Red Mountain Aristocracy: The Wines of Col Solare

By now, it is something of a well-trodden path in the world of wine. A long-standing European wine family begins to cast its eyes farther afield for new projects in which to invest, discovers a site in America, and sets about creating a new wine brand. The Spanish have done it, the French have done it, and so have the Italians.

The story of how Marchese Piero Antinori ended up establishing a winery in Washington State, however, owes its genesis to a Russian. Specifically, the legendary winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff, who convinced Antinori to take a look at the state during a period when Tchelistcheff was serving as a consultant for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

Antinori would eventually enter into an equal partnership with Ste. Michelle to found Col Solare Winery, a project that from its inaugural 1995 vintage would help set a new bar for what Washington was capable of when it came to fine Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Antinori family brought a decidedly restrained and refined sensibility to the partnership, while Ste. Michelle brought unparalleled knowledge of the region and its growing conditions, resulting in an exceptional portfolio of wines that has remarkably only seemed to get better over time.

In 2007 the brand built itself a winery in the Red Mountain AVA of Yakima Valley (where it had been sourcing fruit for some time), and now comfortably represents one of the pinnacles of that region’s winemaking, having switched to all Red Mountain fruit starting in the 2012 vintage.

Red Mountain, of course, is a tiny, extremely warm AVA in eastern Washington that features deep, powdery soils laid down by the cataclysmic Missoula Floods on top of volcanic basalt. These desert soils are somewhat surprisingly calcareous, thanks to the presence of caliche, which is a sediment of calcium carbonate that coats many of the loose rocks within the soil. With an incredible amount of sunlight modulated somewhat by wind effects and diurnal shifts, as well as its unique, nutrient-poor soils, Red Mountain produces some of Washington’s best Bordeaux varieties, and increasingly some of its best Rhône-style wines as well. I recently covered Red Mountain in-depth for Jancis Robinson’s website, for those that are interested.

Looking over the estate vineyard from the Col Solare winery

While Ste. Michelle Wine Estates was eventually sold to Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, and then sold again late last year to the private equity firm Sycamore Partners, Antinori continues to maintain its 50% ownership in the project. Renzo Cotarella, the chief enologist and chief executive officer of Marchesi Antinori, visits at least twice a year and continues to be directly involved in the crafting of each vintage, which is accomplished by winemaker Darel Allwine and enologist Stephanie Cohen.

This past fall, I sat down with Cohen to taste through a bunch of vintages and hear how things were going in the wake of having new partners in the enterprise.

“As opposed to Altria seeming to look at every move we make, these new partners really seem to trust us,” she said. “They understand wine is an investment and a longer-term thing.”

That would be a very good thing, indeed, for a winery that is seemingly operating at the top of its game.

Cohen explained that the winemaking follows about as classic a model as you might imagine. With a custom-designed winery built to function entirely by gravity, including all racking, the hand-harvested grapes are fermented separately in steel tanks with inoculated yeasts. Some tanks will have a little saignee bled off to concentrate the wine, fining is rarely if ever done, and a very coarse filtration is done to remove any “chunks” of sediment before bottling. The flagship red spends 22 months in oak.

Originally, Col Solare made only a single wine, but in recent years the winery has expanded its portfolio in small increments. It now also makes a second tier of wines under the label “Shining Hill” which is the English translation of the winery’s Italian name.

The winery’s “Tenuta” bottling, launched in 2016, represents the very best blocks in each vintage is made the same way with the addition of barrel fermentation for anywhere between 35% and 50% of the final blend, which is limited to 7 barrels (175 cases of wine) each year. It also spends 22 months in barrel.

The team is currently experimenting with adding concrete tanks to the mix as well.

In addition to the winery’s main Cabernet Sauvignon blend and the Tenuta bottling, the winery makes tiny amounts of some other wines for their mailing list customers that Cohen describes as an opportunity for herself and Darel to “have some fun and change it up a bit.”

These include a “Collector Series” that often highlight specific growers, sites, or unique blends, and a “Component Series” that showcase individual single grape varieties that often end up in the Cabernet blends.

Red Mountain Aristocracy: The Wines of Col Solare
The winery and its iconic bell tower

I can remember the first time I tasted a Col Solare wine, which brought me up short as I was making my way through hundreds of wines at the annual Taste Washington trade fair. This was before the winery had narrowed its focus on Red Mountain fruit.

Even then, though, the winery had managed to arrive at a particularly regal interpretation of Cabernet Sauvignon, one that balanced power and finesse beautifully, without the overt flavor of oak. These wines are always wonderfully bright with acidity, and generally feature velvety, carefully managed tannins, making for relatively accessible drinking in their youth, but also enough structure to age beautifully.

These days I try to avoid resorting to the metaphors of “Old World” and “New World” when describing wine as I find them increasingly inadequate, but in this case it seems fitting to describe Col Solare’s wines as walking the fine line between these supposed outposts of wine style. They are undeniably rich in fruit and demonstrate the warmth that characterizes the desert landscape from which they come. But they also show a restraint and elegance of winemaking that sometimes eludes West Coast winemakers who can overdue a sense of power and polish, often through excessive and overt oak programs.

In short, I adore these wines, and believe they are among some of the better red wines made on the West Coast, standing easily in the company of top bottlings from Napa and Sonoma, but at much, much, much lower prices. I’d put the 2018 bottling up against anything from Napa in the $300-$500 price range and expect it to hold its own beautifully.

Tasting Notes

Red Mountain Aristocracy: The Wines of Col Solare

2014 Col Solare Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Washington
Dark opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar, dried cherries and plums. In the mouth, juicy cherry and plum flavors are shot through with cedar and dried herbs and flowers. Faint, powdery tannins wrap around the core of fruit with lovely citrusy acidity that lingers in the finish, along with hints of dried herbs and licorice. Supple, velvety tannins and overall quite lovely. A blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot, and 2% Syrah. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2015 Col Solare Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Washington
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dried flowers, cassis and black cherry tinged with dried herbs and what I can only describe as pulverized purple Smartees candy. In the mouth, juicy black cherry, cassis, and candied violets mix with dried herbs under a fleecy blanket of tannins. Quite aromatic. This vintage was a rare 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2016 Col Solare Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Washington
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry fruit with a touch of green herbs. In the mouth, the wine has classic Cabernet character with supple, fine-grained tannins grasping a core of cherry and cedar, with hints of cola and floral notes, but overall a wonderful purity of cherry flavors. Gorgeous. Contains 6% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9.5 . Cost: $65. click to buy.

2017 Col Solare Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Washington
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and a touch of cocoa powder and green herbs. In the mouth, incredibly juicy cherry cola flavors are held firmly in a tight muscular tannic grip, slightly more aggressive and rough hewn than the usual tannins, thanks to a challenging year. Delicious cherry flavors mix with cola and licorice as the wine finishes long, and the tannins squeeze hard. Contains 3% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9.5 . Cost: $75. click to buy.

2018 Col Solare Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Washington
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and dried herbs and flowers with a hint of cola. In the mouth, muscular, fine-grained tannins wrap around a core of gorgeous, almost crystalline cherry and floral flavors. Fantastic acidity. The tannins, which were aggressive at first, mellow a bit in the finish, as floral and cherry notes soar through a long finish. Score: between 9.5 and 10. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2019 Col Solare “Collectors Series – Kiona Vineyards” Syrah, Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Washington
Dark garnet in the glass with purple highlights this wine smells of flowers and cassis. In the mouth, lovely blackberry and cassis flavors lean towards candied blueberries as the wine soars through a gorgeously long finish. Lovely stony underbelly with fine-grained tannins. A faint saline note makes for an extra mouthwatering quality, along with great acidity. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9.5.

Red Mountain Aristocracy: The Wines of Col Solare

2018 Col Solare “Component Series” Syrah, Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Washington
Inky purple in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and black cherry. In the mouth, gorgeously polished flavors of cassis and black cherry are nestled into a fleecy blanket of tannins with hints of herbs and citrus peel offering bright grace notes as the wine soars through a long finish. Excellent acidity and some nice wet pavement notes This fruit comes from the estate vineyard. Includes 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $95. click to buy.

2018 Col Solare “Component Series” Malbec, Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Washington
Inky purple in the glass, this wine smells of dried herbs, sage, and brambly blueberry. In the mouth, juicy blueberry, blackberry and a hint of woodsmoke mix under a dusty blanket of tannins that coat the mouth. Excellent acidity. This is 100% Estate fruit. They have 1-2 acres of Malbec. 14.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $95.

2018 Col Solare “Tenuta” Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Washington
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, cedar, herbs and flowers. In the mouth, the wine is expansive and bright with a suede throw of tannins draped over juicy cherry and black cherry fruit that gushes with acidity. Hints of dried flowers and beautiful cherry fruit linger in the long finish. Interestingly this flagship bottling is coming across as slightly more open and accessible than the standard Col Solare bottling, whose tannins are a little more aggressive and closed at this point. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9.5 and 10. Cost: $175.

Red Mountain Aristocracy: The Wines of Col Solare
The afternoon sun in the winery’s courtyard.

The post Red Mountain Aristocracy: The Wines of Col Solare appeared first on Vinography.

That Heat Dome: How Are Vines Coping?

On 29 June, as the so-called heat dome settled over British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon, the weather station near the Red Mountain AVA of Washington recorded an ambient temperature of 117.8 °F/47.7 °C. That was the third of what would be four days of high temperatures above 112 °F/44 °C which came hard on the heels of more than a week of highs above 95 °F/35 °C. Since then the daytime highs have not fallen below 97.7 °F/36.5 °C. Temperatures are expected to climb higher still in the coming days.

As untold billions of shoreline molluscs literally cooked in their shells, hundreds of people died from heat exhaustion, and scientists were presented with incontrovertible evidence that human-caused climate change bore responsibility for the heat, like many I found myself wondering just how the wine grapes were doing under the broiler.

‘I was pretty scared at first’, said Dick Boushey, who farms 300 acres (121 ha) in Washington’s Yakima Valley and manages another 300 acres of vineyards in the Red Mountain AVA. ‘But now, in the second week of this heat, I’m feeling a little bit better.’

Water was the primary determining factor for how vines weathered the heat, especially in the sandy, fast-draining soils of the Yakima Valley.

Boushey and his crews began irrigating in advance of the heat, and essentially they haven’t stopped since. ‘Perhaps counter-intuitively, I’ve also been putting on more compost, trying to get more organic matter into the soils, which should help with water-holding capacity’, said Boushey. While the water and the fertiliser are driving more vigorous growth in the vines than Boushey would want at this point in the growing season, that’s a trade-off he’s willing to make if it means he can avoid more serious losses. Nonetheless, he hasn’t got through the heat event scot-free.

Continue reading this article on JancisRobinson.Com

This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is usually available only to subscribers of her website. If you’re not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It’s only £8.50 a month or £85 per year ($11/mo or $111 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and maps from the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.

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America’s Other Cabernet: The Wines of Red Mountain, WA

Admittedly, it sounds like the set-up for a joke: what do two nuclear engineers to for a good time outside of work? In the case of Jim Holmes and John Williams, the punchline goes something like this: after a less-than-successful experience trading stocks, their idea of fun was trying their hand at planting wine grapes in a godforsaken part of Washington state where land was cheap and sunlight was plentiful.

Every New World appellation that isn’t the subdivision of an existing growing area needs a pioneer, someone willing to gamble the time and money required to establish a vineyard and prove their intuition for its suitability when it comes to wine was justified. Sometimes those pioneers are keenly prepared treasure hunters, methodically searching for a specific set of conditions that match their vision of soil, climate and aspect. Often it seems, though, that many New World wine regions are as much the product of luck and happenstance as they are well-considered calculations.

The Red Mountain American Viticultural Area in eastern Washington owes its existence as much to the fact that Williams’ father-in-law had cheap land to sell as it does to the intuition and strategy of these two engineers looking for an interesting way to make some money on the side and do something with their hands on the weekend.

* * *

Thus begins a lengthy profile I wrote on the Red Mountain AVA for Jancis Robinson’s website this week. You can read the profile, along with tasting notes and scores for more than 100 Red Mountain wines at JancisRobinson.Com.

If you’re not familiar with JancisRobinson.Com, I urge you to give it a try. It’s only £8.50 a month or £85 per year ($11/mo or $111 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and maps from the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.

Above image © Richard Duval Images, courtesy of Red Mountain AVA Association.

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Discover Grosgrain, A Very Cool Walla Walla Winery for Fun Fizz and More

Back in October I spent five idyllic days visiting wineries in Walla Walla, Washington. It had been a few years since my last trip, so I wanted to balance visiting some favorite spots with checking out new places. Regarding the latter, at the top of my list was Grosgrain Vineyards.

Was I originally lured by pét-nat made from old-vine Lemberger sourced from Kiona, a historic winery on Red Mountain? YOU BET I WAS! Alas, it was sold out. (Thankfully my WA wine pal Sean Sullivan opened a bottle in Seattle, and it was as delightful as I imagined.)

The wines that were available to taste, however, were pretty dang exciting. Chardonnay, Albariño, rosé, Grenache, and a red Rhône blend. All with a light touch. And very cool labels!

I got Grosgrain Vineyards’ origin story and a glimpse into a future full of cool fizz and very interesting grapes. Also some talk about the design influence behind the wine labels. Have a look, it’s my latest for VinePair:

The Owners of Grosgrain Vineyards Chart New Territory in Walla Walla

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Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

I went to a “Meet the Makers” Visit Seattle event at Filson’s flagship NYC store in Union Square  and soaked in the idyllic and nostalgic Pacific Northwest vibe. One of the highlights, of course, was the selection of Washington State wines available to sample. And I have to say, I was fairly gobsmacked by many intriguing and delicious bottles.

Here are some highlights.

6 Washington State Wines to Covet and Drink

Orr Wines Old Vine Chenin Blanc (2016)

Save the Washington Chenin! There’s very little left, and a lot of it is old-vine goodness. Kudos to winemakers like Erica Orr, creating Loire-esque wines with the grape.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Two Vintners O.G. (2017)

Morgan Lee must have been the first person to make an orange wine in Washington State. If you know who beat him to it, LMK. This is the 6th (!) vintage of this wine. Oh, O.G.=Orange Gewurztraminer. The color comes from the grape skins spending extra-special time with the juice. This is killer!

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Smockshop Band Pinot Noir (2016)

Whoa, a stunner! (The label and the wine.) This winery is new to me, part of cult-y Hiyu Wine Farm. This Pinot comes from a single vineyard in the Columbia Gorge AVA. There is simply no more exciting region for wine in Washington State than the Gorge.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Savage Grace Côt (2016)

I’ve been a fan of Michael Savage’s wines for a while now. They have an appealing light touch. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this Malbec. He calls it Côt as a nod to how the grape is referred to (and the style of the wine) in the Loire Valley: elegant, not jammy.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Gramercy Cellars Forgotten Hills Syrah (2015)

Greg Harrington is firing on all cylinders and nowhere is this more apparent than his Syrah. It’s a very gulpable, old-world influenced bottling. A great synthesis of grape, site, and winemaker.

Wow, These Are Some Killer Washington Wines

Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah Stonessence (2015)

In contrast with the Gramercy Cellars, the Reynvaan is a meaty, smoky, gamey affair. The first whiff you take  places the fruit from the extremely distinct “Rocks” area of Walla Wallla Valley. (Which is actually in Oregon, but that’s another story.)


Also thanks to these folks representing the city and state:

The reps from the Space Needle providing an update on the, well, major updates there. Chihuly Garden and Glass for the tiny, precious piece of glass I have purposed for salt-keeping. Hama Hama for the amazing oysters. Chef Jeff from No Anchor for the creative veg and salmon bites. Boo and Christophe from Hedges Family Estate, an always entertaining duo. (Check out their biodynamic Cabernet in magnums.)

Finally, Washington State Wine for all the eye-opening bottles.

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Washington Red Wine Blends Podcast

Its a time of the year when my thoughts are dominated by white wine and rosé. Particularly since it’s going to be 90 degrees and humid in Brooklyn…again. But that doesn’t mean I can’t take time out of my sweltering day to speak about Washington red wine blends.

The Benches vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. This is one of the wine regions discussed on the podcast. Photo: Washington State Wine

On the latest episode of the What We’re Tasting podcast, I speak with my pal Sean Sullivan. He’s The Thuse’s contributing editor for Washington State. (He also covers Idaho.) So if you’re ready to get geeky about Washington wine, this is your episode.

We take a look at three wines that bring up numerous questions regarding #WAwine:

  • Why are some wines that could be labeled as single-grape wines sold as blends?
  • Is it Bordeaux. Rhône, or “Washington-style” blends that reign supreme?
  • When is a Oregon wine a Washington wine?
  • How are the regions of Red Mountain, Horse Heaven Hills, and Walla Walla Valley distinct?
  • Does adding 2% of a grape to a wine really make a difference?
  • Is it possible to sneak in a mention of a sparkling Grüner Veltliner?

And much more!

Have a listen:

Washington Red Wine Blends Take Center Stage

Are you looking to do some more reading regarding Washington wine?

Revisit a Cabernet Sauvignon “battle” between Washington, California, and Bordeaux. (It was a blind tasting and my winning bottle was a big surprise.)

Holy cow has rosé from Washington become so much better. I’m especially enamored of versions made from Cabernet Franc. Discover one of the best out there.

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Seven Hills Winery Rosé Makes Cabernet Franc The Star

I am a huge fan of Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. Many bottles are in my Hall of Fame, including one that’s probably in my Top Ten reds, ever. It’s a rising star on another continent, in a different guise, and what might seem a surprising state. Yes, Washington. Enter the Seven Hills Winery Rosé.

Recently I was invited to lunch with Casey McClellan. He holds the dual titles of winemaker and founder at Seven Hills Winery. We started with a white and progressed on to a flight of reds, but I have to admit I was most excited about the rosé.

2017 Seven Hills Winery Rosé

Mostly Cab Franc, with a touch of Petit Verdot and Malbec, this rosé has the flavors I adore in Cabernet Franc. Specifically, herbal notes, a little bit of olive, a certain savory quality. This wine has a distinct Cabernet “Franc-ness” that sometimes can be muted in a rosé, or certainly not as prominent as in a red wine.

(If you want to compare Cabernet Franc rosés from Washington, Sleight of Hand Cellars and Trust Cellars also make them. Look for the 2017s.)

During that lunch at Union Square Cafe, a serendipitous food and wine pairing happened. The (pictured) salad of cara cara oranges, fennel, pine nuts, and ricotta salata was not just stunning to look at and to eat. It was also about as ideal of a match you can get with a wine.

Seven Hills Winery Rosé Makes Cabernet Franc The Star

I also enjoyed the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, which has a dollop of Sémillon for richness and roundness. It’s also, interestingly enough, partially aged in oak barrels with acacia wood tops and bottoms. The 2016 Walla Walla Valley and the 2014 Seven Hills Vineyard were a Merlot duo worthy of praise. The combination of Seven Hills, McClellan, and Washington is a hallmark for this grape. Finally, we took a quick trip to Red Mountain to enjoy the robust 2014 Ciel du Cheval.

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Mark Ryan Winery: The Vincent Rosé Release

Board Track Racer Releases The Vincent Rosé

From Mark Ryan Winery


SEATTLE, March 26, 2018 — Board Track Racer announces the release of The Vincent Rosé. The 2017 vintage boasts 60% Merlot, 18% Syrah, 13% Cab Franc, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Grenache and is made using the Saignée method.

The Vincent Rosé offers delightful citrus and floral aromas that mirror on the palate. Soft fruit flavors include cranberries, salmon berries, melon, and pear. Bright acidity and honeysuckle combine and linger on the finish. This wine screams summer!

Production of The Vincent Rosé is limited. It is currently available at the Board Track Racer tasting room, Mark Ryan tasting rooms in Woodinville and Walla Walla, as well as select wholesale shops, and online at


Board Track Racer Tasting Room

19501 144th Ave F-900  

Woodinville, WA 98072



Mark Ryan Tasting Room, Woodinville

14475 Woodinville-Redmond Road

Woodinville, WA 98072



Mark Ryan Tasting Room, Walla Walla

26 E. Main Street, Suite 1

Walla Walla, WA 99362



Board Track Racer, one of Mark Ryan Winery’s sister projects, produced its first vintage in 2008 and is named for the wild wood track motorcycle races of the 1920s. The labels for all the wines are inspired by the same era, with great motorcycle-centric graphics—owner and winemaker, Mark McNeilly is a big fan of vintage motorcycles and the freewheeling spirit they convey.


Opened in February 2018, the Board Track Racer tasting room is located at 19501 144th Ave F-900 in Woodinville’s Warehouse District. The tasting room is open Saturday and Sunday from 12pm – 6pm, pouring tastes of the Board Track Racer wines, as well as select bottles from both Megan Anne Cellars and Mark Ryan Winery. For more information, call 425.415.3865.


Established in 1999 by Mark Ryan McNeilly, Mark Ryan Winery is an acclaimed Washington winery based in Woodinville, just north of Seattle. A largely self-taught winemaker, the first vintages were crushed and produced in garages of friends and family—in the years since, the winery has grown in size, earning respect and acclaim from wine lovers and critics alike along the way. The goal has always been to make delicious wines that stand as true representations of the vineyard from which they come. For more information, visit








Kirsten Graham
Twitter @kgpr

Kiona – OG Red Mountain

“Red Moutain has established itself as not only Washington’s premier wine-growing region, but one of the finest in the world.”
“Red Mountain has established itself as not only Washington’s premier wine-growing region, but one of the finest in the world.”

Red Mountain has made its name by growing some of the best Cabernet in the state. Now, many other grapes are grown here but many of the most highly regarded bottlings in the state are sourced in part or exclusively from here. The highest scoring Cabernet from Washington in Wine Spectator came from Ciel du Cheval, the 2007 Grand Reve Collaboration  (97 pts).

The Wine Advocate just gave the 2014 Quilceda Galitzine Vineyard a perfect 100 pt Score! “The utterly spellbinding 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Galitzine Vineyard is 100% Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon that was brought up in new barrels. Bravo to the team at Quilceda! This is a sensational vintage from Quilceda’s Paul and Alex Golitzin! Both the classic Columbia Valley Cabernet and the Galitzine Vineyard are sheer perfection.” Jeb Dunnick

Click here to take a tour of Red Mountain AVA

Kiona – OG Red Mountain

The Red Mountain AVA is located on a southwest-facing slope in south central Washington, a little more three hours from Seattle.  At just over 4000 acres it is the smallest wine-grape growing region in Washington.  I always tell people that it feels more like a neighborhood than an appellation. Even for Columbia Valley it has a unique combination of diverse geology, gentle south slope, consistent winds and happens to be the warmest spot in the state for grapes.

Kiona – OG Red Mountain
But, years ago (1972), two men, John Williams and Jim Holmes, pioneered grape growing in the area. Everyone thought they were crazy. Even the engineer they hired to dig the well thought they were a couple of crazy “boys”. In 1975 they planted grapes. “It was a good spot, and best of all, we could afford It.” says John Williams. Eventually they would plant another vineyard, Ciel du Cheval (see above), the partnership ended in 1994 very amicably both families remain friends to this day and both went on to great things.

Kiona – OG Red Mountain
The first Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon fruit was sold to Preston. Winemaker is Rob Griffin, now of Barnard Griffin Winery. “The conventional wisdom in the late 1970’s was that Washington was a first class white wine region with limited prospects for reds. My opinion on this point was permanently changed in 1978 with the opportunity to crush the first crop from Kiona Vineyard on Red Mountain. The depth of color and fruit intensity was definitely a revelation as to the potential for Washington Merlots and Cabernets. The fruit yielded wines of tremendous depth and intensity, real diamonds in the rough and a foreshadow of great things to come.” – Rob Griffin.

“For decades the Williams family has been farming classic varieties on Red Mountain, one of America’s great AVAs. They know the land like few others do, and their grapes reflect it.” Bob Betz, Master of Wine

Kiona – OG Red Mountain
Kiona is a family farm. Today, the third generation works the farm and makes the wine. They sell to the best wineries in the state and keep some of the best fruit for themselves. Today, all the land that can be planted with grapes is. But, one of the benefits in being the first to plant is that they can produce truly world class wine that is remarkably affordable.

Kiona – OG Red Mountain

Kiona – OG Red MountainExhibit A:
Kiona Estates Cuvee 2014
A new wine from some of the oldest grapes on Red Mountain (plus some Columbia Valley fruit). The Columbia Valley components bring acid, fruit, and drinkability, while the Red Mountain additions contribute depth, structure, and color. This is a terrific blend of Estate fruit, primarily Cabernet and Merlot with a little Syrah thrown in for good measure. This wine packs serious punch for the price! Holds up to wines twice or even three times the price!

Vineyards: 34% Vista, 23% Nine Canyon, 17% Emory, 15% Kiona Estate, 7% Heart of the Hill, 4% Ranch at the End of the Road
Composition: 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 21% Syrah, 4% Mourvèdre.

Now you can spend more money if you want to.  But a wine of this provenance is rarely seen at this price point.

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Grilled Sausage Pizza

Pizza is my favorite food. Maybe it’s because I am a baker at heart, but I love Pizza. I am not a Pizza snob, I have a very ecumenical approach to flatbread; I love traditional Naples style, Chicago, thin crust, thick crust, bring it on.

A couple of grilled pizza‘s, a big green salad, an antipasti plate and a couple of bottles of a lighter bodied red and you have yourself a party. There are number of great bottles out that are perfect for company and affordable enough for a party! Mason’s Red by Casey Coble is a perfect example.


Grilled Sausage Pizza Mason’s Red was created as a “food friendly” wine with generous acidity to complement all foods-except maybe breakfast cereal.  Enjoy Mason’s any night, whether you’re eating a fresh harvest from the farmers’ market, oven-fired pizza, or creamy sauces that demand a wine with a structure that cuts through with a pleasurable balance.  Mason’s is a Cinsault-based blend that changes every year-picking up the flavors and the personality of the winemaker, Casey Cobble

Hightower Murray Cuvee 2014 $14.99 

Grilled Sausage PizzaHightower’s entry red is a one of Washington State’s best red wine values! Layered and complex, with ripe blueberry and cassis flavors and hints of tobacco, Bing cherry and black currants. Murray a big genial Pup that loved parties!

If you have company pull out some nice stuff like a Bottle of Baer Star from Woodinville. Baer winery is a family run winery in Woodinville that has been making waves for number of years. The Baer Ursa has an almost cult like following, and since receiving 95 points and claiming the #6 spot on the Wine Spectator’s TOP 100, the Ursa has been getting harder and harder to get your hands on. The Baer Star is affectionately called the “Baby-Ursa’ around the shop, this new single vineyard blend from Baer is another Merlot driven blend and just plain delicious.

Grilled Pizza with Sausage Grilled Sausage Pizza

1 Cup Water
2 Tbl Olive Oil
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp salt
2 Cup (11oz) OO flour, plus more for work surface
Cornmeal for peal

1 14 oz Can Crushed tomatoes
1 Tbl Olive Oil
1 each Garlic clove, Minced or Pressed
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp Oregano

8 oz Sausage
4 oz Mozzarella, low moisture
4 oz Fontina
Red Pepper Julienne, for Garnish
Fresh Sage leaves, for garnish

1. In large mixing bowl combine water, sugar and yeast. Let bloom.
2. Add remaining ingredients and combine with hand. Let rest 30 min.
3. Punch down dough and need for a few minutes. Lest retard in refrigerator for 20 – 30 minutes.
4. Pull out and divide into two dough balls
5. Roll out dough into 12” circles.
6. In bowl combine Tomato, garlic, olive oil and seasoning
Prepare Charcoal fire or preheat Gas grill (medium Heat)
7. Lightly spread pizza peel with cornmeal and place one dough on peel
8. Slide dough off onto grill and grill 1 – 2 minutes
9. Remove from grill and invert onto peel
10. Spread precooked dough with Sauce and top with cheese and fresh sausage
11. Slide back onto grill and close cover and cook for another 3 – 4 minutes
12. Remove from grill and garnish with fresh sage and red pepper julienne

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