June 2011

A Home on Red Mountain

By: Meridith May

Col Solare winemaker Marcus Notaro (center) pays a visit to Trattoria Oliva in Sherman Oaks, CA. He is flanked by General Manager Luigi deBella (right) and on his left, owner Giorgio Pierangeli, who also owns Pecorino in nearby Brentwood.

From the beginning, the Col Solare project was about Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon: finding the right sites where the grapes best fit a style envisioned by Marchese Piero Antinori.

Thanks to the urging of wine industry legend André Tchelistcheff, Antinori ventured to eastern Washington in 1992 and recognized an Old World character in the vineyards of the Columbia Valley. “He found the profile he wanted in the Cabernet he tasted from the area,” says Marcus Notaro, Col Solare winemaker, “aromatics such as black currant and black cherry, with a palate that was rich, without being heavy. As long as the wine is ageable, has an intensity that, while not over-the-top acidic or edgy, is rich and bright and has a sense of authenticity wherein you can detect the region, he is satisfied. He found that here.”

When Col Solare’s first vintage released in 1995, Notaro was working his first harvest for Ste. Michelle’s Canoe Ridge winery. It would be eight years later that he would join the Col Solare team, which includes Managing Partner Piero Antinori, Chief Enologist Renzo Cotarella and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Winemaking/Vineyard VP Doug Gore.

Larry Levine, owner of Monty’s Steakhouse in Woodland Hills, joined
us for lunch. He is a big fan of Col Solare.


Notaro came to the Col Solare project at a serendipitous time when the realization that the red fruit from Red Mountain, a sub-appellation in the Columbia Valley, high above the Yakima and Columbia rivers, offered the grapes the team really wanted to work with. The warmest area in the state, Red Mountain’s gravelly, silty loam, windy conditions and low-rainfall desert climate made it the headquarters for their criteria: richness and power, with “really good tannins.”

After a decade of using sourced fruit, a 40-acre estate was purchased in 2005. The winery was completed in time for the 2006 vintage, and the property’s 28.10 acres of vines were planted in 2007 and harvested last year for the first time.

We tasted the evolution of Col Solare from the 2005, 2006 and upcoming 2007 vintages (all SRP $70), plus a barrel sample of 2010—a look into the future of the estate fruit.

Col Solare 2005: Rich and spicy: the first sign of the significant amount of fruit from Red Mountain. The blackberry and wild cherries generously play out through a long finish.

Col Solare 2006: Elegant with refined acid structure and blue flowers. Textured black fruit forms a silky seamlessness. Current vintage.

Col Solare 2007: Tannic foreground shows its youth (this will not release until fall 2011). Dry and dusty with a turn towards black currant and pepper by the mid-palate. This is a chewy teeth-coater.

Col Solare Estate Winery 2010
(barrel sample): Cabernet Franc sets a tone for blueberry spice, while Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, even in their infancy (and a challenging growing season last year), show a bright and shining complexity through acid structure in fruit and cedar clarity. This may be a three-year wait, but we’re looking forward to how the finished wine will ultimately be energized by Red Mountain’s prowess.  

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