Friday, November 11, 2011

Col Solare: A Tale of Two Vintages

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It started as a torrid love affair.

It was a hot Corvallis evening; June 2007. Uncharacteristically hot, so much so that I was sitting on the floor fiddling with the cable box in just a pair of shorts. Sweaty, cranky, tired, a bit anxious, and hungry. It had been a long day...week...and month and I was on the eve of international travel.

A car pulled into the driveway, the door burst open, and there he was.  A blond-haired, blue-eyed stallion of a journalist sauntered in.  It was Rick.

He walked over to me and reached out his hand.  I grabbed it, and stood up.  It was a light touch, a caring touch.   In his other hand was a brown bag, a magical bag. With a twinkle in his eye, he pulled it out. A bottle. From the bag. It was perhaps one of the most delicious bottles of wine this writer has consumed; get your minds out of the gutter people.

The love affair was with the wine that night and the wine was the 2005 Col Solare.

It was with that fantastic Col Solare experience in mind that I contemplated the angle for this post while enjoying the grand opening of the Col Solare Bottega in Woodinville recently.  As I tasted through seven vintages, a thought kept rolling through my mind:  How much of a difference does a year really make?

525,600 minutes?  In daylight, in sunsets, it makes a world of difference.  Turns out it can have quite an impact on wine as well.  To fully vet this theory, I had a new mission in life:  a comparative tasting of two consecutive vintages of Col Solare with different growing season profiles; a mission achieved thanks to the help of Stes Michelle Wine Estates and their representative, Gracie, who graciously provided a 2007 and 2008 vintage for review.

There are two main composition differences between these two vintages.  The first is the blend.  2008 included Syrah, 2007 did not.  The second was a growing season.  2007 was a classical ideal growing season on Red Mountain; high heat early on followed by a warm summer and ideal ripening.  2008 experienced a cool start to the summer, followed by moderate heat with a spike at the end of the season.

To complete this comparison, I drew on the experienced palates of Rick, myself, and Blog regular Alyssa as we tasted through the two.

The Wine:

2007 Col Solare

  • Blend:  75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc
  • Appellation:  Columbia Valley
  • Sourcing:  Red Mountain (31%), Columbia Valley (36%), Wahluke Slope (14%), Horse Heaven Hills (19%)
  • Alcohol: 14.5%
  • Acidity: 0.58 gms/100ml
  • PH:  3.78
2008 Col Solare
  • Blend:  67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 3% Syrah
  • Appellation:  Columbia Valley
  • Sourcing:  Red Mountain (32%), Columbia Valley (45%), Wahluke Slope (10%), Horse Heaven Hills (13%)
  • Alcohol:  14.5%
  • Acidity:  0.59 gms/100ml
  • PH:  3.79
The Tasting

2007 Col Solare

On the nose we detected a fair amount of earthiness, followed by dark fruit and spice. Current and pomegranate were prominate, and the aromas contained the classic essence of a high-heat Eastern Washington wine from Red Mountain.  The juice was a gorgeous dark purple in the glass.  Upon taste, we found an elegant, smooth wine with the pomegranate and currant carrying through from the nose with the addition of a hit of vanilla.

This vintage heats up a bit at the end on the palate with a subtle white pepper, and wasn't as tannic as I anticipated.

According to Alyssa,

This is the smoothes wine I've ever tasted.

This was well-received sipping by itself.

2008 Col Solare

The 2008 vintage demonstrated some gaminess on the nose, with essence of tobacco, strawberry, earth, spice, and dark fruit. It was a bit more fruit-forward on the nose, but lighter than the 2007 in the glass. Upon tasting we noted an immediate spiciness right off the bat but less complex throughout. We detected tobacco on the palate with some oak, and less fruit that might be anticipated by the nose.

This vintage demonstrated more tannin than the, and seemed better suited to pair with food. As I found when I finished off the bottle the next day, the 2008 opened up nicely overnight and was perhaps even better the second day.

The Analysis

Both vintages were delicious and were fine representatives of the terrior and the Col Solare name. That said, however, all three of us unanimously picked the 2007 vintage as more enjoyable for sipping with friends. The very classic Red Mountain weather pattern in 2007 created a wine indicative of the best of Eastern Washington; big, bold, flavorful, and elegant.

We unfortunately didn't have a big juicy steak to match with the 2008, because it would sure be awesome with something to cut through the tannin a bit and complement the wine. A year or two in the bottle will serve this wine well, and the Syrah may pop out to say hi in the blend a bit more.

1 comment:

  1. A brown bag adorning the Safeway logo, because the two wine shops he visited beforehand didn't have it and emphatically stated nobody else in town would. They were wrong and the wine was found. This marked 2005 Col Solare only the second hardest wine to find in Corvallis next to the Yellow Tail Reserve.