An email hit my inbox stating the “Spring Shipment” for our Fidelitas wine club membership was available for pickup starting March 1st, 2013. “ Weren’t we just singing Christmas carols?” I asked out loud and to no one in particular. “We’ll now, would you look at that…” I add as I look out the window. I am witnessing over a dozen robins fighting it out at the swimming hole just outside. It looks like there are sparrows, finches, and a couple of starlings, which I detest, trying to get into the fun as well. I call out to V to get her camera and try to get a few photos of the ruckus.
It seems things are getting green right under our noses, “Where have we been?” V asks me as we are taking a stroll around the house and surveying Crocus, Daffodils, Tulips, and Hyacinths, all punching their way through the dirt. Lilies and Hydrangeas are trying to get an early start too, it appears.
I answer, “ We’ve been fairly busy and I cannot off hand recall all of the activities, but I do know where we are going tomorrow. We are going to Fidelitas to pick up our Spring Shipment, unless you have something else planned.”
V answers, “You don’t have the car warming up now? I’ll go get my camera and put Sparky in the house, unless it’s OK for him to have an outing too. What do you think?”
“I guess it means we all are having an outing then. Race you to the car.”
As we drive I-182, just passing Goose Ridge winery, V says, “So, are you going to tell me what is in the shipment or are you going to keep me in suspense?”
“Uh…I am not remembering.” I reply. Hastily adding, “Sorry, my love. That means it will be a surprise for the both of us. I am quite sure though it is going to be a good one!”
We are starting to see just a hint of green grass in the various orchards and vineyards on both sides of the highway and the hills not too far off. “Fruit buds, while not obvious, surely are starting the annual cycle too,” I remark.
As we drive up Sunset Road, it looks as if the vineyards are in several stages of maintenance, some with rows of vines with dirt tilled up between them and no grass present, others with vine canes pruned tight to the trunks, others still waiting for the workers to get there.
I make a mental note, “I need to call my vineyard manager buddy and find out if they are getting an early start this year.” We pull into the parking lot and it seems we are the only ones going to be in the tasting room, besides K&K anyways. A black BMW pulls in just as that thought passes from the left side to the right side of the brain. That’s karma for you and wouldn’t you know it, Instant Karma suddenly starts playing in my head…
The occupants beat us into the tasting room as Sparky needs to get out and explore new smells and whatever. “That’s OK. Give him a couple of minutes. I am confident there is a box that has our name on it.” V tells me. She must have observed I was a bit anxious and eager “to get on with it” as the English folks I work with are fond of saying. She is psychic, or just well attuned to the non-verbal signals I put out there. She’s a sharp one.
As usual, once we are inside we are treated as if we are the only ones in the facility. It’s not that the others get ignored, by any stretch. The guests are attended to expertly and professionally. I don’t know how they make everyone feel as if they are the most important ones. However, happen it does, every single time, with no exception. It is an art and who am I to question art?
The years presented for the tasting were:
2007 - A blend of 53 % Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7% Cabernet Franc and 14.6 percent alcohol. Sweet nose, luscious mouth feel (Merlot), fills the mouth with juiciness. The herbaceousness of the Cab Franc kicks in mid-palate and then the Cab Sauvignon says “goodbye, ready for the next swallow, ready for the next swallow, ready for the next swallow?”
2008 – A blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc and 14.8 percent alcohol. To me this one was everything I want in wine – Big in every sense of the way people talk about wine.
2009 – A blend of 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc and 14.3 percent alcohol. I get tobacco when I take a big inhale. It has the darkest color of the four and a long finish. 2009 was a very good year. This is one of Charlie’s favorite vintages, if I remember correctly.
2010 – A blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, and 17% Cabernet Franc and 14.1 percent alcohol. We both really like this, and discuss how it will sit for at least 3 to 4 years because of the backlog we have and wonder how it will look, smell, and taste then.
When the flight comparison and discussion on color, nose, and taste is completed we move on to the 2010 Champoux part of our shipment. It is a Bordeaux blend, as the Boushey, and a tribute to Paul and Judy Champoux, part of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. The wine is named Magna. This blend is 50% Cabernet Franc, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 17% percent Merlot. The alcohol is 14.5 percent. Cabernet Franc is one of V’s favorites and she is grinning so wide the wine is almost leaking out. I will let you draw your own conclusions.
Just as no two years are exactly alike for any of us, the blends aren’t either. One year a varietal is more pronounced than in other years. Sometimes, for whatever reason is obvious to The Wine Boss (AKA, Charlie Hoppes), a decision is made that one component needs to take a back seat to one, or both, of the other components. Said another way some years some varietals just need more assistance from complementary components. V tells me our marriage is like that. Sometimes I need a little more help from her and sometimes she needs a little more help from me. She is a sharp one, I tell you.
Just this past fall V&I experienced how one varietal will be more present on the front of the tongue, another more evident midway, and yet a different varietal is more obvious in the back of the tongue and as it goes down the throat. It was enlightening to experience how blends get structured experimentally like that. Indeed, it was a small reward for being students of wine, to be sure.
V and I have learned and hopefully appropriately conveyed in previous articles, tasting is a sensory experience. Just as people eat with their eyes first, smell second, and then the forkful of whatever they are eating. Do a little trial and see if we aren’t correct. The next time you go into a restaurant, if the food doesn’t look good to start off with – you are on the road to a less than enjoyable dining experience. If the food doesn’t smell good, are you going to put that in your mouth? More often than not, you won’t.
That is why the examination of the color, the swirl, the full inhale, the second swirl, and taste of the wine, then the important step of repeating the sequence is so important. But equally important, I think, is the shared experience and conversing about the nuances.
V& I purchase our shipment and a couple of the Optu Whites too as we are low on whites and bid our farewells. As I am driving back home I remember thinking, “It is truly incredible this area has such families like the Bousheys, the Champoux, and the Hoppes all located here. Who needs Napa when you have that?” I continue to be a charter member of the Washington Wine Bigot Society. V tells me not to be too hard on the Californians, after all karma might catch up with me on that too. Good advice – “…and we all shine on…”
P.S. When we get home from Fidelitas and V is putting one bottle of the Optu White in the fridge, she says while her head is still in the fridge. “I wonder who put this Fidelitas 2009 Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Franc in here?” Then she holds the bottle out for God and everybody to see.
I answer back, “Uh…” Quickly fabricating the best response I can muster, “It must’ve been Sparky.” Pressing on bravely I add, “Well that can’t be good for any kind of red – to be that cold. Looks like we are going to have to take it out, let it warm up for a bit, then instead of having another Open That Bottle Night we will have an Open That Bottle Now! Same letters, right?”