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Col solareWine is fascinating in part because once it is in the bottle it takes on a life of its own. Given enough time, each bottle becomes a unique individual that develops along its own trajectory. Small differences between batches in the winery,  variation in when wines from the same vintage were bottled,  the amount of oxygen allowed into the bottle by the vagaries of cork, and differences in transportation and storage conditions all contribute to bottle variations that are magnified as the wine ages. The longer the wine is aged the more true the old adage– “There are no great wines, only great bottles.”

This wine certainly developed in an unexpected way.

Despite 10 years from vintage, it is still dark ruby in the glass with slight rim variation and no evidence of bricking. Black cherry, sandalwood, tobacco, and cocoa aromas are now cosseted in a bouquet of forest floor that develops charm and intensity as it aerates in the glass.

The palate is full bodied with an initial round, lush, juicy impression that gives way to lively acidity that seems to gather energy under a black licorice core before bursting into pronounced charred wood and dark roast coffee that lingers on the palate for well over a minute. The tannins have softened into a silky, languorous bed; the wine is not in the least grippy. But the enduring, intense charred wood note on the finish gives it a fiery aspect that is wholly unexpected.

The process of aging is often a battle between fruit and oak. Will the fruit remain dominant with integrated oak providing a muted halo of toast and nuts or will the woodsy notes of the oak joined by caramel and dill leap to the foreground? This wine still has ebullient fruit but the woodsy notes appear to be winning the battle at the moment. I have tasted several vintages of Col Solare upon release. While the oak was certainly a presence I would not have predicted this unusual evolution. It gets character points for originality and palate intensity.

Col Solare is a collaboration of Chateau Ste. Michelle and the Italian producer Antinori.  A complex blend from several vineyards, this vintage was 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, with a small percentage of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Syrah. The wine was aged in 75% French and 25% American oak, 100% new for 21 months.

It is drinking well now but has several years of life left. I highly recommend decanting to get the wine to calm down.

And for music accompaniment the lush introduction and fiery finish of Purple Rain is fitting

Score: 93

Price: $68

Alc: 14.5%

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