Fidelitas : Magna Club!

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.

Long Cellars 3 Year Anniversary Party, Day 2

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!

A photo of a woman with wine glasses in front of her.
Heather starting with the Vin Rouge Rose.

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!

The menu from Long Cellars on Day 2 of the party.
The day 2 menu was Malbec, Petit Verdot, and his classic blends.

Malbec

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.

A photo of a flight of 4 tastings.
Malbecs from left to right, the 2014, 2015 Scooteney Flats, 2015 Boushey (Barrel #3) and 2016 Boushey.

Petit Verdot

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.

A flight of 3 wines ready for tasting.
Heather sipping the 2017 Malbec. The Petit Verdots on the left (from left-to-right, the 2017, 2016 and 2015.) Jason in the back.

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.

A flight of 3 wines ready for tasting.
The three friendship blends, from left-to-right, 2017 PAJJAM, 2016 NEKEL, and 2014/2015 FAIKEN.

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.

Two bottles of the 2014/15 FAIKEN

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.

Wrapping Up

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.

Long Cellars 3 Year Anniversary Party, Day 1

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!

A photo of a woman enjoying a glass of wine, in front of several wine barrels.
Heather starting with a Rose.

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.

A photo of a table with wine bottles on it, all of the wines we'd be sampling that day.
Our view of the spoils from Day 1!

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.

Merlot

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.

A photo of 4 wine glasses, filled with a tasting-sized portion of wine in each.
In the front, from left to right, the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Merlots. In the rear right, the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Merlot happens to be my favorite grape, mostly because it is delicious, but also due to that movie that every Merlot winemaker complains about.

An animation of the "fucking merlot" scene from Sideways.
Paul Giamatti in Sideways, 2004.

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!

Cabernet Sauvignon

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.)

Cabernet Sauvignon all around. In the front, the 2017 (left), and 2016 (right). In the back, the 2014s, surrounding a plate of food to pair with.

Cabernet Franc

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.

A photograph of a woman smelling a glass of wine, with a flight of glasses in front of her.
Heather sampling the 2016 Cabernet Franc, in a line up from 2014 – 2017 (right to left.)

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.

A woman with a happy grin holding 2 bottles of wine.
A great haul.

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.

Day two notes tomorrow!

A Wine Gem : Warr-Kings 2017 Descendant

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.

Wine club details from Long Cellars, in Woodinville Washington
Woodinville Wine Clubs are Awesome

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.

The wine list at Revolve, highlighting the price of the Warr-King Descendant.
It was also selling for $75 a bottle.

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.

An empty bottle of the 2017 Descendant, which thankfully cost me nowhere near $75.

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!

The Wine We’re Drinking

I live three miles away from Woodinville, Washington, a town with over two hundred wineries in it, including two major labels and a smattering of medium sized ones. Living here and not enjoying wine is like living in Colorado and not skiing. The grapes are typically grown in eastern Washington, but the wines are produced here, or are simply sold here in a tasting room. As it is a very short drive away, a frequent weekend activity is to stop into a local tasting room. With the COVID19 pandemic, however, the tasting rooms have been closed since mid March until this weekend, when we have FINALLY been able to come back. These are the wines we were able to try this past weekend.

1. Lord Lion

We started at Lord Lion, as we had a club release pickup waiting for us, and we didn’t know precisely how tasting would really work in phase one point five, but the tasting was as wonderful as always.

We went in, sanitized our hands, and were directed to a table a good distance from the other patrons. We were handed small glasses, and proceeded a flight of six newly released wines. Aside from the distance the poor folks had to wander about to pour wine, there really was not much different between pre-COVID times and post-COVID tasting.

One thing we especially love about Lord Lion is that Graham releases wines later than other winemakers in the area. This recent release included a 2014 Petit Sirah, a 2015 Malbec, a 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 2016 oaked Chardonnay. Other wineries we visited were in the middle of their 2017s and 2018s releases. If you’re noticing that ‘everyone has the same stuff’, Lord Lion has an wonderfully atypical selection.

There are many things things to sample there. Graham always does a fantastic Viognier, and the 2019 was lovely, if a bit sweeter than the year before. His 2019 rosé of Sangiovese has been lovely for the past two years. The star in this release was the 2014 Petit Sirah. Full, inky dark, and lovely paired with a ribeye, or even something like a beef short-rib.

2. Adrice

Adrice was our second stop. Frankly, we stop there fairly often. With phase one point five, they were able to really open up the tasting room with large tables, a bar. and food served! Heather and I stopped in after calling ahead to make sure they could fit us in.

Heather waiting on pour number three at Adrice.

I do not have enough data to say for absolute certain (still working on collecting that), but Pam from Adrice may be one of the top 3 winemakers in the state. She simply does NOT make a bad bottle of wine. Her cheap stuff is great, and her expensive stuff is absolutely worth it! She is one of the few local producers that I will happily spend $75 on a good bottle for, although as I am budget conscious, I do enjoy my club discount for that particular bottle.

The tasting included a flight of six wines, and Heather and I also grabbed two charcuterie plates to keep up our strength. The takeaway favorites were: a damn near perfect 2019 Sauvignon Blanc from Yakima Valley; an award winning 2017 Red Blend called ‘Lift Off’ (which is a crazy steal at $25 a bottle); and a beautiful 2017 Malbec. Pam also poured us a pre-sneak-quel of a Cab / Barbera blend she’s got coming out in July, that will be some lovely stuff.

3. Long Cellars

Our final stop of the day was to an old favorite, Long Cellars. Jason is a mad scientist back there, but when he makes contact, he hits nothing but home-runs. Never one to stick with the same-ole ideas, the trick to tasting Long Cellars is to taste not only what the wine is now, but what it will be in 5-8 years.

Tasting room welcomed us warmly again, with a giant Frankenstein statue right up front. The room is small, but we were able to sneak into a table in the back, where we had been to two Long Cellars-hosted burlesque shows. Barrels everywhere, Heather was tempted to hunt around for a barrel thief, and eventually found one hidden away.

Be careful about putting Heather near the bottles, Jason!

We tasted two whites, and two reds before our daughter called and requested a pickup from a ‘social distance pickup’, so unfortunately our tasting was cut short. The steal of the show was a 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, which tasted like fresh strawberry jam, which was unique and intriguing for a Long Cellars Cab. You could pair it with a light salad, and it wouldn’t be out of place. It was inexpensive, fresh and fruity with that classic peppery pull at the end that let you know it was a Cab. His 2018 Reserve Malbec proved absolutely wonderful and deep to finish the tasting, but as I said at the beginning, the best part will be waiting on it.