Col Solare winemaker heads to Napa Valley

Andy Perdue, Special to the HeraldMay 29, 2013 

Marcus Notaro, longtime head winemaker for Col Solare on Red Mountain outside West Richland, will be moving to one of the Napa Valley's most famous wineries, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars.

COURTESY STE. MICHELLE WINE ESTATES

Marcus Notaro will be moving from the crown jewel of Red Mountain to one of the Napa Valley's most famous wineries.

Notaro, longtime head winemaker for Col Solare on Washington's Red Mountain, has been named head winemaker for Stag's Leap Wine Cellars on the famed Silverado Trail.

"I love the wines we make here," Notaro told Great Northwest Wine. "But that is an iconic California property. How can you not go?"

Both wineries are co-owned by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Washington and Marchesi Antinori of Tuscany.

Notaro has been the head winemaker at Col Solare for the past 10 years. He started his Washington winemaking career in 1995, working for Columbia Crest in Paterson.

Col Solare began in 1995 as an international collaboration between Washington's oldest winery and one of Italy's most famous wine dynasties. The Antinoris are on their 26th generation of family winemakers, dating back to the 1380s, while Ste. Michelle's roots go to 1934, soon after Prohibition was repealed. The two companies produced Col Solare -- a single Cab-based blend -- at Chateau Ste. Michelle until building a $6 million facility near the top of Red Mountain outside West Richland. It opened in 2007.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars' story begins in 1970, when Warren Winiarski launched the winery in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. His 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon finished on top of the famed 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting, when 11 French wine experts rated it above such classic Bordeaux as Haut-Brion and Mouton-Rothschild.

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Antinori purchased Stag's Leap in 2007 for a reported $185 million.

With Col Solare, Notaro works closely with Renzo Cotarello, Antinori's chief enologist. He expects that relationship to continue at Stag's Leap.

"Renzo is (at Stag's Leap) three or four times per year to be involved in tastings and blending," Notaro said. "I've really enjoyed making wine together with Renzo and am thrilled to continue to do that."

Notaro replaces Nicki Pruss, who worked at Stag's Leap beginning in 1998 and became its head winemaker in 2005. She left the winery this spring. Ste. Michelle and Antinori have not announced a replacement for Notaro. He said he plans to spend time at both properties for the next few weeks before moving to California.

The University of Washington graduate is a little intimidated about taking responsibility for winemaking where America's most famous red wine was made.

"I'm following in the footsteps of an American legend," Notaro said of Winiarski. "I enjoy the challenge in Washington, and I look forward to the same challenge to express the vineyards in California."

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-- Andy Perdue is the editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company; www.greatnorthwestwine.com.

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