By Karen Wade, Co-Owner and Manager of Fielding Hills Winery
When Fielding Hills Winery began my husband and winemaker Mike Wade’s goal was to, “make a red wine that I like. If the rest of the world likes it, I will be honored”. That was in 1998 when he planted Riverbend Vineyard in the Wahluke Slope AVA with all red varietal vines.
Fast forward to 2012, when we outgrew our Wenatchee production facility and made the choice to relocate along the shores of Lake Chelan, opening our first tasting room. Our first crush along the South Shore of Chelan was in 2014, with more space we added a Rosé to the lineup. Releasing a dry Cabernet Franc Rosé in the summer of 2015 was a milestone for us. The next natural step for Mike and I was to make a white wine, an idea that our family had been playing with for quite some time…
Mike and I have three daughters. When we began the winery, none of our girls were over 21…now, as young adults, they have each developed their own palette for wine (or as we joke… “Joined the family business”). Since moving the winery to Chelan, the girls and I have lobbied Mike to make a white wine, so with family support and consumer demand, we moved forward on this new adventure.
There are so many white varietals to pick from, where would we start and how would we pick which whites to produce? Personally, I reach for a smooth, buttery Chardonnay. Though our daughters are fans of crisp, cooler whites. With our own personal preferences and the hiring of Assistant Winemaker Tyler Armour in 2014, we started planning the white wines of Fielding Hills. Tyler has a background in whites and rosé in addition to his training in making red wines. We sought three varietals that could stand on their own, but also harmonize should we choose to do a blend. The choice was clear for me on the first two, Chardonnay and Roussanne but the third took some investigating.
There was an “a-ha” moment when Tyler suggested Chenin Blanc. In the 1980’s it was the most popular white wine grape in the United States, especially Washington State, but Chardonnay replaced it in the early 90’s. It is an incredibly diverse varietal and may end up extremely sweet, sparkling, or all the way to bone dry depending on the winemaker’s goal. Historical records show that Chenin Blanc was first grown in Anjou France in 845AD. It is currently grown in Australia, South Africa, France, and the United States.
We planted our first white grape vineyard in April of 2016 very near our red vineyard. These grapes will be used in the fall of 2018. The Chenin Blanc for this first vintage was sourced from Rothrock Vineyard near Prosser Washington. The AVA is Columbia Valley and this vineyard is designated “Old Vine” as it was planted in the mid 70’s.
Adding a wine other than a red brings up many questions to find answers to. What bottle to use? Cork closure or other? What will the label be? Our current label was first used in 2012 and designed in 2010. During the development of the label, we were thinking ahead and included the design for white wines from Fielding Hills. Finding the answer to these questions while tasting the progress of the Chenin Blanc made us even more excited to release this wine to our guests. Everything was falling into place when I said “How about closing the bottle with a glass stopper”. Glass stoppers are not new but rarely seen. The stoppers are a huge hit and I bet we see more of them in the future in Washington wines.
Our Chenin Blanc was released to the public on April 22, 2017, with only 180 cases produced. By the response we are receiving, you may want to hurry in and be part of the revival of Chenin Blanc in Washington at Fielding Hills…odds are my daughters have hidden a case or two from us, if we sell out sooner than anticipated, blame them. Order online here.
Our tasting room is currently open Thursday through Sunday, 11-5pm. Learn more here.
Tasting Note & Suggested Food Pairings
Chenin Blanc pairs well with creamy rich dishes, seafood, and soft cheeses. It should be served ice cold and ours has a sweet underlying taste even though if it has no residual sugar. The 2016 Fielding Hills Chenin Blanc has aromas of fresh lemon peel, white flowers, and crushed gooseberries. It is very refreshing to the palate and is perfect for a hot day or paired with a lite dinner.