I Practice What I Preach!

The 6Th Thoughtless Gift!

Thought That counts

I have said it over and over and will start saying it over and over again as we get into the Gift Buying Season. The reasoning that consumers buy Wines And Spirits that are commercially available in every single Restaurant and Retailer and the Reason the person you are buying for tells you this is their FAVORITE brand of Vodka, Scotch, Wine, Or Beer, Is because THAT’S ALL THEY HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO. Unique products like ABC Fine Sells as part of their “Sourced and Certified Wines and Spirits” Are NOT, I Repeat NOT Going to be requested by the Recipient that you are buying a supposed GIFT for because unless they are frequent regulars at one of ABC’s  stores or one of the other retailers who also offer a selection of UNIQUE non commercial brands, how can they request something they don’t know??? So if someone says they like Italian Wine and they give you a name of a Chianti that is sold everywhere, I am here to try reason with you that is not what I would consider a “GIFT”. That old saying “It’s the THOUGHT that Counts” is so true when it comes to gift giving. You want the reaction of “Where or How did they get that”?? I am not suggesting that if they ask for a brand of Scotch you buy them a bottle of GIN but I am strongly suggesting instead of buying the brand they requested that is commercially available even at Drug Stores that have liquor stores, you buy them the category they requested, like Scotch in this case, but you buy them one that they would never buy for themselves and WOW them till you get the reaction of “WHERE DID YOU GET THAT”?

My Wine Sales Manager Paul Quaglini (Way too many shoutouts for Paul lately lol) GETS THAT!. Every Birthday he shows up with a bottle of wine that I may have heard of or not but I couldn’t just walk into a store or online and buy it myself. I don’t care about the price, it is about the effort he went to every year to 1- never bring me a California Wine… (We all know I don’t drink them) and if he brings domestic wines he brings Washington State but not one of the Brands I can buy myself but something unique. If he walked in with even a $100 bottle but it was something that sells everywhere, I would be gracious and thank him but I would feel slightly disappointed that he didn’t go out of his way to put some THOUGHT into the bottle that was difficult to locate. That my loyal readers and regulars…. is what makes it a “GIFT” … I decided to open up the GIFT he gave me last birthday and review it.

2006 Col Solare “Shining Hill”

Shining Front

Shining Rear

Col Solare for years vintage after vintage used to be my go to Washington State Wine. It is a Collaboration between Italy’s Marchesi Antinori and Washington State’s Chateau Ste Michelle. More importantly 1- The Fruit was all red mountain. 2- It was made by Marcus Notaro. When Antinori first saw the sun set over Red Mountain he said in his Italian Accent “That is A Beautiful Shining Hill” Shining Hill in Italian is Col Solare. The winery started making a second label at 1/2 the price and more affordable called “Shining Hill”. It was very tough to get unless you visited the winery. Col Solare eventually moved shop to their very own brand new state of the art facility and ALL OF THE FRUIT came FROM THEIR ESTATE. Production was  lower but yet the wine got better and better. Chateau Ste Michelle owns a lot of other wineries such as Columbia Crest, 14 Hands, Red Diamond, etc etc and Stags Leap Wine Cellars .. the makers of Napa Valley’s Artemis, Fay, SLV etc. These wines were falling apart and getting bashed by reviewers everywhere as being overpriced and poor quality. I agreed. Ste Michelle had to make a tough call. Marcus Notaro to the Rescue…

Shining Hill Marcus

Above is Marcus and it brings tears to my eyes. He is now and has been for the last 5 years or more the Head Winemaker of Stags Leap Wine Cellars in Napa. I must admit his talent and expertise from Washington State, fixed most of these wines that were falling apart and Artemis is drinkable now but still like all Napa Wines in my opinion, still overpriced. Darel Allwine (Yes that is his real name took over as winemaker at Col Solare. Nothing against Darel who is a talented winemaker but the Col Solare wines have become too commercial and I have moved on since Marcus Left.

Paul’s GIFT To Me

2006 Shining Hill Red Blend Review

Shining Glass

After all that and saying I am kind of over Col Solare and Shining Hill what made Paul’s Bottle of Wine a “GIFT” and not just a bottle of wine of a known brand name. 2006 was a very historical year for Col Solare. It was the FIRST vintage of their wines that were grown and produced in their Brand New Facility. Second of all, Marcus Notaro made the wine still. It might have been his last vintage. Now That’s A GIFT!!! I almost didn’t want to drink it but at the 10 year mark if it were Napa I could throw it away but at 12 years I knew Washington State would be at it’s peak drinking point.

The 2006 growing season was marked by extreme weather patterns, including a wet and cool spring and a long, hot, dry summer. These factors contributed to excellent acid levels in the grapes, balanced canopies, and small, concentrated berries with bold flavors.  Vinification Grapes were sorted, then gently crushed, with lots fermented separately on the skins for an average of seven to 10 days. A variety of fermentation techniques (both punchdown and pumpover) were used to extract the best flavors. The wine was removed from the skins and placed into 62% French and 38% American oak barrels, all new. Racking occurred every three months during the 16-month aging period, and the international winemaking team of Resident
Winemaker Marcus Notaro and Co-Winemakers Doug Gore and Renzo Cotarella tasted through the best wine lots to create the final blend of Merlot (56%), Cabernet Sauvignon (36%), and Syrah (8%).  Beautiful Dark Ruby in the glass and you can see a very distinct lighter pink on the edge due to it’s 12 years of age. I think the nose and the palate on this wine showed the profiles of each of the 3 grapes used on this Baby Col Solare better known as Shining Hill. I picked up after opening for an hour, aromas of dark black fruits especially Bing Cherry and Black Plums from the Merlot, and Black Currants and Blackberry from the Cabernet and a hint of roasted meats from the Syrah and a little hints of the smoke from the Char of the Oak Barrels. On my palate, total rich silkiness of intense fruits mostly cherry gliding to a finish of hints of spice and dark cocoa with almost no existent tannins on the finish. Why no Tannin? That is an indicator the wine was at it’s peak and wasn’t going to get any better if I kept it and may actually not have made it another year. It still had intensity but this wine needed to be drank and not hold any longer. I will score this wine 90 out of 100 but only because it was lacking some complexity but not the fault of the winemaker but a wine that had hit it’s peak. It was a very nostalgic experience for me thinking of all the years I have drank Col Solare wines made by Marcus and who I drank them with.

The Summary

At $35 per bottle for a Washington State Wine I think it showed good quality to price ratio. I think any 2006 Napa of even 1/2 the quality of this Shining Hill would be easily over $60 per bottle. Being #CaptainWashington, I know there are over 1100 wineries producing in my opinion, the best value and best quality wines not only in this county but in the WORLD! Although I stopped drinking these wines after Marcus Notaro left and I always wondered what the wines he made from the brand new facility would be like. I even searched on line and not one online retailer had a 2006 Shining Hill made by Marcus Notaro and his team at the new Col Solare facility. What I drank was Unique. The thought Paul put into locating this for me or out of his small wine cellar gave me the opportunity to enjoy this delicious aged silky pleasure. All my brain kept thinking from each sip I took of that wine was “Where did He Get This” I felt so appreciated that he gave me that on my birthday last year. That my FRIENDS IS THE REACTION YOU WANT From your Secret Santa, or your Brother in law or your boss or your significant other or on New Year’s Eve when choosing a Champagne. I strongly recommend you DO NOT buy the person what they ask for as far as commercialized brands… buy that category but give them something that will get that reaction I got…that shows you put some thought into their “GIFT” As you can see what I drink or what people who know me give me for presents. I PRACTICE WHAT I PREACH..

Grape-fully yours, Larry

The Brand New Facility Col Solare

Shining HIll Winery



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