionally make enough of to have in stock for most of the year. It's so good, we don't want to run out. Red Mountain Merlot is a wine we can relax with, enjoying bruit red fruit tones, and a bit of a spicy, dusty quality that we expect from Red Mountain wines.
This isn’t just Merlot, this is the Merlot that you can have in your cellar all year and never get sick of. To be released on Friday, February 8th. Click here to reserve yours.
With the first couple 2016 red releases now available in the tasting rooms and much more to come in February and April (see Jess' most recent post) I figured now is a good time to take a look back at what all went on in the 2016 vintage and how it affected what went into the bottle.
What team Fidelitas was saying in the midst of 2016:
When we look at the differences in vintages the biggest factor on Red Mountain is heat; there are many other influential variances such as rain-fall, humidity, damaging frosts (*knocks on wood), etc..., but air temperature at different times of the year drives the ripening cycle. The main way we look at the difference in heat between vintages is growing degree days (GDD):
One of the main factors of grape development or the "ripening cycle" is air temperature. The running total of cumululative GDD during the "growing season," deemed to be April 1 to October 31 in Washington, is used to compare different vintages in the same region and different regions around the world. A base temperature is 50 (Farenheit) is chosen by WSU based on their experience that when the average temperature > 50 vine development/sugar development takes place.
Quote from the Washington Wine Commission which perfectly sums up the chart above:
"2016 continued the trend of warm growing seasons in Washington marked by an early start. Bud break and bloom were significantly advanced from historical dates, with bloom occurring in some areas as early as the third week of May, a good two-plus weeks ahead of average. By the end of May, 2016 was easily on pace to surpass 2015 as the warmest vintage on record. To everyone’s surprise, beginning in June, temperatures swung back toward normal. “As we all know weather is very unpredictable and we did not see the cool second half coming,” said one winemaker. These cooler temperatures persisted throughout the majority of the summer."
Here's a summary of a few conversation I had with my dad about 2016 on Red Mountain:
2016 started out warm, extremely warm, and some were predicting a vintage that would break the previous heat records of 2014 and 2015. We had an early April bud break which made us a little nervous, luckily with Red Mountain being one of the warmer areas we aren’t at as high of a risk for Spring frost as others (once it starts to get warm on Red Mountain it stays warm). The fruit set beautifully and we could already tell that yield was going to be on the high side. The summer cooled way down compared to previous vintages and the final ripening stages into the fall were drawn out to aid with flavor development and giving us the opportunity to let the fruit hang for some of our later ripening varietals without having to worry about sugar delevelopment or over-ripening. Expect more age worthy wines in 2016 – with acid levels a little higher – somewhere between the cooler vintages, 10 and 11, and the warmer 14 and 15. These wines may need a little more time to open up especially for bigger/bolder releases like Esate Cabernet or Quintessence Cabernet but we’re excited about the balance and age-worthiness of these wines. With more "normal" weather our single varietal wines are going to be more "true to their traditional varietal characteristics" - you won't taste the warmth of the vintage as much in these wines.
Also, we’re seeing year after year just how incredible fruit is coming off Red Mountain as some of our younger vineyard partners are continuing to develop and we continue to work with the same blocks year after year – always fine tuning our winemaking techniques to get the most out of the fruit.
(above) Charlie's view at 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday. This is the 2016 Quintessence Merlot that will be released in April!
(below) My similar view of early-morning pumpovers - Willamette Valley, 2016
Selling wine can be so hard.
Before we can present a new wine to our customers, there is so much preparation that goes in to the release. I’m not talking about the effort that the growers put in to each vine, or the work that Charlie and his team dedicate to carefully crafting each product, or even the hours I log deciding on glass and labels and all of the other packaging details. I am talking about all of the wines that we HAVE to taste and information we gather prior to release to make sure that they are just perfect.
Below are a handful of (unofficial, personal opinion) notes on the releases we have coming out the first half of 2019, in order of their release.*
Tasting this recently with Charlie we asked “where are all of those new flavors coming from?”. He explained that compared to 2014 and 2015, which were so toasty on Red Mountain, the 2016 vintage was a tad cooler, and that really allowed for the flavors of the varietal to come through. Charlie has been cited as “Washington’s top Malbec producer” by a number of authors, and with good reason. This Malbec has the power you’d expect from Red Mountain, along with the elegance I expect from a Charlie Hoppes Malbec.
Associate Winemaker, Hillary Sjolund, working on tasting notes for the 2016 reds.
2016 Red Mountain Merlot
Red Mountain Merlot is the first AVA-designated wine that Fidelitas made on Red Mountain. For years and years, this was a favorite around the Zander household. I have to admit, these recent warmer vintages (2014/2015) threw me a little bit on the Merlot but tasting this 2016 vintage has me right back on track as a favorite in the line-up. The wine is bright and cheery, bursting with red fruit tones and enough structure to make it exciting but not too bold to be saved for special occasions. I’m excited to pair this with some quiet time on the couch after the kids go to bed.
Oh Optu, you lovely wine. At last weekend’s preview tasting, members kept asking for my favorite wine in the room. And while I would NEVER play favorites, my heart kept tugging towards the Optu. Perhaps it’s the Cabernet-dominate blend. Or the heavy role that the Fidelitas Estate Vineyard plays in the make up (a first with this vintage!). Or maybe it’s the fact that I know Charlie actually does put a little extra love in to this blend. It’s the ‘wine that started it all’. The one we have made in every vintage since we began in 2000. And as our optimum blend, it’s perfectly yummy right now and so age worthy for those who can wait.
Happy Optu + Magna members at the January 2019 Preview Tasting in Woodinville.
2016 Blackwood Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon
This is our third vintage released from Blackwood Canyon Vineyard. Many are familiar with this landmark Red Mountain vineyard and have stories to share from over the years. What we know is that the fruit is AMAZING. This is old vine Cabernet from the AVA, using grapes that were originally planted in 1984. The vineyard went through a few years of neglect but were lovingly brought back to full glory in the past decade. The result is a rich, dense Cabernet with exceptional structure and depth. We are so excited about this vineyard site as it sits adjacent to the blocks of our own Estate Vineyard that were planted in 2015. To think of what we’ll have to work with in 30 years!
The Canyons Vineyard is aptly named for the deep ravines that cut up the side of Red Mountain from the Yakima River below. The gives us vines growing on crazy sideways slopes up and down each canyon. We source Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Merlot from this site and put all three together to make this blend. I think it’s a perfect summertime blend and can’t wait to enjoy a bottle on the deck with some BBQ as soon as these temps warm up. (dreaming of warmer days on this super cold morning in Seattle…)
Now, Charlie doesn’t play favorites either, but we all know he is a HUGE fan of Quintessence Vineyard and really loves to work with Merlot. Any chance he can get, Charlie is telling us stories about when he first started making wine in Washington, and that Merlot is really what put Washington on the map as a growing region. This is our first vintage of Merlot from Quintessence Vineyard and we all agree that it’s an awesome way to start! Across the board, we see a bit more structure to the wines from Quintessence. This Merlot provides much darker fruit tones than the Red Mountain Merlot, and has some added aging potential as well.
During our team meeting last week, we tasted through the whole line up and Skye refused to keep tasting after the Quintessence Malbec. “I’ll just spend the rest of my day with this wine,” she said. Like the Merlots, this vineyard designated Malbec provides a deeper, richer, more complex profile than the Red Mountain counterparts. Quintessence is a relatively young site and Charlie actually got to give a little input on what he’d like to see planted. Malbec was high on his request list with dreams of making exactly this wine, just for Fidelitas Club members.
Will tasting the 2016 Quintessence Vineyard Malbec.
2016 Quintessence Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
We’ve been working with Quintessence Vineyard fruit since the 2012 vintage, and it has been so great to see it evolve over the years. We use two French ENTAV clones, 169 and 191, in the Quintessence Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. That means, these are grapes that are registered with the French government and might be found in some of those lovely wines from Bordeaux. To me, it gives the wine a multi-dimensional profile that has the earthiness we’d see in Old World wines, coupled with the bold tannins and bright fruit tones are icons of the Red Mountain AVA. This is definitely worthy of some time in the cellar and I cannot wait to see how each vintage continues to evolve over the years.
Fair warning: at the time of writing this blog post, we have 4.5 cases left of this wine. If you are reading this on January 16, and want this in your allocation…do it now! The other 43 have been allocated in less than 48 hours…
Charlie called me during his blending trials last year and said “we HAVE to do 2 single clone Cabernets from Quintessence”. I told him he was crazy and called Michelle who told me it was the coolest idea ever. So, I countered by asking him to choose just 1 clone and 2 days later he settled on the Clone 169. Why? To him – it just has the most unique qualities that stand out. Tannic structure, depth, complexity are all big markers of the ENTAV Clone 169, and those surely show in this wine. If you can’t wait to try it once you get it home, please pass it through a decanter or let it breathe in the bottle for a bit first. It’s a big guy that opens up so beautifully with a little time.
*a note about release dates: the actual date will vary based on Club level. Many wines are Club only and will not be seen in the tasting rooms.
Dear Friends of Fidelitas:
2018 proved to be a banner year for Fidelitas. We recently completed our 19th vintage in Washington and have had a retail presence on Red Mountain now since May of 2007. Our first planting of the Fidelitas Estate Vineyard took place in 2008 and the future continues to look great for us.
In 2018 we released a few new products that proved to be highly sought after by you, our friends. Specifically, we released our Old Vines Merlot and our Quintessence Malbec. In the future, we will continue to offer these products along with a wide range of wines from what I believe to then finest AVA in Washington that being Red Mountain.
Looking forward to 2019, and the release of the 2016 vintage reds, we will introduce three more new wines. A new red blend that we will call Montis is a Red Mountain specific blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with a tiny bit of Malbec. We realize the popularity of blends and will add this blend to the Optu Red Wine and Ciel du Cheval Red Wine. This is a very exciting wine from some of my favorite vineyards, with great concentration and layers of flavor. We will also offer two new wines from Quintessence Vineyard: a varietal Merlot and a clonal specific Cabernet Sauvignon (ENTAV 169) in very limited quantities. These new vineyard specific wines show what an outstanding vineyard site Quintessence is.
We continue to try and find ways that we can continue to improve the wines that we make for Fidelitas. Continuous improvement is a constant theme for our winemaking team made up of me, as well as Hillary Sjolund and Mitch Venohr. Areas that we are looking at include fermentation vessel size and shape, as well as the use of more wood during primary fermentation. We also continue to look at fermentation itself and how we can up our game and take our wines to new heights.
The Estate Vineyard from Fidelitas continues to progress with time. We now have nearly 12 acres of vineyard planted to five different red varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. Although we were able to get a small crop off our new planting in 2017, from the second leaf, 2018 was our first sizeable crop. Every single block was kept separate during fermentation and we are evaluating the wines as they continue to age. Clonal Cabernet Sauvignon is big theme for our Estate Vineyard with six different clones planted. We are very happy with what we are seeing so far and how we will mesh these wines in to our current lineup. Many thanks to Dick Boushey and his entire team who farm this property on a daily basis. We could not ask for a better partner.
I cannot say enough about how great our staff is at Fidelitas. The people that interface with you as customers on a daily basis see this and share it with me whenever I have a chance to talk with you at our tasting rooms or many events. I feel very blessed to have such a great team lead by Jess Zander.
I would like to simple say thank you to each and every customer that continue be so supportive of Fidelitas. Needless to say, we could not exist without your Faithful, Loyal & True support.
As many of you may have heard, Fidelitas is closing its doors for the holidays beginning December 18th and will re-open on January 2nd. The reason being? Well, it seems that our members really, really, really loved the 2015 vintage reds. And now we are SOLD OUT! Did anyone see that coming? I know how much you would love to come in and chat it up with Will in Woodinville, or Chelsea on Red Mountain. But, it’s just not as fun when they don’t have wine to pour you. This is also a great time for the Fidelitas team to sit back and celebrate a wonderful 2018 with their families.
We have some exciting things to come in January including the brand new 2016 Red Mountain Malbec. Everyone’s favorite black label! An invitation was also just sent out to our Optu and Magna members inviting them to the Preview Tasting which is being hosted on Sunday, January 13th both in Woodinville and on Red Mountain. If you haven’t already, make sure to reserve your two tickets online! This will be your only opportunity to taste these highly allocated wines prior to selecting allocations.
Just a few days remaining to come in and snag those last-minute bottles for the holidays. Come in and visit us so we can cheers to exciting things to come in 2019!
First off I'd like to apologize to our members who have their wine shipped or pick up at our Red Mountain tasting room - I promise I'm not forgetting about you and thank you for being loyal members! But as our Woodinville tasting room manager, I figured I'd speak to my strengths. Even if you aren't one of our members who picks up their wine in Woodinville there still should be plenty of good information in here.
If you haven't been to one of our Preview Tasting you need to check them out. There's one in January and one in July - available in Woodinville and on Red Mountain. Taste through the future releases and choose your club allocations as your tasting the wines. It's the best way to make sure you get exactly what you prefer for your allocations.
Preview Tasting is scheduled for January 13th in Wodinville at the Hollywood schoolhouse (a 2 minute walk from our tasting room) and January 13th on Red Mountain - keep an eye out early December for the email to make your time slot reservation
Plus, you may get the chance to meet our rockstar winemaker:
Check out our recently updated Wine Club FAQ page
Next time you're in the tasting room ask us if we have anything else open - we often have club-only pours available!
If you're finding it difficult to make it out to Woodinville we also offer flat-rate shipping on club allocations + we recommend shipping it to your business address so there's always someone there to sign
Follow us on istagram, facebook, and check our events calendar which is updated frequently
On busier days there is parking available behind Brian Carter - parking area highlighted - red arrow is a path that leads to the parking lot:
Fidelitas fans made this year one to remember. We launched a brand-new way for our members to buy Fidelitas wines; allowing the Club to select from our newest releases and create their own, unique allocation. Through the loyalty and dedication of our Club, we have now (nearly!) sold out of every wine we released in 2018. These faithful, loyal, and true members push us to keep ‘making our best wine yet’ as we look for new ways to surprise and delight them in vintages to come.
Magna Dinner, Red Mountain, July 2018
Summer in the City, Seattle, August 2018
Charlie is what makes our jobs easy. Obviously, he makes amazing wines, and that is the best part. But he’s also just an amazing guy to work for and work with.
This year, Charlie was awarded 2018 Vintner of the Year by his peers at the Auction of Washington Wines. This recognition gave credit to the 30+ harvests he has committed to making wine in Washington. Charlie’s effort and dedication, along with that of his peers, is what continues to advance the Washington wine industry.
Charlie Hoppes, Honorary Vintner, and Marshall Edwards, Honorary Grower, at the Auction of Washington Wines, August 2018
Skye, Jess, Will, Charlie, and Michelle at the AWW Picnic and Barrel Auction, August 2018
We call this tiny AVA home. At just 4,040 acres, with nearly every plant-able acre now under vine, this is a really special place. Charlie often remarks that there are only a few growing regions in the world where you can stand in one spot and see the whole AVA, block by block. The unique terroir, devoted growers, and outstanding neighboring wineries, have established Red Mountain as one of the most premium wine producing regions in the world.
Fidelitas Estate Vineyard on Red Mountain, September 2018
Estate Vineyard Dinner, September 2018
We’d be nowhere without our staff! On a very personal level, I am so grateful to have such a dedicated, positive, and all around great team representing Fidelitas every day. They tell our story and share the wines with our customers, sweep the floors, pack boxes, haul wine, make dinner reservations, throw parties, and SO MUCH MORE.
Team Fidelitas Staff Vineyard Tours, July 2018
Team Fidelitas at the Mariners, June 2018
Team Fidelitas of the Future: Charlie and Brynn, January 2018
Seems simple enough. As a winery, you make wine, you pour wine, you sell wine. But our wines were somehow extra special this year and I am thankful for that.
10 of the 19 wines we released in 2018 were sold exclusively to our members in Club allocations, meaning they never even made it into the tasting rooms. We had exceptional releases such as varietal Malbec from Quintessence Vineyard, intense Cabernet from Blackwood Canyon Vineyard, old vine Merlot from some of the oldest blocks on Red Mountain, found in Kiona and Ciel du Cheval Vineyards, and of course our own Fidelitas Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
Washington wine is growing. Red Mountain wine is growing. But, Charlie’s longstanding relationships with growers allows us to select fruit from specific blocks to make exceptional wines for our members, and this is what sets Fidelitas’ wines apart.
Fidelitas 2018 Releases, start to finish!
Holiday season is about to kick off and I am still in shock that summer is over. Before you know it, you’ll be getting invited to different holiday events, family gatherings, and neighborhood block parties. Lucky for you, Fidelitas has your wine list covered. Bring any one of these bottles and you’ll be the hit of the party!
(Being released to members in November! Join the Club to get in on this limited release)
(Being released in November!)
To reserve any of these wines, please contact us! Inventory goes quickly this time of year so be sure to stock up now.
We love seeing what you are up to when drinking Fidelitas with friends and family! Be sure to share your photos with us this coming holiday season. Cheers!
Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
clones 2, 6, 8, 412, 33, 169
picked on September 26 + 27, October 10
fermenting in Oak Uprights, Oak Tanks, Roller Fermenters
Estate Vineyard Merlot
picked on September 18
fermenting in Oak Uprights, Oak Tanks, Roller Fermenters
Estate Vineyard Petit Verdot
picked on October 10
fermenting in Boutes Oak
Estate Vineyard Malbec
picked on September 26
fermenting in Stainless Steel
Estate Vineyard Cabernet Franc
picked on October 10
fermenting in Oak Uprights
I got a text from Charlie at 6:15 this morning with picutres of him doing pump overs. At that hour, I'm still dragging and dealing with the kids. Charlie's picture, however, showed him smiling, looking at the soon to be wine, while it's still dark outside. Is he a little bit insane? Maybe. But I'm starting to realize that is what harvest is all about.
Here are some memories of harvest over the years from both Charlie and his wife, Terri. Raising 4 kids and being a small business owner is no joke. Throw in some 14 hour work days, 6 days per week, and that's just fun for the whole family.
What were some of your first impressions those first few harvests, starting in 1988?
CHARLIE: It’s always been intense. My first few vintages were crazy, super busy at a big place like Langguth. I was thrown in to the mix quickly, running the crush pad before I really knew what I was doing. That’s Mike Januik’s fault…it was really overwhelming and exhausting. 12-14 hours per day with just Sundays off. After the first few years, I was much more comfortable. Especially being at Ste. Michelle, where the staff works like a machine to make it all happen.
Harvest this year seems like a constant juggling act. I’m thinking about 10 days out while Mitch is trying to figure out where we are putting the grapes that are coming in tomorrow. Hillary is constantly focused on the day to day…getting each wine through fermentation. On any given day, we’re doing 70 lots at a time. Pump overs started at 6 today, and at 9:30 he’s still going. We’ll start this all again at about 2:30 this afternoon.
I’m looking at the new guys and they really don’t know what they are getting in to. Not only is in physically exhausting, but mentally. But, they all come out with a greater appreciation. And I think it gets in to their blood. Some of the guys are turning around to do southern hemisphere harvest too.
TERRI: Was it intense? Yes! You put your life on hold during harvest. Not only is he gone physically but also mentally, but yet he was always there if we needed him to be. We felt like he was here and were his priority. Intensity for me was the worry of his long-distance commutes throughout different harvests - from Walla Walla, Mattawa, Wenatchee, etc. Once I heard him come through the door my prayers were answered - driving with so much fatigue isn’t the best!
Langguth/Saddle Mountain in 1988
Did you ever think that Charlie was insane for making a career shift from Boeing?
TERRI: Never - even if fall can be bittersweet each year. My wish to experience a fall foliage trip in New England with Charlie someday will just have to be a trip to the vineyards!
What are some traditions at home or in the cellar surrounding harvest?
CHARLIE: I always work on my birthday but we always managed to have a party when I came home at night. My birthday and harvest have always been closely related for me.
At the cellar, we’re playing Shakira every morning. This started for me at Three Rivers in 2000 with Holly Turner after she had worked harvest in Mendoza. We’re able to do it with Spotify now…which we definitely weren’t doing in 2000. Nowadays, the cellar crew is requesting it to start the day.
I also try to help the crew out during harvest. Sometimes we’ll do a big bbq for lunch or even go out to breakfast, just to break the monotony. Many years, we’ll also host a lunch for the vineyard crew once the grapes are off the vines.
TERRI: I always remember when our family was young that Halloween was a big deal because Dad was finally home! Harvest was ending, and we would be normal again.
Are there any times Charlie fell asleep at the dinner table after working in the cellar all day? Any other dirt on him?
TERRI: No - no funny story to share about falling asleep. He was just always trying to stay awake once he gets home! And then always waking in middle of the night for a while thinking. He is never able to really rest until end of harvest.
Is there anything you both like to do as you finish up the harvest season?
TERRI: It’s hard to unwind at the end of harvest, especially when you are working many, many weeks with no days off. We just enjoy the time to rest and catch our breath! We’re always looking forward to holidays with family and can’t wait for a new grandbaby coming into our world in a few weeks!
CHARLIE: Just take the time to slow down. You know, in some ways Terri is the one who has really put in all the work. She takes over and raises the family, which is not easy, during fall especially.
This year, we are just really looking forward to meeting our new grandbaby.