I got an email the other day advertising Fidelitas’ Canyons Malbec. I had to head in for a tasting!
2019 Red Mountain Semillon – Honeysuckle and creamy. Just a hint of acidic fruit on the finish.
2019 Optu White Blend – Gourgous and perfect for a hot day. I would have opened the tasting with it if I could have. Light floral nose. Beautifully fruity mid palate, with a hint of strawberry and peaches. Delicate finish. Outstanding stuff.
2017 Red Mountain Merlot – A standard Big Red Merlot from Washington. Lovely, but not what I was looking for that day.
2017 Optu Red Mountain Red Blend – Dark. Minerals and chocolate. A hint of plum on the finish. I felt a bit silly sitting outside on an 85 degree day in Woodinville drinking it. This felt like a good November evening wine.
2017 The Canyons Malbec – This was what I came to try. Nose was all dark fruit and baking spices. Palate was blackberries and honey. Just enough tannins to take notice. Long long long finish.
I checked my email last night, and a 2-year wait was finally over. We have been members of the my favorite winery, Fidelitas Wines, for over 10 years. We started in 2009 as members of their 8-bottle club, then bumped to their 16-bottle club (‘OPTU’) in 2014. The bumped membership was a gift to my wife. As of this morning, we officially made it into the 24-bottle club, called ‘MAGNA’.
It feels a little silly to be so excited by this, but I absolutely cannot help it.
It also feels pretty darned fantastic to support the best winemakers in the state.
Our first foray into Fidelitas was in 2009. Heather’s father had won a silent auction for charity for a day-trip guided tasting in the Yakima Valley by Bob Woehler, a wine journalist in the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. Bob was in his late 70s, and his wife in her 80s, but still both active in the local charities and wine scene. Since Heather’s dad wasn’t much of a wine fan, he let Heather and I take the trip for him.
We met Bob and his wife, and they took us to 8 different wineries in the area, a good selection to be sure. His wife had packed a picnic lunch for us, and we went from place to place while Bob lauded over local winemakers. We had two favorites, Fidelitas and Chinook Wines. If Chinook had a wine club, we’d be members there too. Try her Cab Franc Rose, if you happen to go to a PCC and find it there.
Heather’s appreciation for a good Malbec was alive and well back in 2009, so after Bob gauged her tasting notes, we drove up to the Benton City tasting room. The wine hit us like a ton of bricks. Red Mountain is a well known AVA, but at the time, was still breaking out of the Yakima Valley mold. It was just so much more full and vibrant than so many wines we had tasted that day. We joined that day, and brought several bottles with us. I remember Bob’s wife winking at her “that’s a good choice for a first club, but a hard one to live up to.”
Bob’s wife was entirely right. We had only joined a second club almost eight years later, after our palettes learned to appreciate the variety.
One of our favorite local wineries had day 2 of their 3 year anniversary party today. Heather and I were lucky enough to get tickets to both days!
If you haven’t heard of Long Cellars, check out our Day 1 party post for a quick intro and write up. He is an amazing winemaker, and should get rich making wine.
So let’s break out the wine for the day!
Day 2 started with my wife’s favorite varietal Malbec. Again, we were sampling wines with tiny amounts available, so a chance to hit these early vintages was amazing.
We started with a 2014 from Glacier vineyard. Light, blue and dry, with a single bottle available for ~20 folks who made it to the party. 2015 had two samples available, a vintage from Scooteney Flats that had a savory nose, with a red fruit finish (twelve bottles), and a Boushey vineyard that was truly outstanding, with out of this world blue fruit (none left, just a sample available.) Classic Washington Malbec. The 2016 (seven bottles available) had the complexity I had come to expect from the year, and the 2017 (another seven bottles) was dark, and full, and super fruity. The Scooteney Flats was uniquely savory, I wondered if it had a touch of syrah in it.
Petit Verdot is a unique grape. When you read about it, it is normally just a blending grape. Something to make a blend fuller, and finish strongly. When Heather and I started tasting in Washington, you would find Petit Verdot in tiny percentages at the end of blends. 4% here, 2% there. Very light additions. Then in 2016, we started seeing producers push it our as a single varietal.
Jason had three versions of the Petit Verdot for us to try. A 2015 from Scooteney Flats, light and delicate, with 6 bottles left. A wonderful 2016 from Boushey that was brutal and fleshy; almost, for the life of me, toothsome. The 2017 was a bright powerfully ruby everyday drinkable fruit-bomb that finished with a screaming bit of pepper. There were 3 cases left of the ’17.
The Friendship Blends
A unique thing that Jason does every year is to create a blend with friends of his. They get together, test out various blends (he tells a grander story), and create a wine together. Each gets named in a unique way, usually with a letter of their first names or last names.
Jason Long should be famous for his blends. The single varietals are fabulous by themselves, but his ability to create a truly balanced Bordeaux is his strongest trait. The 2014/2015 FAIKEN, with 8 bottles left was our target for the evening. Heather and I first fell for FAIKEN in 2018 when we first found Long Cellars, and we fell hard. The FAIKEN is a Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot blend of grabby tannins, dark red fruit, perfect acid, and a delightful boozy burn. The 2016 NEKEL, a bawdy and pungent Cabernet-dominant blend was second up and with 4 bottles available for purchase, and I recall buying at least half-a-case of it when it was made first available. Finally, we had the 2017 PAJJAM. The PAJJAM is a winner, but was released about 6 months ago, and was the only wine I wasn’t worried about getting a hold of. We still have one bottle, and with 18 cases available, it was just a pleasant thing to enjoy. I do love Merlot, and a Merlot dominant blend makes for a wonderful finisher on the afternoon.
The End of the Party
Once again, to conclude the party Jason offered everyone the chance to purchase two bottles if they wanted to (via a raffle, to keep it fair). If anyone wanted more than two bottles then after all the other attendees else had a chance, they could do so.
We were able to grab two bottles of our favorite blend, the FAIKEN, and once everyone had their chance, I grabbed one more bottle of the 2016 Petit Verdot.
Two days with six wonderful hours of tasting, stories, food and conversation. I am so happy we were able to take six rare bottles home, and a celebrate a local winery. It was a great time and a great Father’s Day weekend.
One of our favorite local wineries had day 1 of their 3 year anniversary party today. Heather and I were lucky enough to get tickets to both days!
If you haven’t heard of Long Cellars, you are in good company. Jason Long is a very small producer. He is local to the Woodinville area, makes small batches, and has an experimental streak in him. His parties are legendary affairs, where you are likely to get an extra pour of Merlot while a burlesque dancer shakes her (or his) tassels at you. Long Cellars classics are his $25-bottle everyday drinkers. The Cab Frank, a Cabernet Franc dominant blend with a Frankenstein label, and the Screaming Baby, a delicious Merlot-fronting Bordeaux that most years has near everything but the kitchen sink thrown into it.
Jason Long has been making wine for upwards of 13 years, but has only had his own winery and label for 3 years now. The party had food, stories about the winery and the wines he had made, and of course, samples from vintages we have not seen in quite a while, or at all.
As a local wine snob, the party was an intriguing chance to sample the Long Cellars wine after it had some time to age. Being a smaller producer, it is significantly more costly to keep wine held back from his customers. Right now, Jason is releasing his 2018s (the 2018 Reserve Red Mountain Malbec is wonderful), so the opportunity to sample wine his early vintages was a unique treat.
To start out a wonderful party, and to show precisely the sort of host and winemaker he is, Jason started us with a Dry Riesling and a mineral-y yet sweet rosé made from Pinot Gris. Bone-dry and a tart finish, it had the full body of a Chardonnay. I thought it would make a wonderful desert, paired with a salted caramel. The rosé was sweet, lightly floral, but had a decided mineral finish that would not quit. I asked about them, noting he did not commonly release a Riesling.
“Yeah, I don’t have any really. It’s just something I’m playing with. I only have about a case. Did you like it?”
Worth the price of admission right there.
Day 1 started with a flight of 3 Merlots, from 2015, 2016, and 2017. These were so exclusive, Jason had sent us an inventory of ‘bottles available for purchase.’ Not cases. Bottles.
The 2015, bold and fruity, with a hint of acid. One bottle available for purchase. The 2016 was complex and full. Eighteen bottles. The 2017, fruit-forward and potent. Thirty-six bottles.
Merlot happens to be my favorite grape, mostly because it is delicious, but also due to that movie that every Merlot winemaker complains about.
Bottles of merlot ends up selling about 25% cheaper than they should be, mostly because stupid folks that do not like delicious things copy that movie. Tell ya what world, the smart money is on Merlot!
Jason had five cabs for us to try. A 2013 that was just for sampling, with literally no bottles left for sale. A 2014 from Fidelitas he had seven bottles of, and three different vintages from the Quintessence Vineyard (2014, three bottles, 2016, five bottles, and 2017 about ten cases.)
The 2013 was delicate and delicious. The 14s were a lovely contrast of the two vineyards, with a note of savory and jasmine on the Fidelitas, and a sweet and floral nose on the Quintessence. The dark 2016 was delicious, but the showstopper was the 2017. It was delicious, fruity, and delicate (and with ten cases, easier to get a hold of.)
The Cabernet Franc flight was next on the list. This was a unique flight, all from Boushey Vineyards, and one from each year from 2013 to 2017. The fascinating element here was the completely different wine you got from every year.
The 2013 was light and dry, and only available to taste. The 2014 (six available), full, friendly, but with a strong green pepper note. The 2015 (five left), almost pine-y with green pepper, and paired AMAZINGLY well with olive oil drizzled on a crusty piece of bread. The 2016 (six left) was broody, dark and complex. The 2017 (fifteen bottles), bold, fruit-forward with a hint of tannin.
To round out the tasting was a final bottle, the inaugural Sleeping Baby from 2014, which finished up the evening wonderfully. Again, it was the last of the vintage. Better keep an extra bottle of what you get.
The End of the Party
To conclude the party, Jason offered everyone the chance to purchase two bottles, if they wanted to (via a raffle, to keep it fair). If anyone wanted more than two bottles then after all the other attendees else had a chance, they could do so. Naturally, I was picked last in the raffle (grumbles). Fortunately, we got our prizes.
Heather picked out the last available bottle of the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Fidelitas vineyard, and I went ahead and grabbed a bottle of the 2016 Cabernet Franc. After others had a chance, I snagged an extra bottle of my longtime favorite, the 2016 Merlot.
Last night a storm in the area brought an intense amount of rain drumming down around our home, making for a perfect evening to enjoy one of my favorite red blends, The Descendant, from Warr-King wines. It is a complex blend, with a floral and spicy nose, that leads into deep red fruit and full tannins. The wine is mainly cabernet franc, but the magic is the in the blend. A tiny hint of merlot gives it that floral nose and the full mid-palette. I would not call it a ‘Big and Bold’ Washington Blend, so much as a ‘introspective’ blend. A great wine to read a classic novel with.
I live in a house with 3 teenagers. So beyond the yelling, (why there is always goddamn yelling with teenagers?), about “where such-and-such is in the kitchen”, and yelling at a Zoom call, and yelling about some video game being epic but also totally unfair and hacked, I could only attempt a moment’s peace with a magazine and a glass. The pictures were nice, and I opened the window so I could point my ears at the sound of driving and pounding rain and avoid the sound of ‘stupid unfair hackers’ and ‘where’s the coconut oil.’
Heather and I have been happy members of the Warr-King wine club since mid-2019, and we got this particular bottle at a club pickup in November of 2019.
A Note About Wine Clubs
Heather and I are members at eight local wineries. All of them have their individual charms, but as a club member, you can usually expect a few perks. Wines are released to you first, and usually at a discount to their retail prices. Release parties at the wineries are common, and are sometimes even offered with food. Visits and tastings at the winery are usually offered gratis (including tastings with guests) for a fun afternoon where you usually end up buying a bottle of something wonderful, and again, usually discounted. Often, there are different commitment levels to boot.
Frankly, wine club membership is a heck of a deal. You make a relatively small commitment to purchase wine from an artisan crafts-person whose wine already you know you enjoy. The winery enjoys less risk in production, and you get the wine you will enjoy at a lower price.
The Story of The Descendant
If you ask Lisa up at Warr-King, she probably has a wholly different story, but for me, the story of The Descendant started at a local restaurant in downtown Bothell, Revolve Food and Wine. The restaurant offered local wine, and an entirely gluten-free menu. My wife is gluten-free, so having a whole menu my wife could pick from made for a happy evening.
While there I had sampled a few local wines but my favorite on the evening happened to be from a local winery I had not heard much about. The wine was deeply ruby, rich and fruity and a little spicy. Tannin was present, but only just. One of the points I enjoyed the most was the balance. Many Washington wines are so fruit-forward, that they tend to have higher alcohol content. They burn and feel ‘boozy’. This one didn’t at all. It was just wonderfully complex and delicious.
A $75 restaurant bottle of wine is a little out of my ‘everyday drinker’ category, so I promised myself I would do a little more research on this as we went home.
Around about that time, I had started following a Washington Wine Podcast called Decanted. The fates conspired, and I happened to be on the way to work, when I clicked into 5th episode, highlighting Lisa and Warr-King. An hour later, I had put ‘go to Warr-King’ on our calendar.
A Happy Fate
It did not take long. Several visits over several months passed. Heather and I had the Passport to Woodinville Wineries, so visited first from there, then we came in again, to sample a Syrah, and again when the Malbec came out. We were hooked.
I had almost forgotten about the Descendant, until the release party in late 2019, when it was happily secured in our club allocation.
The 2017 is fuller this year, and just as lovely as it was when I first got it. It was rich and dark ruby again. I got hints of tart red fruit and Bing cherries and a floral nose. It is a wonderful blend you should try today. Or, join her wine club, and get a 15% discount!