The ultra-premium winery is a partnership between Chateau Ste. Michelle and Antinori, an Italian winery that has been in business since the 1300s.

Share story

CONSIDERING THE provenance of Col Solare’s ownership, most visitors might expect the crown jewel of Red Mountain to more closely resemble a hilltop Tuscan villa.

The ultra-premium Washington winery, whose first vintage was 1994, is a joint venture of Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville and Antinori of Italy. Piero Antinori, head of the company, let his Washington partners know they had plenty of Tuscan-style buildings in Italy and didn’t need another one on the other side of the globe.

Originally, the partners looked at leasing land for their winery from the state Department of Natural Resources. Such leases typically run 50 years. Antinori gently pointed out that his family, which has been in the wine business since the 1300s, generally thinks in terms longer than half a century. So the partnership purchased 40 acres from the Williams family, owner of Kiona Vineyards and Winery.

Three to try

Col Solare wines are priced in the ultra-premium category, meaning they are meant for cellaring and bringing out for special occasions. The wines are for sale at the winery, at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville and through fine wine merchants.

Col Solare 2015 red wine, Red Mountain, $75: A fascinating blend of cab and carménère opens with aromas of smoky cherries, black pepper, plum and pomegranate, followed by robust flavors of mature ripe fruit, including Bing cherries, plum and raspberry jam. Smooth tannins give it youthful approachability.

Col Solare 2015 malbec, Red Mountain, $85: Alluring aromas of plum, black pepper, cherry and black licorice lead to flavors of blueberries, plum and a whisper of huckleberries. With a structure based on acidity over tannin, this is consistently among my favorite Washington malbecs.

Col Solare 2015 cabernet sauvignon, Red Mountain, $85: Smoky hints of plum, black cherry, black currants and dark chocolate are followed by intense flavors of sage, spice, dried plums and dark chocolate. It’s all backed by typical Red Mountain firm tannins. This has the balance and flavor for long-term cellaring.

They also had no interest in producing a wine made with sangiovese, the Italian red grape the Antinoris have helped make famous worldwide.

They should be applauded for this. It would have been easy to take the Old World model and make Red Mountain fit in it. Instead, they built a model of crafting the best wine possible and building a winery whose architecture reflected both the new and old worlds, with a 56-foot-high bell tower serving as the only nod to its Italian roots.

By not trying too hard, the two companies collaborated to create a winery that fits Red Mountain, and one that became an instant destination, a special experience for visitors.

Under the direction of winemaker Darel Allwine, Col Solare produces nearly 10,000 cases of wine, relying primarily on grapes from Red Mountain.

If you are near Red Mountain, you owe it to yourself to visit Col Solare, which opened in 2007. A tasting costs $20 per person, and tours are available by appointment. It is a winery like no other, blending two wine cultures in one location.