Col Solare, the ambitious collaboration between Tuscany’s Marchesi Antinori and Washington’s Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, opened its Red Mountain doors on April 12, and finally, after a dozen vintages, became a reality.
“In this case, the reality is better than the dream,” enthused Piero Antinori, as he and Ste. Michelle CEO Ted Baseler wielded a pair of giant scissors and cut the big ribbon tied across the winery’s grand entrance.
From groundbreaking, which took place in mid-July 2005, to first crush (last fall) to official opening on April 12th, the Col Solare project has caught the tail wind that is quickly transforming Red Mountain, Washington’s smallest and most prestigious AVA.
The wine itself, a Cabernet-based blend that has struggled to find a unique identity amidst Ste. Michelle’s portfolio of super-premium red blends, seems finally on track to stand out, as Antinori expressed it, as “perhaps more equal” than its peers. That will come about gradually, as the newly-planted, 28-acre estate vineyard, which fans out below the winery, begins producing.
Marchesi Antinori Head Enologist and Col Solare co-winemaker Renzo Cotarella, Marchese Piero Antinori, and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates CEO Ted Baseler cut the ribbon on the new Col Solare Winery on Red Mountain, Benton City, WA.
The ultimate goal, explains Baseler, is “to become a one-wine, estate-grown, Red Mountain AVA winery.” The estate vineyard, planted predominantly to six clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, also contains individual blocks of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Syrah (though not a Sangiovese vine in sight).
Renzo Cotarella, Chief Enologist for Antinori, in collaboration with Ste. Michelle’s Doug Gore and on-site winemaker Marcus Notaro, will oversee production of the wine. Past vintages of Col Solare, beginning in 1995, have been sourced from a variety of Washington vineyards and AVAs. The next vintage to be released (this summer) will be the 2004, a muscular, earthy and exceptionally ripe bottling that may well be the best yet.
Col Solare is open by appointment only (509.588.6808 or firstname.lastname@example.org)