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Col Solare Cabernet Sauvignon. The style has changed.

“There is something special going on at Col Solare."

In mid-June 2022, I began working for Col Solare winery on the Red Mountain AVA in Washington state. The Red Mountain AVA and Col Solare are famous for stunning Cabernet Sauvignon. That I knew going in. 

We are not here to make more wine... We are here to showcase place.

At the end of June 2022, Col Solare winemaker Darel Allwine retired. Darel had been winemaker since 2013. Prior, he had been Col Solare assistant winemaker for Marcus Notaro. Marcus had been Col Solare winemaker when the Red Mountain facility opened and was winemaker before we had our Red Mountain facility. 

On July 1, 2022, Col Solare assistant winemaker, Stephanie Cohen, was promoted to Col Solare winemaker. I was present for this change. It was the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one. Col Solare is the third winery I have worked for. I chose well. 

Often, I am asked by Col Solare guests, as I was last week, “Tell me about Col Solare. Who are you?” That is a wonderful question. I will expand for you here. 

The goal of Col Solare is to make a wine of length, not of height.

Col Solare Wine History

As mentioned above, Col Solare winery is located in Washington state, on the Red Mountain AVA. The design of the building echoes a Tuscan fortress with our wide stone wall and bell tower. The first crush at our winery was in 2006. It is a full production winery with single cordon, high density, estate vineyard planted in 2007. It has a crush pad with gravity feed, fermentation tanks, barrel rooms, and a tasting room upstairs with an amazing view. This is where I work. 

From the tasting room we have a magnificent view of Red Mountain vineyards below, the Horse Heaven Hills mountain range to the South and, on a good day, we can see Mt. Adams to the west. It is difficult not to take a photo every day I work. 

Col Solare Winery August 2022
Col Solare Winery

Who is Col Solare?

Col Solare Winery is a collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle of Washington state and the Marchesi Antinori family in Tuscany, Italy. It is a 50/50 partnership which began with the 1995 Col Solare Red Wine. If you don’t already know, the Antinori family is a 26th generation wine family. They have been in the wine business since 1385. 

Yes. That Antinori. They are world famous. 

Renzo Cotarella is CEO and Chief Enologist for Antinore Wines. He is a dynamic and talented individual. I’ve watched many interviews and videos of Mr. Cotarella. Self-contained, warm, intelligent with an unassuming style which exudes confidence and experience. I like him. We both have gray hair. We both love Col Solare wine. He is our winemakers point of contact with Antinori wine. 

As I also tell guests, the Antinori family define our quality. Vineyard and cellar practices are determined by the Antinori family. It is up to the winemaker to complete the vision.

Marcus Notaro in 2010
Marcus Notaro in 2010 pouring 2007 Col Solare

There’s a quote I am fond of by Marcus Notaro, the original Col Solare winemaker. He said, “The goal of Col Solare is to make a wine of length, not of height.” I interpret that quote as it is the goal of Col Solare to make a new world wine, from Red Mountain fruit, inspired by old world elegance. 


This year I have had access to more Antinori wines from Italy. I've noticed a "quality" of style in the Antinori red wines, a shared style similar to Col Solare wines. The best word is "elegance." Elegance in the flavors, balance, and the mouthfeel of the wine. I am becoming rather fond of those wines. And I see the connection to Col Solare wines. 

Last year, I saw an interview of Renzo Cotarella, as he was questioned about the intent of Col Solare winery. His response: “We are not here to make more wine... We are here to showcase place.” 

The purpose 

The only reason for Col Solare is to make the best Washington state Red Mountain AVA Cabernet Sauvignon. That is the only reason for Col Solare. We are a passion project. 

Our winemaker is here to make the best Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. Creating the best wine by showing respect to the fruit of the harvest. By aging and racking in 100% new French oak. By carefully blending barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon from select vineyard lots. And that extra special magic that comes from experience and reflection. 

Now on my second year working for Col Solare, after numerous wine experiences sharing Col Solare Cabernet Sauvignon with visitors from all over the world, I have new to me insights and unique experiences with Col Solare wines. The wines have stunned and delighted. I believe there is something special happening at Col Solare. 

Our newest winemaker is taking us to someplace new. 

Today, guided by the intelligence, palate and remarkable skills of our winemaker Stephanie Cohen, Col Solare is becoming something more. Stephanie is re-interpreting the expression of Col Solare Cabernet Sauvingon. Truly. Col Solare is a passion project. A passion for Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. Stephanie is full of passion. It shows in the wines she is making. 

A winemaker needs humility to listen and improve.

Winemaker Stephanie Cohen
Stephanie Cohen Col Solare Winemaker

Who is Stephanie Cohen? 

Stephanie is one of the most talented and modest winemakers I have had the pleasure to know. She has a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan. She has not been idle. 

After graduation, she did wine lab work in Napa before traveling to New Zealand for harvest. Then she worked for an Australian winery in Margaret River Valley, followed by working with Pinot Noir in Oregon, before being hired by Columbia Crest. And then promptly, and I believe correctly, placed at Col Solare in early 2020 before harvest. 

I thank whoever it was with the foresight to hire her and then move her to Red Mountain. Thank you.

After Stephanie was promoted to winemaker in 2022, I heard people in the company describe her as, “The best winemaker we have had at Col Solare.” I also heard, “She’s the best of Marcus Notaro and Darel Allwine combined.”

There’s another quote I am fond of, by Renzo Cotarella: “A winemaker needs humility to listen and improve.” That is how I see Stephanie. She has no ego in need of stroking. She knows who she is and she wants to do the best job possible. It shows. There is something special going on at Col Solare. I strongly believe that is true.

Recently, I had some guests who wanted to meet Stephanie. My response was, “I haven’t seen her all day, which means she’s working.” They insisted again. I said, “It is a privilege to meet the winemaker. She’s not here to entertain.” 

You are this close to making the best wine in the world.

2020 Carmenere my first Stephanie Cohen wine 

After my first month working at Col Solare, I bemoaned the fact I would have to wait years to taste her wines. I was promptly corrected. She had made the 2020 estate Carmenere. Would I like to taste? Yes.

Whoa. Stunned. I thought I knew Carmenere. Washington Carmenere. No. No. No. It was so elegant, with rich fruit and subdued spiciness. Stunned. Delicious. I could drink it. Most Carmenere is too spicy and too vegetal for me to drink without food. Not the 2020 Col Solare Carmenere. Beautiful. 

There is a local vineyard manger I know who works with fruit on Red Mountain. One night several years ago, he was on social media and wrote, “Carmenere doesn’t have to taste like a fricking salad.” He did not type “fricking.” A moment later he clarified after the furious comments, “With proper canopy management prior to verasion, you can minimize the pyrazines which cause the spicy, peppery, green flavors in Carmenere." I believe the winemaker is key as well. 

2021 Carmenere

Stephanie also made the 2021 Col Solare Carmenere. We have a little bit left, last time I checked. I had a small splash last week before sharing with guests. If you wish to experience a Stephanie Cohen wine today, this is your opportunity. There is very, very little left. And it is gorgeous. More traditional in style, but with rich, vibrant fruit, easy to drink. No food required. Lovely. 

2022 Bianco Di Nera
2022 Bianco Di Nera

2022 Bianco Di Nera

As the summer heat was beating us down on the patio at the winery, Stephanie asked me, "What do you think about a Col Solare white wine?" "Yes, please. That would be lovely on a hot day like today. But where will we get the fruit?" She replied, "We already have it. A white wine from red grapes."

And thus was created, Col Solare Bianco Di Nera. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. Zero skin contact white wine. Absolutely delicious! You might think that a $75 white wine, made from red grapes, would be a tough sell. Nope. Sold out before our 2023 Harvest dinner in October. It was a stunning wine. It complemented every type of food we paired with it. Some of our guests became as fond of it as we were. 

 Last year, I know Stephanie had planned on a 2023 Bianco Di Nera. It never happened. Why? I asked Stephanie, "What happened? Why no 2023 Bianco?" She replied, "The fruit was not of the same quality as the year before. I'm not going to make an inferior wine, just to make it." My respect for her went up another notch. And after all, she is here to make the best Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Col Solare winery view in November
November view from Col Solare

Not Just Me

Last year I had the privilege of hosting Stephanie and two international visitors. They visited and tasted with Stephanie through a vertical tasting of Col Solare Cabernet Sauvignon. The first visitor was from Japan. He is an important individual not just for the company he represents, but also culturally. 

The second visitor was from France. Who also is very experienced with wine. That conversation was a little above my head. It was fascinating. Both gentlemen. Both. At the end of their tasting, as they lingered over the last wine, the wine Stephanie is making, they both made the same hand gesture. Thumb and forefinger almost touching. They both said the exact same thing. "You are this close to making the best wine in the world."

A talented winemaker can be a powerful influence. Stephanie is re-defining Col Solare and Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2020 and 2021 Carmenere and 2022 Bianco Di Nera were just a tease. 

This is the best Col Solare. Hmm, the style has changed.

Col Solare Cabernet Sauvignon hits my button hard. In a very, very good way. As I shared in my March 3, 2024 post, this year I am admitting to myself how big a fan I have become of the wines I sell. They are truly remarkable. I am also admitting to myself that they are the wines I want to drink. They deliver so much pleasure. Before working for Col Solare, I had mostly stopped drinking Cabernet Sauvignon. Now? Now I adore Col Solare Cabernet Sauvignon. It makes me so very happy.

Barrel samples
Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Samples

What do the Antinoris think of Col Solare?

Piero Antinori is the patriarch of Antinori Wine. Decades ago, he redefined the quality of Antinori and Italian wine. He improved quality in the vineyard and the cellar, and equally important, the reputation of Italian wine. In 1986 Decanter magazine named him Man of the Year. Wine Spectator has a good overview of Piero Antinori and his family, The Family Trust.

My favorite quote this year is from Piero Antinori. While tasting the 2023 Col Solare Cabernet Sauvignon with Renzo Cotarella, he remarked, “This is the best Col Solare. Hmm, the style has changed.” Yes. That is Stephanie. 

There are many aspects to Col Solare I adore. The view. The facility. Our VIP service, proper service, for all our guests, everyone is a VIP if you visit Col Solare. We have an amazing team. But, our captain, our leader, our visionary winemaker, Stephanie Cohen is re-defining who we are. 

Our winemaker, Stephanie Cohen, is special. She is making Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain fruit in a style new to me. I did not know such wines were possible. That they even existed. It is a delicious exciting time.

Another joy for me is that Stephanie often shares with us what she is working on. 

Some projects are experiments, ideas, concepts, possibilities. I love that. Love, love, that she shares. She also asks, “What do you think?” That caught me off guard the first year. Initially, I did not know how to respond. It made me uncomfortable. 

Today, I know how to respond. Honestly. Truthfully. And, is there more?

Last week I had two Finish guests from Switzerland. The husband asked me, "What is it that the winemaker does to make the wines so special?" I replied, "It is their talent, their intelligence, palate, skill, experience. It is what they were meant to do in life." In other words. I don't know. I just know how wonderful the wines are, and are becoming. 

Yes, I made the correct decision to join the Col Solare team. 

I feel I am where I need to be.

I invite you to visit Col Solare Winery in Washington state. We are located in the SE portion of the state. The climate is semi-arid desert steppe. It is in the northern portion of the Sonoran desert. We are within the boundaries of the Red Mountain AVA. We grow amazing wine.

Interacting with tourists at the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center and as a Washington wine tour guide for Taste Vacations, and now as Wine Educator at Col Solare, has reinforced my awareness of the quality of Washington wine. Washington wine can deliver sheer pleasure in styles unique to Washington. Col Solare has taken Washington wine to a new level. And the style is changing.

Vineyard Tour Col Solare winery
Col Solare Vineyard Tour

Following are some upcoming events. It would be a pleasure to meet you. And to share Col Solare wines. We are open seven days a week 11 am - 5 pm, last tasting at 4:30.

Sunset Tasting, Friday, March 29, 2024 | 5:00 – 7:00pm

Take in a beautiful view of the sunset over our Estate vineyard while enjoying our selection of world class wines during this very special evening happy hour. Live music. 

Sunset Tasting, Friday, April 26, 2024 | 5:00 – 7:00pm

Take in a beautiful view of the sunset over our Estate vineyard while enjoying our selection of world class wines during this very special evening happy hour. Live music. 

May 2024 Vineyard Tours Begin

Our seasonal vineyard tours begin again in May. Come learn about bud break, inflorescence, and see the vineyard as it greens and wakes up. An exciting time. Book reservations online or call the winery.

Col Solare Cabernet Experience

$50 per person | Included with club membership

Cabernet Sauvignon is what Col Solare’s world-class partnership was born from and what we do best. Experience the world of these exquisite Cabernets with our newest tasting experience.

Col Solare Red Mountain

50207 Antinori Road, Benton City, WA, USA 99320

Phone:  509-588-6806



William Pollard
William Pollard

Thank you for reading. 

Be safe. Be kind. Drink good wine. Cheers!

- William 

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