Charlie Hoppes is on the cover of the August
issue of Wine Press NW, featured in an article about "Consulting
Winemakers", and he's in heavy demand from new wineries who crave
his expert advice. But the wines Charlie makes that are closest
to my heart are those he makes under his own "Fidelitas" label.
The second vintage of the Fidelitas range of
wines is being released in October, 2004. In Charlie's first
release, last spring (2003), he made only one wine, the Fidelitas
Meritage 00. With his new
Fall 2004 release, his offerings expand to include a white
blend called "Tranquility", a Sauvignon Blanc, a Red Table
Wine, a Merlot, a 2001 Meritage, and his first
Cabernet Sauvignon, the Fidelitas
Cabernet Sauvignon 02 $45.
his first Cab, Fidelitas
Cabernet Sauvignon 02 $45 and I am telling
you, Quilceda and Leonetti have nothing over this wine. It is
really something. Run, do
not walk, to your computer
this wine. You'll be glad you did.
The nose is of sweet vanilla
with hints of nutmeg and cedar, and the flavors- huge ripe plum,
cherry, and black currant with layers of exotic spices, nutmeg,
vanilla oak, an undercurrent of toasted espresso bean, fresh
saddle leather, and beautifully integrated. I know you're thinking "well, she sells wine, so maybe she's just overstocked on this
one", but I promise, you really want to get some of this wine.
Also in Charlie's October release is a sophisticated,
Merlot 02 $30, unusually nuanced, with subtle
layers of black berry, black currant, persimmon, bittersweet
chocolate, and well integrated tannins, present in
a most interesting
It's not a simple black cherry fruity everyday drinker. This
is a Merlot worthy of some serious cuisine, and will prove interesting
as it ages over the next 5-7 years. Masterful wine making.
Charlie in the Vineyard
Bob Betz's Family Winery
Bob was a superstar in the Washington wine world before he started
his own winery. After 28 years at
Stimson Lane, and after earning one of the nation's few Master
of Wine degrees, Bob "retired" to make wines immediately
compared favorably to Quilceda Creek Cabs and fine Bordeauxs.
Betz received a Master in Wine from
the Institute of Masters of Wine in London in 1998, at the age of 50-years-old.
Very few people receive this distinction and the only other holder
of that title in Washington State is David Lake, from Columbia Winery.
There are only about 250 people worldwide to hold the title since 1953.
Betz did so well that he was given
two awards of distinction by the Institute: the Robert Mondavi Award
for having the highest overall scores on all theory exams and the Villa
Maria Award for the outstanding paper on viticulture. He wrote his
graduate thesis on barrel influence on wine character.
Avalon's supply of Betz Family wine
is very low (call if interested, there are a few magnums left).
We are now offering his wonderful Syrah, shipping in October.
Also, we are offering a bottle of his Wine Spectator 94 point
Syrah La Cote Rousse $50 as a gift when you sign up
for our NW Big Reds Club. And we have a very limited amount of
his 92 point Betz Family Winery Syrah La Serenne $45 for October
Wade's Fielding Hills Winery
OK, so the first Cab could have
been beginners luck, and the second a fluke, but the third Cabernet
Sauvignon out of this Wenachee based Estate winery is the best
yet, with a 93 point score from Wine Spectator (8/04). Who would
have thought that a bunch of apple and pear orchards would turn
out to grow such spectacular grapes? And what will the future
bring, with the vines (and the winemaker) maturing and improving?
Wine Spectator gave 93 points and
has this to say about the new Fielding Hills Cabernet Sauvignon
producer uses vineyards in Mattawa, a warmer corner of the Columbia
Valley. Its come-hither ’02 Cab hits the jackpot with a generous
core of mocha-scented blueberry, plum and spice flavors that
fill the mouth and sashay around enticingly. Has depth and persistence,
it should continue to develop with cellaring. Drink now through
Washington wineries who grow the
"Big Reds" are not as concerned with the influence of the
soils and geographic location of vineyards as growers of the
fickle and variable Pinot noir grape. Taking a note from Pinot
noir growers, it would be interesting to try to determine just
what it is that produces such delicious, complexly flavored red
wine grapes in the Wenachee area, and at Fielding's vineyard
specifically. Is it the soils? The unusual air circulation that
comes from being between a river and a high cliff? Or could it
be the temperature changes that the geography creates? We shall
Bene- Newest Graduate of Boeing
Bene Miscela 01 $33-
that's the wine to get from this tiny winery. Miscela is Italian
and this is a blend from Conner Lee
Vineyard, Chandlers Reach Vineyard and Kestrel View Estates;
but, also includes a touch of Klipsun Cabernet Sauvignon for
softness and a splash of Ciel du Cheval Petit Verdot for color
49% Merlot (33% Chandler Reach and 16% Kestrel), 34% Cabernet
(25% Connor Lee, 6% Klipsun and 3% Kestrel), 16% Cabernet Franc
(15% Kestrel and 1% Ciel du Cheval) and 1% Petit Verdot (Ciel
du Cheval). This wine was aged in 75% new French oak barrels
fro 21 months. It's the winemaker's favorite, and has big berry,
plum, and toasted spice in the flavors with a long finish. It
is opulent and rich.
Tim Narby and Carol Bryant of Nota Bene
Tim Narby joins a number of
graduates from the Boeing Wine Club, including Cadence, Austin
Robaire, Soos Creek and a half-dozen others who have taken their
amateur status commercial
with positive results.
“These are smart people who meet on a regular
basis, ask questions, talk about wine making and know where to go for
Al Cutshall, Boeing Wine Club member. “We have great resources.
We have great contracts with grape growers and we share whatever
information we have.
Those resources include some of the best
vineyards in the state of Washington. Nota Bene Cellars procures
grapes from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard,
Alder Creek, Conner Lee, Kestrel View, Artz Vineyard, Klipsun,
Champoux Vineyards, Portteus Vineyards, Chandler Reach Vineyards
and more. The
vineyard pedigrees read like the Westminster Dog Show—the best
of the best. And the wines show it.
Read Christina Kelly's article about Nota Bene
Mark Ryan Long Hauls Dead Horses
Mark McNeilly - tiny amounts of wine with complexity
and depth, and funny names from a winery called Mark Ryan. Tobacco,
mineral, mocha flavors, all made in a garage in Bellevue, Washington. Long
a red blend named for the long drive across the Snoqualmie Pass
in a rickety Ford truck full of grapes; Dead Horse is
another red blend, made entirely from grapes from Ciel du Cheval
(Horse heaven) Vineyard.
Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan Winery
The winemaker is remarkably modest about his
wine making, and seems oblivious to the "buzz" about his
Mark says: "I believe Ciel du Cheval to
be one of best vineyard sites in Washington. Consistently,
Ciel du Cheval is one of the warmest vineyards in the state
and this allows for big, ripe, elegant wines with great structure,
complexity. NO HORSES WERE HURT DURING THE PRODUCTION OF
THIS WINE AND IT WAS TESTED ON HUMANS!"
Both the Long Haul and the Dead Horse are worth
investing in, but the Mark
Ryan Dead Horse 01 $36 is
our favorite. It was pretty closed when first bottled, but it
has softened and opened to
show beautiful and varied classic Cab flavors. Dead Horse is,
according to Mark, "Left Bank Bordeaux" in style and is made
entirely from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard grapes. The wine is called
Dead Horse because the vineyard name loosely translated in french
Whitman Cellars - The Future Will Tell
This winery is a "maybe" on the "Superstars"
list. Secret weapon: winemaker Steve Lessard, who's brought
Whitman his expertise in making the Stags Leap Wine Cellars Cask
Sauvignon. Weakness- what if he leaves? The winery does not own
vineyards, and are relatively new to the area, where the best
grapes are in super big demand.
So this winery is a
maybe in the superstar list, but the Whitman
Cellars Syrah 2002 $28 is
a positive forerunner for wines to come. Wine Spectator gave
it 93 points in August, 2004, and the wine out performs
some $50 Washington Syrahs.
wine we are most pleased with is their Narcissa Red 02 $28, a Meritage style
blend that shows the experience of the winemaker- black currant, cassis,
leather, tar, black pepper, smoke, all wrapped around a core
of sweet black cherry and plum fruit. It's Stephen Lessard's
first vintage with Whitman, and shows the possibilities of many
fine wines in the future.
Sheridan Vineyard and Winery - It's the Vineyard,
Sheridan Vineyard owner and winemaker Scott
Greer is a winemaker's winemaker. He's quickly earned the respect of
some of Washington and Oregon's top winemakers, including Chris
Camarda of Andrew Will, who is planting his own Estate vineyard
next door to Sheridan's vines.
View of Sheridan Vineyard
Sheridan not only sells grapes, Scott also makes
wine under the Sheridan label. His 2000 "Red" was a highlight
of Avalon's web site last year, and his follow ups, the bargain
Kamiakin Red 01 $19.99 and the splendiferous Sheridan
L'Orage Red 01$43 are both awe-inspiring, with huge flavors
and layers of complexity.
The vineyard was founded in 1997, and the 67
total acres are just coming into complete production. With wines
like the first two vintages, and the advantage of owning their
own Estate vineyard, this winery is almost a sure thing for superstar
K Vintners and Cayuse- The Wild Men of Walla
Vintners) and Christopher Baron
burst on the Walla Walla scene a few years ago, and frankly, people
are still scratching their heads, bemused and
startled by this tidal wave of Gallic charm and eccentric behavior.
They plant in fields full of rocks, farm to the beat of their
own drummer, and get 96 point ratings in Wine Spectator for a
wine called "Bionic Frog". Is this nuts or what?!?
Christopher Baron comes from a wine making heritage
in his native France, and when he met Charles Smith, a recent
emigre to Walla Walla via Europe and California, a collaboration
was born. Cayuse wines
are scarce, highly sought after, and almost always Syrah. K Vintner
wines range more in price, and often
include juice from Cayuse wines that does not fit the recipe
and gets declassified. Wines from K Vintners like "The Boy",
"The Beautiful", and the new "House
Wine" have come and gone
almost instantly, offering huge flavors at bargain prices. The
K Vintners Vineyard Designate Syrah's have gone almost as fast,
with higher price tags.
We'll have a pretty good selection of
K Vintners wines this fall, and a few bottles of the precious
Cayuse Syrah's. Check with us as they come and go super fast.
Many Other Wineries We Might Have Mentioned
Now that I look over this article, maybe I shouldn't
have written it, there are a lot of other wines that
are also good,
other winemakers with potential superstar status... I apologize
to anyone who should
have been in this list but is not, you know who you are!