Charlie Hoppes (pronounced hop-pas) of Fidelitas Wines is one of Washington’s whirlwind winemakers.
Hoppes first became interested in wine in 1982 while working as an engineer at Boeing. He started out with a winemaking kit. A year later he purchased a batch of Riesling grapes and made wine at his father-in-law’s house. He was hooked.
Hoppes soon changed career directions and headed off to UC Davis, graduating in 1988. At Davis, he would not only learn the ins and outs of winemaking, he would also meet Mike Januik, now of Januik Winery, who would give him his start in the wine industry.
Upon graduation, Hoppes was hired by Januik at Chateau Ste. Michelle. Two years later he became assistant winemaker. By 1993 he was head red winemaker at Washington’s flagship winery. During his time at Ste. Michelle Hoppes put his thumb print on many of the winery’s top wines, including the first vintages of Col Solare.
Hoppes left Chateau Ste. Michelle in 1999 to start his own winery. Fidelitas, named after his father-in-law, Dan Fidelis O’Neill, had its first vintage in 2000. The name is meant to stand for faithfulness, loyalty, and truth. The winery’s logo is an unbroken circle.
While Hoppes got Fidelitas up and running, he also began working at Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla. This is where the whirlwind starts. Around this time Hoppes was approached by different people about serving as a consulting winemaker. Liking a challenge and not minding the money, Hoppes said yes. Over the years Hoppes has consulted for a long list of wineries including Canon del Sol Winery, Goose Ridge, Ryan Patrick, Saint Laurent, and Gamache Vintners. More recently he has served as consultant for Cooper Wine Company, Hamilton Cellars, and Glencorrie.
Hoppes production across all of these wineries ranges between 15 and 20,000 cases annually, with 7,000 of this Fidelitas (2,000 of that the M100). Hoppes recently purchased a facility in the Tri-Cities to accommodate this level of production.
Fidelitas has a modest but compelling tasting room on Red Mountain (the winery also has a tasting facility at the must-visit Urban Enoteca in Seattle). The facility boasts expansive views of the area, including the winery’s estate vineyard. This three-acre site, which is in its third leaf and is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, was purchased from Washington wine pioneer Stan Clarke. Hoppes says when he first told Clarke that he was interested in buying the property, Clarke was taken aback. “He looked at me like I was crazy!” Hoppes says. Clarke eventually relented and sold the site.
The Fidelitas wines show why Hoppes is in such consistent demand. The winery’s lineup is of extremely high quality across the board – a testament to Hoppes’ skill as a winemaker. The wines include an exceptionally well-priced Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the state’s best Malbec, and compelling expressions of three of Washington’s finest vineyards – Ciel du Cheval, Champoux, and Boushey. All are of the Fidelitas wines are impeccably well balanced and beautifully constructed, displaying a consistent house style of rich fruit accented by silky oak.
Despite having his hand in a number of different wineries in addition to his own, Hoppes continues to exude excitement about his job. “The thing that I enjoy about winemaking, for me, it’s always an experiment,” Hoppes says. No doubt the whirlwind and experimentation will continue for many years to come.
Fidelitas Semillon Columbia Valley 2008 $18
Rating: + (Good) An appealing aroma profile of lemon and spice. Crisp, clean, and tart on the palate with abundant lemon flavors. 100% Semillon. Barrel fermented and aged in neutral French oak. 13.7% alcohol. 556 cases produced.
Fidelitas Optu White Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $30
Rating: + (Good) Aromas of spice, hay, lemon, and citrus. Crisp and tart on the palate with a rounded mouthfeel. Barrel fermented and aged in French oak (30% new). 56% Sauvignon Blanc, 44% Semillon. Gamache and Stillwater Creek vineyards. Aged 8 months sur lies in French oak. 14.8% alcohol. 361 cases produced.
Fidelitas Cabernet Franc Red Mountain 2008 $45
Rating: * (Excellent) Light herbal notes and cherry on a delicate aroma profile. A beautiful mouthfeel loaded with cherry fruit flavors and chocolate. Hangs on the finish. 100% Cabernet Franc. Red Mountain Vineyard. Aged 22 months in French and American oak (50% new). 14.3% alcohol. 40 cases produced.
Fidelitas Malbec Columbia Valley 2008 $35
Rating: * (Excellent) Compelling aromas of pepper, plum, spice, and black fruit. The palate brings abundant green notes along with pepper, spice, and citric acidity. Consistently among the best Malbec produced in the state. Stillwater Creek Vineyard (29%), Northridge-Milbrandt Vineyard (29%), Goose Ridge (24%) and Conner Lee Vineyard (23%). Aged 20 months in French and American oak (50% new). 14.70% alcohol. 344 cases produced.
Fidelitas Merlot Red Mountain 2008 $45
Rating: * (Excellent) A flagship merlot with red currant, licorice, raspberry, and spice on a wine to linger over. The palate has a dense core of fruit with beautifully integrated tannins. Hangs on and on at the finish. 100% Merlot. Red Mountain Vineyard. Aged 22 months in French and American oak (50% new). 14.30% alcohol.
Fidelitas Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008 $25
Rating: * (Excellent) Appealing aromatics of light herbal notes, dry chocolate, and spice. The palate is tart and full with black cherry and herbal notes accented by a pleasing acidic kick. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Champoux, Lady Hawk, Weinbau, Conner Lee, and Dineen vineyards. Aged 22 months in French and American oak (50% new). 14.4% alcohol. 912 cases produced.
Fidelitas ‘Eight’ Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007 $50
Rating: * (Excellent) Abundant high toned herbal notes along with cherry. A big mouthful of cherry fruit along with a solid backbone of tannins. A lingering finish. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Boushey, Champoux, Conner Lee, Latour, Red Mountain, Stillwater, Weinbau, and Windrow vineyards. Aged 24 months in French and American oak (50% new). 14.7% alcohol. 190 cases produced.
Fidelitas Optu Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007 $40
Rating: * (Excellent) A compelling aroma profile of char, dark berries, raspberries, and licorice. A rich core of dark fruit accented by oak spices. Huge inner mouth perfume on a prototype of a big, fruit-filled Washington wine. 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 9% Malbec, and 6% Petit Verdot. Weinbau, Champoux, Red Mountain, Conner Lee, and Boushey vineyards. Aged 24 months in French and American oak (50% new). 14.9% alcohol. 568 cases produced.
Fidelitas Red Wine Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2007 $50
Rating: ** (Exceptional) A unique aroma profile of mineral, earth, licorice, cherry, and roasted nuts. The palate is dense and dark with a lot of finesse, exceptionally well-integrated tannins, and pure black fruit flavors. A thirty-plus second finish. 53% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc. Aged 24 months in French and American oak (50% new). 14.6% alcohol. 315 cases produced.
Fidelitas Red Wine Red Mountain 2007 $50
Rating: ** (Exceptional) Spice, high toned raspberries, mineral notes, floral notes, and light licorice on a reserved aroma profile. A dense, dark wine with firm but well integrated tannins. A gorgeously put together wine with a long life ahead of it. 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc. Red Mountain Vineyard. Aged 24 months in French and American oak (50% new). 14.9% alcohol. 356 cases produced.
Fidelitas Red Wine Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2008 $50
Rating: */** (Excellent/Exceptional) Compelling aromatics of earth, mineral, slate, and raspberries. Dense, firm, and packed with rich fruit flavors. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc. Aged 24 months in French and American oak (50% new). 14.8% alcohol. 361 cases produced.
Fidelitas Red Wine Red Mountain 2008 $50
Rating: ** (Exceptional) Floral notes, raspberries, and penetrating red fruit on a compelling aroma profile. A big, dense, but impeccably well balanced wine with abundant cherry and red fruit flavors. An extended finish. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot. Red Mountain Vineyard. Aged 24 months in French and American oak. 14.7% alcohol. 241 cases produced.
Fidelitas Merlot Champoux Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2008 $50
Rating: ** (Exceptional) Aromatics of blueberries, earth, and candied red fruit. A showstopper on the palate on this big, rich wine with earth flavors and firm tannins. Give two years.
Fidelitas Cabernet Sauvignon Champoux Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2008 $60
Rating: ** (Exceptional) A compelling, complex wine with char, toast, earth, high toned herbal notes, and an under layer of black cherry. The palate has winding black fruit flavors with herbal accents. The tannins are supple and perfectly integrated. An absolutely beautiful wine worth seeking out. Give two-plus years.
Fidelitas Cabernet Sauvignon Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain 2008 $55
Rating: * (Excellent) Earth, vanilla, toast, and cherry on a wine that is still quite closed up aromatically. A big, chewy wine with abundant black cherry flavors. Needs time to come into its own but has it.