Italy’s Antinori Buys Out Its Partner at Washington’s Col Solare Winery

Washington’s Ste. Michelle Wine Estates continues to divest itself of wineries and brands. Wine Spectator has learned that Tuscany’s Marchesi Antinori has purchased sole ownership of Col Solare, a premium Washington winery the two companies launched as a 50-50 partnership in 1995. The sale includes the brand, a winery and 29 acres of vines. The price was not disclosed. Annual production is roughly 5,000 cases.

“Our family has been fascinated by the unique terroir of Red Mountain AVA since the early 90s. It’s an ongoing and exciting challenge for us to make Washington red wines distinctive and renowned for their high quality,” said Piero Antinori, chairman of Marchese Antinori, in a statement. “The full ownership of Col Solare, combined with the acquisition of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in 2023 in Napa Valley, is proof of how much we believe in these exceptional wine territories.”

Ste. Michelle’s partnership with Antinori was a breakthrough for Washington State, bringing it into the international wine arena. Col Solare, which is Italian for “shining hill,” has a winemaking approach that uniquely melds Italian and American techniques. The 29-acre estate vineyard is planted in the highly regarded Red Mountain appellation and includes five clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Merlot, Carmenère, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. A dedicated winery located on the estate vineyard opened in 2007.

“It was a privilege when Ste. Michelle partnered with Piero Antinori three decades ago to create Col Solare and grow it into an elite Washington winery, and we are thrilled the Antinori family will carry this legacy into the future,” Shawn Conway, CEO for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates said in a statement. “The fact that the Antinori family wants to grow their investment and commitment in Col Solare is a testament to the world-class quality, prestige and bright future of the Washington wine region.”

Ste. Michelle Is Pivoting and Shedding Brands

The sale of Col Solare is just the latest development at SMWE, which has been in a cost-cutting mode since 2020, when then-parent company Altria wrote off $292 million worth of wine it couldn’t sell.

After Sycamore Partners, a private equity firm, took control of SMWE in 2021, cuts only ramped up. It put the company’s high-profile Woodinville winery and chateau on the market and began cutting what will eventually be 40 percent of its grape contracts. Since it is Washington’s largest wine producer by far, it was devastating news to independent grape growers.

SMWE and Antinori ended a similar partnership in May 2023, when Antinori expanded its interest in Napa Valley’s iconic Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars to 85 percent. Antinori had been a minority partner at the winery since SMWE purchased it from founder Warren Winiarksi in 2007. And in March, SMWE sold Sonoma’s Patz & Hall winery back to co-founder James Hall and a small group of investors, just eight years after it purchased it from Hall and his former partners.

The Col Solare transaction is expected to close by the end of June.

Source : https://www.winespectator.com/articles/antinori-buys-col-solare