Approaching Pasco, Washington, in our small aircraft, we could see views of the Columbia River, with flat sage brush desert, vast fields of hops and grains. Visually, it is not apparent that the terrain and climate of warm dry summers and mild winters are optimum for Washington’s expanding wine industry. CSM and Columbia Crest are two of the other major wineries in Pasco, but there are many others in the surrounding area.
We had the opportunity to visit Col Solare (Italian for ‘shining hill’) which is a Red Mountain premium winery. There are 4,040 acres of grapes and the soil is a combination of sand, silt and loam, ideal for growth. Col Solare is a joint venture between Chateau St. Michelle and Marchesi Antinori, who found a partnership based on mutual winemaking philosophies. From its inception in 1995, the two contrasting winemaking cultures have collaborated to develop an outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon-based red wine. Some of the other grapes that are used for blending included Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
When our group arrived, we were greeted by our guide, Will Niles, who is the assistant winemaker. Will was informative, giving us a tour of the winery. As explained in the vineyard, meticulous detail and study of seasonal characteristics are determined to ensure that each viticultural phase will be taken at the right time for the wines to define the best quality of the fruit. In the cellar, special attention is taken in each aspect of the fermentation process to elevate that the fermenting grapes become a wine of outstanding and distinguished quality.
Following, we were seated in the tasting room and had an opportunity to sample several vintages, including 2010-2013. Each one offered unique qualities with profiles of black cherry, cassis, crushed dark berries and a very layered and silky finish. It was also interesting to distinguish the contrast of each vintage, proving that age does improve these wines.
Our food pairing was outstanding and complemented the wines. The lamb, roasted potatoes, and lentils with fennel, were the perfect choice, as well as the chocolate dessert. The pairing were both bold, with neither overshadowing the other in flavors. This was one of the great highlights at the beginning of our journey.
Jim Phinick, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits Celebration Specialist – Destin