2013 Malbec – A New Chapter

The upcoming release of our 2013 Malbec opens a new chapter in our effort to move closer to only making wines produced from grapes grown in the Red Mountain AVA.  In years past we have been able to source Malbec from a wide range of sources from throughout he Columbia Valley.  2013 will be our inaugural Red Mountain release and I think you will see a notable change from our previous style.

Don’t get me wrong, I like our previous Malbec’s from the Columbia Valley but I think you will see a change that will be a reflection of Red Mountain.  What is that change you ask.  Our previous vintages of Columbia Valley Malbec go back to the 2004 vintage.  I remember getting a little bit of fruit in to play around with and to see if it would work in our Optu blend. Optu is a blend  we have made from every vintage going back to 2000. I liked it so much that we decided to do a small bottling from that vintage of 96 cases.  I had worked with some of the first plantings of Malbec in Washington when I was the winemaker at Chateau Ste Michelle from 1990 to 1998.  That fruit came off of Canoe Ridge Estate, planted in 1993,  near Paterson and I knew it could add a new layer to the wines we were making.  One of the noticeable characteristics of most Malbec is an inherent peppery or spice component. This has been a common component throughout our Malbec from 2004 to 2012.

The 2013 Malbec – Red Mountain is different from any Malbec we have made previously.  The biggest change to me initially is the great concentration of the wine.  This is common amongst Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Petite Verdot.  Malbec is no different.  When I say concentration it is true reflection of tannin and fruit balance. You will see this in a lot of Fidelitas Red Mountain wines.  For me another characteristic that is less noticeable is the peppery, spice flavor on the palate.  It is still there but not nearly as noticeable as previous vintages.

The 2013 Red Mountain Malbec comes from three different vineyards, those being Scooteney Flats – 54%, Kiona – 29% & The Canyons – 17%.  These are three well established vineyards on Red Mountain.

For Fidelitas I would compare 2012 & 2103 on the same level.  I know most media and trade have put 2012 up as one of the best vintages ever in Washington but I would put 2013 right up there with 2012 for what we are doing.  Enjoy the latest chapter !

 

 

Clonal & Site Diversity – The Future of Fidelitas Wines

I first started working with Red Mountain fruit in 2005 initially from Red Mtn Vineyard. Started with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon & Cabernet Franc. I currently making, Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot, Petite 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 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.

2012 – Where Does It Rate For Fidelitas Reds ?

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.