Spotlight On: Col Solare

By Kori ~ October 20th, 2009.

Col SolareCol Solare, located on Red Mountain in Washington State, is a partnership between Marchesi Antinori of Italy and Chateau Ste. Michelle of Washington State. The idea for this project began back in 1992 when Marchese Piero Antinori visited Washington State’s Columbia Valley. The goal was, and still is, to produce one Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine each year that reflects the characteristics of both Old World and New World styles. Col Solare’s first release was the 1995 vintage.

Dad (John) and I recently attended a Col Solare event here in Seattle just prior to the release of their 2006 vintage. Marcus Notaro, head winemaker, and Ted Baseler, President and CEO of Chateau Ste. Michelle, were on hand to discuss the new release. We also had the opportunity to taste the 2005 vintage as well as a number of barrel samples.

The 2006 vintage was the first vintage produced at Col Solare’s state-of-the-art facility that opened on Red Mountain in April 2007. This location is absolutely perfect for Col Solare which means “shining hill” in Italian. In addition to the facility itself, Col Solare has also planted a 30-acre estate vineyard on the property. The estate vineyard is not yet providing fruit for their flagship wine, but we were able to taste samples of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc from the 2008 vintage of the estate vineyard which might comprise a small component of the final 2008 blend. Currently, the fruit for Col Solare is sourced from vineyards around the Columbia Valley. The sourcing breakdown for the recently released 2006 vintage is as follows: Red Mountain (27%), Columbia Valley (35%), Wahluke Slope (19%), and Horse Heaven Hills (14%).

We tasted the recently bottled 2007 vintage which will be released in 2010 and a barrel sample of the preliminary blend of the 2008 vintage which will be released in 2011. We were especially struck by the 2007 vintage. If it continues to develop in the bottle, it will be an outstanding wine. I continue to marvel at the 2007’s from the state of Washington.

Col Solare winemaker, Marcus NotaroAt this event, we also had the pleasure to taste samples of 2007 Klipsun Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon aged in three different types of French oak barrels. During the blending process, the Saury barrels provide the “base,” the Boutes barrels provide the “fruit,” and the Alain Fouquet barrels provide the “accent.” These three versions of Klipsun Vineyard Cab were blended together, along with Cab from other vineyards in the Columbia Valley, to provide the Cabernet Sauvignon component of the recently bottled 2007 blend. At this point, some of you are probably fascinated with the process while others are thinking, “So what?” For wine geeks like us, getting to taste the individual components of a wine like this is a thrilling educational opportunity. But honestly, the “So what?” crowd is exactly right too. All the different types of oak, barrels, and blending in the world don’t matter if the final result does not produce an excellent wine. Luckily, the 2007 Col Solare does not disappoint. I am really looking forward to its release next year.

If you are in the Red Mountain area and would like to visit Col Solare, be sure to call ahead as they are only open by private appointment.

2006 Col Solare Red Blend (Columbia Valley, WA): 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Syrah.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $75

2005 Col Solare Red Blend (Columbia Valley, WA): 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $75

Filed under: American Wine, Red Wine, Spotlight On, Washington State Wine, Wines Over $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Beth | August 4th, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    I like Col Solare but it is a little expensive. Can you recommend other similar wines that are less expensive?

    Is there a place on your site where I can check “if you like this wine, try this!”? Or if not, can you recommend a site that has that feature?

    Thank you!

  2. Kori | August 9th, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Let me point you to two categories of posts on our site that you might find of interest:
    Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines,
    A Wine for Tonight,