Fielding Hills Winery
Sumptuous Reds and Tremendous Promise
Fielding Hills Winery makes a very small amount of very very good wine from their vineyard in Mattawa, Wa. Winemaker and co-owner Mike Wade is an experienced farmer whose family orchards surround the winery. The winery, in an orchard in East Wenachee, is a very basic barn with temperature control and a sweeping view of the Columbia River Valley below. The region is called the Columbia/Cascade Area.
The winery produces about 450 cases a year of three different wines, all red. The Cabernet Sauvignon 00, tasted in August 2003, is amazingly complex and sophisticated- this is a wine from two year old vines! The terroir of the site is already shining through, and flavors of bittersweet chocolate, roasting coffee bean, rich berry and plum, are richly layered on a supple backbone of tannins that signal that this wine will age well for up to 10 years.
I was blown away. This is what I live for, sitting around in a warehouse/garage/barn with a nice famliy, trying their wine, tasting and just knowing that they have what it takes. Fielding Hills has it!
The next vintage from Fielding, the 2001 wines, was released in October, and we have a limited amount to sell. I tasted them in August and they are wonderful. The Cabernet Sauvignon 01 shows more terroir and structure than the 00, as the grapes mature, and has even more of that wonderful ripe, rich, dense complex palette of flavors than the 00. It is fairly closed, and will benefit from 3-5 years of cellaring, or decant 12 hours before serving.
The Riverbend Red has already received a 90 point rating from Wine Spectator, and is one of those "feel good" wines that is just easy to drink and love. Not as complex and cellar worthy as the Cab, the Riverbend Red has plush and bright fruit flavors and hints of the vineyard's intense roasting coffee and cocoa bean terroir. Subtle spice, licorice, and anise notes complete the profile.
We will also have a small amount of their Merlot 01. Wine Press NW had this to say about the 00 vintage: "Shows complex aromas of black pepper, black cherries and vanilla with lingering flavors of raspberries, sweet spices and oak." We agree.
From Fielding Hills Winemaker Mike Wade
My first memory of a personal experience regarding wine (the semi-serious kind, not the Annie Green Springs kind) is having dinner with my Grandmother (Doris Wade) at the Chieftain Restaurant in Wenatchee, WA and ordering a glass of house burgundy with my prime rib. I was pretty much a beer drinker at the time and I remember thinking; "wow!, together with the prime rib this wine actually tastes good". Since we ate dinner together frequently I kept ordering a glass of burgundy and it continued to impress and grow on me.
Very slowly I began to experiment with other types of wine and quickly focused on reds. I can recall my first taste of a "premium" red wine. It was an Apex Cabernet Sauvignon (Apex is the Washington Hills premium label). It was wonderful and the hook was set! Perhaps a sign of the times (the 90's!), or perhaps the friends we were socializing with (I am not sure which), I kept enjoying red wines more and more. Then in the mid 90's we went to Napa Valley with Dave and Jennie Parks. David is an avid wine connoisseur and he was a wonderful tour guide; we just showed up and held on! Napa was a wonderful experience and when touring the wineries and checking out the vineyards I began to ask myself if this was something I could do. But Napa is fairly intimidating. Most everything is done first class and clearly reflected the huge investment wineries have.
Because my day job and most of my life has been spent in agriculture (I work for and am part owner of Columbia Fruit Packers, Inc.; a medium sized family owned apple and cherry packing warehouse which also owns several orchards), I knew quite a bit about farming and processing of agricultural products. I found many similarities between apples, cherries and grapes. My interest continued to grow.
In 1997 Karen put together a winery tour of the Lower Yakima valley. We rented a bus and 30 of us had tons of fun. Again I continued to look at everything from a perspective of, "could I do this?" and if so where would I start? In 1998 we did another tour this time in Walla Walla. It was there at a small winery outside of town it really hit me. Here was a winery creating killer red wines and their operation was very visually doable. This was my answer of what a start up could look like.
That winter I went to the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers annual meeting and was fortunate to meet again some of the winery owner/winemakers I had met on my earlier tours. I am sure I overwhelmed each of them with endless questions, but with their help my plan continued to formulate. It was also at this meeting we decided to plant a few acres of grapes at two of the orchards in Mattawa we are involved in.
Spring of 1999 we planted our grapes and when summer came I arranged to buy a few grapes from a neighboring Mattawa vineyard to do a final winemaking experiment before taking the bigger plunge and going commercial. Prior to our planting, we had a verbal agreement with one of the big wineries in the state to take our grapes, but it did not pan out. In fall of 1999 we met with the owners/winemaker of a startup winery in Walla Walla who was interested in sourcing grapes from the Mattawa area. From that meeting they agreed to work with us on our first crop due in the summer of 2000. It was also my extraordinary luck that this winemaker was a great guy and very willing to help me with my own winery plans.
Although we will source grapes from Mattawa, Fielding Hills Winery was to be located in East Wenatchee, Washington in a converted orchard shop. We live on the same orchard so it makes the commute very convenient. It does not hurt that the site has a tremendous view of the Wenatchee Valley.
Still not completely sure, I contacted the Federal and State authorities about getting all the required permits and licenses. On all those forms they wanted a trade name. Without too much time or effort we settled on Fielding Hills Winery. My grandfather's name was Isham Fielding Wade; and as you look at the hills surrounding the winery, the name seemed to fit. It was also important to have a name with a direct personal touch, much like the wines we intend on producing.
Riverbend Vineyard Manager
After further conversations with my new winemaker friends, family, and personal friends, I decided to go for it and complete the process to become a licensed full fledged winery. Barrel orders were placed, and the planning rolled into high gear. In July of 2000 we were granted our final Federal and State licenses.
Our 2000 harvest and crush plan was to produce 1,200 gallons of wine which should result in approximately 400 cases of wine sometime during the fall of 2002. We are on track with that plan and you can see and learn more about the 2000 crush at that web page.
Wine making in Washington State has exploded in recent years and is expected to continue. Walla Walla in particular. Wenatchee has been without a winery for several years, but currently there are 3 other area wineries in their start up phases. Although off the beaten path from other wineries, we expect the Wenatchee area to be very supportive of local wineries.
Our passion is to produce premium red wines. Not just the best possible, but ones that will truly stand up to the ultra premium wines made today. Key to this success will be growing world class grapes and Mattawa appears to be a stellar location. Many wineries in Washington State are finding their best red wines coming from grapes in this region. The grape growing ability of the Wenatchee Area has yet to be proven. In 1998 we planted a test block with 8 varieties of grapes planted near the winery building in the East Wenatchee orchard; 4 reds and 4 whites. In 2001 we removed this test block as we found both our focus on Reds and the desire for the finest grapes possible did not support raising grapes at this site.
Columbia Cascades - the next hot vineyard region?
Fielding Winery Shows Tremendous Promise - Vineyards already Producing Outstanding Wine
The Columbia Cascade region is a new viticultural area developing in North Central Washington. Although there were wineries in this region before prohibition, it was not until 1980 that grapes began to reappear in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains and along the region's lakes and rivers. Currently there are over 800 acres of vinifera grapes and fifteen wineries, with more vineyards and wineries in development.
Winemakers across Washington and the Northwest are purchasing grapes from the new vineyards of this exciting new region. There's somthing about the "terroir" here that allows winemakers to produce impressive wines. As Walla Walla's available vineyard land gets snapped up, Mattawa and the Columbia Cascade Region offer enticing opportunities.
The Wahluke Slope
Known for it's "time-stood-still" natural heritage and haunting, isolated beauty, the Wahluke Slope is unique in its rich natural and cultural heritage. Because the existence of the Hanford Nuclear Site kept developers and irrigators away for the last 50 years, the plant and wildlife of the 134-squaremile slope across the Columbia River from Hanford's reactor areas appears as it did decades ago, and as it exists virtually nowhere else in the American West.
Roughly translated, the word Wahluke means "soaring up like birds" in the language of the Wanapum Indians, a small band of Native Americans who camped along the slope to catch Chinook salmon, steelhead and other fish in the Columbia River. Today, the 51-mile stretch of river that runs from about the Vernita Bridge to Richland is known as the Hanford Reach. The Reach produces more fall Chinook salmon than any other regional spawning bed.