Critics, Consumers Love Fidelitas Wines

November 27th, 2006

Winemaker Charlie Hoppes has contributed to the success of a number of Northwest wineries including Canon de Sol, Goose Ridge and Zefina, to name a few. He’s also the owner of Fideltas Wines, which has several outstanding current releases that come highly recommended by wine critics and consumers alike.

nullEarlier this month, I visited with Hoppes’ brother, Loren, who is co-owner and general manager of the Fideltas temporary tasting room in Eastern Washington’s Red Mountain Appellation. A new facility is scheduled to open in the spring of 2007 in the heart of one of the Pacific Northwest’s premier grape growing regions.

Some of my favorite wines that were sampled during the visit included the 2005 Semillon (about $19), a wonderfully balanced white wine with flavors of pear and citrus and subtle traces of oak on the finish. The 2004 Malbec (about $35) is incredibly unique, with aromas and flavors of rose petals, combined with plum, mocha and a bit of spice. Produced in extremely small quantities, this is one red wine worth searching for.

The 2003 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon (about $42) is another winner, with a lovely vanilla bouquet followed by intense flavors of cherry and chocolate. And the 2003 Optu Red Wine (about $44) is in a class by itself. This blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Cabernet Franc is the product of seven, first-class Washington vineyards. Dense and complex, the wine features loads of dark berry and cherry flavors backed by a lengthy, toasty oak finish.

Fidelitas wines are fairly well distributed at wine shops and grocers in the Bellingham area. You can also purchase them at Compass Wines in Anacortes or online at

Barrister ’04 Cab Franc Earns Best of Show Honors at Tri-Cities Wine Festival

November 20th, 2006

Earlier this month I attended the 28th Annual Tri-Cities Wine Festival in Pasco. This year’s festival featured over 60 wineries and nearly 200 wines from the Pacific Northwest.

As a regular participant in the festival for the past 22 years, I think it’s always interesting to look for trends in the wines that are presented. Merlot and Chardonnay still lead the way among respective red and white wine entries, but the selection of other varietals such as Syrah, Pinot Gris and Viognier continues to increase each year. Also notable was the large amount of Cabernet-based red wine blends that seem to be offered by an ever-increasing number of Northwest wineries.

The big winner of the evening’s festivities was Barrister Winery of Spokane, whose 2004 Cabernet Franc took best of show honors. This is an awesome red wine with a wonderful balance of berry fruit and herbaceous flavors and a silky finish. It’s currently available at Compass Wines in Anacortes for about $25 a bottle.

Other top winners in the double gold category were: Barnard Griffin 2004 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Crest 2004 Reserve Syrah, Domaine Ste. Michelle Non-Vintage Blanc de Noirs, Hyatt Vineyards 2004 Syrah, Saint Laurent 2005 Chardonnay, Samson Estates Non-Vintage Delilah Blackberry Wine, Ste. Chapelle 2005 Reserve Cabernet Franc Ice Wine, Basalt Cellars 2004 Merlot, Spring Valley Vineyard 2004 Uriah Red Wine and Vin du Lac Winery 2005 Dry Riesling.

In addition to Samson Estates, local winery Mount Baker Vineyards claimed a silver medal for its 2005 Reserve Viognier and bronze medals for its 2004 Malbec and 2004 Sangiovese.

For a complete list of medal winners go to

Two More Choices for Good, Everyday Wines

November 13th, 2006

One more word on everyday wines and then I’ll put the subject to rest – at least for the time being.

Everyday wines, if you’ll recall from last week’s column, are those that I consider to have a consistent level of good quality and are affordable enough to enjoy every day. For most people, this generally means anything in the $7 to $15 a bottle price range.

Mike Peterson, owner of The Vines wine shop in Bellingham recently recommended a couple of selections that make great everyday wines. First up is the Campo de Borga 2005 Viña Borgia. This super Spanish red wine is made from 100 percent Grenache. If you’re not familiar with this varietal, take note that it’s the same grape that’s used in many world-class blends from France such as Chateneuf du Pape.

The Viña Borgia has lovely berry aromas, spicy cherry fruit flavors, good structure and a smooth finish. It’s a natural to pair with duck, lamb, and grilled beef and it’s also versatile enough to be a great pizza wine. The Vines currently features it at the incredibly low price of $4.95 a bottle. This wine really blew me away and arguably compares with others costing two to three times the price.

nullAnother affordable red wine worth checking out is the Bridlewood Winery 2003 Syrah. This absolutely delicious wine from Central California is loaded with black cherry and blueberry flavors that are so forward, I could almost envision biting into a juicy slice of fruit pie ala mode. At the current price of about $11, it’s a terrific value for a Syrah and something you can enjoy every day without spending a small fortune.

Tri-Cities Wine Festival

November 11th, 2006

One of the best wine festivals in the Pacific Northwest, featuring approximately 200 wines from wineries in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia.

The public tasting will be held from 6:00 to 10:00 pm on Saturday, November 11 at the Red Lion Inn Ballroom in Pasco, Washington. My suggestion is to also make a room reservation at the hotel by calling (509) 547-0701 so you can do your tasting without having to worry about driving afterwards. Cost is $45.00 per person.

Attendance is limited to 1,000 guests, so don’t delay in getting your tickets. For more information about the festival and related events visit their web site at:

Bargain-Priced Pepperwood Grove Makes Great Everyday Wines

November 6th, 2006

Occasionally you may hear the phrase, “it makes a great everyday wine,” and if you’re curious as to what this means, let me offer an explanation.

As the name implies, an everyday wine should be something that falls within a reasonable price range so that you can enjoy it every day. This generally means somewhere in the $7 to $15 range because, let’s face it, it’s impractical and unaffordable for most of us to pop the cork on a $30 bottle of cabernet when we come home from work each evening.

An everyday wine should also have at least some degree of quality. It doesn’t have to be great; it just has to be good. In that sense, you want to be able to select a wine with reasonable certainty that you’re going to enjoy it without having to sift through countless rows of bottles at the grocer of wine shop.

nullTypically, I’m not fond of promoting domestic wineries that produce in mass quantities. But lately I’ve relented and tried some wines from Pepperwood Grove, one of several labels from Don Sebastiani and Sons of Napa, California.

The 2004 Merlot is lighter than most, but still carries some nice, bright cherry flavors, soft tannins and a touch of oak on the finish. And I really loved the Non-Vintage Old Wine Zinfandel, which is packed with dense, jammy flavors of blackberry and raspberry, followed by touches of spice. Also currently available are a 2004 Syrah, 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2005 Chardonnay.

All Pepperwood Grove wines are normally priced at around $8 to $9 a bottle, although I picked up mine a few weeks ago on sale at the Food Pavilion in Bellingham for an incredible $4.97 a bottle. With prices like that, it makes sense to give them a try and at least consider them as choices for tasty, reliable, everyday wines.

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