Washington State Uncorked: Col Solare, Red Mountain AVA

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ― W.B. Yeats

In today's long-awaited review is a really well-known [for the wine-geeks who may be reading this] winery in the Red Mountain AVA of Washington State, known as Col Solare [translated Shining Hill]. I've had the good fortune of visiting them twice in the last couple of years. Each visit was different and unique. The first visit here was in 2010 and my second visit came late in 2011.

The reason I've held back on this review; is because of my initial impressions of their wines, really didn't "wow" me like I thought it would or that it possibly could. However, I didn't let that stop me from [recently] acquiring a good number of their 2006 and 2007 vintages. And when I say recently; I mean it wasn't until just this year I popped the cork on both vintages once more. This fact is what brings me to this short mostly pictorial article today and, the 'why' is answered by a simple yet profound, wow.

For those of you who may not be familiar with this winery, from a quick look at their website; you’ll find the "Col-Solare" project is a partnership between two influential wine producers. One is from Tuscany, Marchesi Antinori [one of my favorite Italian producers] and the other Washington State’s Chateau Ste. Michelle [known for producing many tasty value wines].

This partnership came to fruition in the Red Mountain AVA, which one of the Columbia Valley’s most celebrated and, jaw-dropping sub-appellations. This AVA; has the right combination of heat, nutrient-poor soils, low rainfall and cool night temperature swings, which make for the perfect storm of flavor and finesse.

That coupled with boat-loads of concentrated fruit, stunning aromatics, and full tannins, making for some tasty wines with long aging potential. It would seem from my experience, laying these wines down for a few years before approaching them would be a wise move. If you have not sampled their wines before may I suggest that you start with the now stunning 2006 vintage?

As you can see from the image above, Blue Sky, White Earth, Red Mountain. So to say, this is an ideal spot for growing Vitis vinifera [aka, the wine bearing grape] would be a considerable understatement.


I can attest to hot, arid conditions during the day because the day I was there during the blogger's conference, we got to experience life like a grape with the hot sun beating down on our faces. But because of the diurnal shift in the nighttime hours, it gives wine grapes bold flavors and good acid.

This is the view from the bottom of the steps; from there you can see clear out to the Horse Heaven Hills in the distance [btw, just on the other side of those hills you'll find Oregon]. Hills, which look set ablaze with a golden orange color at sunrise and, like an old-mans face, a morning fog like shaving cream rest atop the hills just waiting for the razor of hot sun to burn them off [See Below].

You have to wake up pretty early in the morning to get this view and be prepared to snap quickly, the picture above was taken from Terra Blanca.

The last time I was there, they had some of their 2011 fermenting away in the tank, an atypical cold year, even on Red Mountain.

I was part of one the tours/taste they offer. Tours, which can be booked via their website, thinking to myself this had to be one the most immaculate wineries I've ever been to, nothing was out of place. It almost smelled too clean, if there is such a thing.

As you can see the letters are quite large and can be seen easily from afar and, found atop of the massive staircase which takes you up to the very comfy tasting salon.

Now about the wine in my glass, as I mentioned above I did sample both the 2006 and 2007 at various stages, even sampled 2007 out of the barrel and at time I thought "hmmm, these wines are outstanding, but" they just didn't have that wow-factor. But as time went by, in the bottle these wines matured and really came into their own; so much so that reading about the current scores of 90+ points, I could not agree more.

In fact, I'm echoing their impressions with my own 93 point score on both vintages. These wines are highly recommended to any vino-sapiens considering adding Washington State juice to their cellar. Both vintages had a real depth of flavor, layered complexity and spoke "terroir" quite eloquently. After the deftly polished tannins, the well-integrated judicious use of oak, and the long seamless finish, you find a bottle of wine with real "soul" and substance.

A wine well worth the price of admission; which is $75 per 750ml bottle; but the savvy shopper can find these same bottles for less if you know where to look. Right now is an excellent opportunity to grab a vertical of their wines with the 06, 07 and the 08 all being available for purchase.

Both vintages are a blend, with Cabernet Sauvignon leading the way. 2006 was the first vintage produced at the [new facility]winery in Benton City. And with the 2008 vintage having now been released, receiving high praise, what you may have not noticed, that with each vintage the percentage of estate fruit grows toward the goal of becoming 100% estate fruit and, also 100% Red Mountain fruit. If you look at the AVA on the bottle, right now it states Columbia Valley.

Okay, so you may...be thinking, "uh okay Mr. Cuvee your thinking is that $75 bones are worth the price of admission, but I don't have that kind of coin". Alright, I hear you, I hear you so here's a bright idea, how about "Shining Hill" which is their second label, it sells for an SRP of $40 and while I've never sampled SH, it does appear well received with an average score on Cellar Tracker of 90 points.

Some may wonder: "okay, uh..you seem to really be high on Red Mountain in general, what it's in it for you?" That is a fair question, but there's is nothing "in-it" for me personally; other than the pure satisfaction of being a guide-post of sorts. One that points the way to some of the best juice in the world and Red Mountain is certainly one of those places you need to discover for yourself. Moreover, I'm convinced that once you do, there will be no turning back. And until next folks, remember as always, "Sip long and prosper cheers!"

Full Disclosure: On my last visit, the tour and subsequent tasting fees were waived. All wines reviewed were purchased at my own expense.


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