30 Jul 2010
What do you love about Spokane? For me, I love the green hills and mountains that stand in majestic contrast with the brilliant blue sky during the summer! While no city is perfect, Spokane is near nature and near perfect (hence the city tag line). Our mid-size metropolitan area runs at a peaceful slow pace while offering the culture of a larger urban hub. How many cities afford you the location to get in a round of golf, spend the afternoon on the lake, hike in the mountains, and enjoy world class restaurants, shopping and wine without driving all over the place?
This weekend two local wineries have very special announcements listed below. Stay connected to all things wine in the Spokane Weekend Wine Events listing that now includes “My Daily Wine” (a list of other wine activities that happen every day).
Take a tour of the local wineries. Most are open. Visit this link for hours, reviews, wine recommendations, videos and more. http://drinknectar.com/spokane-wine-tour/
- This week’s highlight winery is Barrister Winery. Greg Lipsker and Michael White have expanded their hours and announce a very cool new partnership with local restaurants to encourage wine local and dine local. Visit Spokane Wine Magazine for all the details and a brief video interview with Greg.
Friday, July 30
Wine Styles and Wings – Flamin’ Joe’s is co-sponsoring this event. You definitely have to be here! For $15 you get to try 5 different wings (Joe’s top 5 sellers) and 5 different wines to compliment each flavor; 6pm-9pm (Wine Club members $12.50) 8801 N Indian Trail Rd
Bottles on Argonne – Sleeping Dog Wines is a boutique winery located in Benton City, Washington. Larry overseas all aspects of the wine production from vine to bottle. He prefers wines that are robust and have intense berry flavors. 5-8pm 3319 N Argonne
Vino Wine Shop: Wine tasting with Buried Cane Wine from Washington 3:00-5:30pm; 222 S. Washington
Davenport Hotel: Live music from 8pm – midnight
Left Bank Wine Bar: Live music every Friday starting at 8pm, no cover – This week, enjoy music from Mark Ward. Left Bank is located at 108 N Washington.
Huckleberry’s Natural Market will be featuring Latah Creek winery from 5-7pm 926 S. Monroe
Saturday, July 31
Nodland Cellars: A lost case of Bebop Riesling is discovered ($25); only 2 cases of Walla Walla Cab remain ($40 for DrinkNectar fans); and a contest to win a bottle of 2006 Reserve Blend. Nodland is only open from Noon – 4pm Saturday. This wine will not last long! 11616 E Montgomery
Vino Wine: Saturday wine tasting Wine Finds under $9 (wow, great deals here) 2-4:30; 222 S. Washington
Rocket Market: Saturday drop in tasting from 3-6pm: Direct import Chilean wine values with representative, Joel Cook! 726 E. 43rd Ave
Rocket Market: Live music at 7pm – Bill and Kathy Kostelec are known for their progressive folk group, with songs steeped in social commentary, along with love songs, children’s songs and instrumentals. 726 E. 43rd Ave
Left Bank Wine Bar – Live music with Michael Lenke. While you’re there ask Jen to make you a special wine flight. She’ll surprise your taste buds. 108 N. Washington
Huckleberry’s Natural Market: Featuring Grande Ronde winery 2-4pm for their bi-weekly wine tastings. 926 S. Monroe
Liberty Lake and Vintage Hill are all open. Why do I post this…well, because these guys are only open seasonally or until they sell out!
Sunday, August 1
Get out to a winery! – Always a handful of Spokane wineries open. Enjoy! Call first because of the holiday. (Trezzi, Townshend, Lone Canary, Mountain Dome and Caterina are open)
Arbor Crest Summer Concert Series – The Ryan Larson Band will perform 5:30 to dusk; $5 cover. Arbor Crest has 2007 Sauvignon Blanc on sale for 50% off and wine club members now get 30% off of the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. Both wines pair perfectly with Spokane summer.
NEW FEATURE: My Daily Wine
I realize it can be tough to wait until the weekend to wine. Thankfully there are wine events happening the other days of the week too. Take a look at what is happening with My Daily Wine.
- MONDAY – FRIDAY: Happy Hour at Nikos with Pauline $2 Glass of Wine (1 red, 1 white), $2 off any glass, $2 off any flight and $2 beer. Happy Hour is 4-6pm and 9-close.
- MONDAY: Always Mimosa Monday at Wine Styles 8801 N Indian Trail Rd
- TUESDAY: Davenport Hotel $12 Tuesday Wine tasting from 5-7pm in the Historic Lobby. All paired with appetizers from the Palm Court Grill! Also ½ price bottles of wine in the Peacock room and Palm Court.
- WEDNESDAY: It’s “Wine Down Wednesday!” 50% off wines at The Melting Pot
- THURSDAY: Arbor Crest free music Thursday. No cover charge, enjoy wine and music every Thursday with one of Spokane’s best views. 5:30-7:30 at the Cliff House.
- Wine Styles Yakima Valley Red Mountain Tour – August 1st and 2nd (Sunday and Monday) we will be bussing down to Prosser for an incredible Wine Tour! For $130 you get transportation, lodging at the Best Western Inn at Horse Heaven, and over 15 tasting rooms and wineries within walking distance. Monday, we will head to Desert Wind Vineyard, Kiona Vineyards Winery for a catered lunch and then off to Hedges Family Estates Winery. This is a great time to enjoy some great wine and meet wine enthusiasts like yourself! Call 509-468-WINE for more details. Sign up soon!
- First Friday Art Walk: A signature monthly event through downtown Spokane that showcases wine, art, music and more. 5-8pm (unless otherwise noted)
- Painting With Spirits: Liberty Lake Wine Cellars hosts this popular program where you can learn to paint while sipping some wine. For $55 participants enjoy three hours of painting lessons with wine and the great views of Liberty Lake. Call to sign up; 255-9205 Aug 7 1-4pm
- Ghetto Gourmand – August 27; The underground food scene gets hot with Hot Summer Nights featuring Sante Chef / Owner Jeremy Hansen. Don’t miss this fun and unique food experience. $125 each
- The Wine Soiree - September 9 at Beacon Hill, the Spokane Symphony Associates presents an enchanting evening with the Kathleen Cavender Band
- Vino Wine Dinner with Masselow’s at Northern Quest Resort and Casino – September 19; 5:30 PM – Contact www.vinowine.com 800.826.5674
- Valley Fest: A celebration in the valley that includes a parade, entertainment, wine/beer garden, a fun run, classic car show and “Taste of the Valley” on Saturday night! – September 24-26
- March of Dimes Signature Chef – Enjoy an intimate dinner with local celebrity chefs and wine. This elegant evening includes one of a kind auction items that benefit the local March of Dimes efforts to help save babies from pre-mature birth. October 2, 6-10pm at the Lincoln Center, $100
- Save the date for Cork & Keg (Nov 13) and Holiday Wine Festival (Nov 19-21)
30 Jul 2010
Nodland Cellars is making some really cool stuff! In this blogger’s opinion, you would be hard pressed to find a better traditional Bordeaux style blend than the 2006 Red Blend from Nodland Cellars. The wine caught my attention at Taste Washington (Seattle) and I sent 3 of my fellow wine writing friends over to try it. It made two of their “top lists” for the day. When I was in Walla Walla for the 2010 Wine Blogger’s Conference, I chose one wine to share with friends, the 2006 Nodland Private Blend. After a long day of tasting I opened the bottle at a party with some very discriminating palates. The result, “This is the most well balance wine I’ve had since I’ve been here.”
There is no doubt about it; Tim and Tracy Nodland are making some killer juice. Chances are you haven’t tried it. You now have an exclusive opportunity to try some very limited wine.
Limited Bebop Riesling
- Last week, Tim e-mailed me and wanted to let DrinkNectar fans know that he discovered a lost case of 2005 Bebop Riesling. The previous vintages have sold out in short order and this vintage has been off the books for over a year. With less than 12 bottles remaining, you have a great opportunity to get a true hand crafted masterpiece that is aging very well! Nodland is offering this highly collectible wine at the same price it was released at, only $25.
A DrinkNectar Deal for Everyone
- Earlier in the year, DrinkNectar shared the exclusive release of the 2006 Walla Walla Reserve Cabernet Sauvigon. With a case production of under 40, this is a truly special wine! Less than 24 bottles remain of this amazing wine. Originally released at $45, DrinkNectar has subsidized a deal just for you! Mention DrinkNectar and you can have the wine for only $40! Pays to be a fan, eh?
Be A Nodland Fan and You Could Win
- Finally, you can win the amazing 2006 Private Blend. Here is how it works, go to the Nodland Cellars Facebook page and become their fan. Since Facebook is a weird animal, let us know you “fanned” them by emailing me at email@example.com (or you can comment on this blog because your email is added here). One lucky DrinkNectar fan will walk away with an amazing bottle of wine. Everyone else…you get a great deal on other Nodland wine.
The Riesling won’t last long (neither will the 2006 Reserve Cabernet). Nodland Cellars will be open from Noon – 4PM. This will most likely be the last weekend ever for both of these amazing wines. Please, for the sake of all things wine – go be a Nodland fan, sign up to win and go get your wine!
29 Jul 2010
“If you do what you always do, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten” (A. Robbins). In an ever changing world of economics, customer attention deficit disorder, and perceptions this quote doesn’t quite ring 100% true. Just because you’ve always been successful selling your wine the moment you open your doors, doesn’t mean you always will be. In today’s world it’s not even about having the highest quality product, or the slickest advertising. Success comes from one word…engagement. The more engaging you or your brand is, the more attractive you will be. The more people attracted to you…well, then you just have a windfall of success.
Can a winery use social media to create engagement that leads to real sales? Many are still skeptical, but I present to you exhibit A: Old Spice body wash. Old Spice is not a super sexy product, in fact they were getting beat up in the market by a hip and aggressive ad blitz from Axe body sprays and washes. Enter a quirky Super Bowl commercial featuring Portland, OR born former NFL wide receiver (go Seahawks) Isaiah Mustafa. From February through June, a string of commercials brought brand awareness but generated minimal engagement. In fact, sales were down about 7% (ref. SymphonyIRI). A stroke of creative brilliance emerged from the marketing firm of Wieden + Kennedy. The calculated risk of using viral media like Twitter, Facebook and Social media created a firestorm of engagement that propelled the Facebook fan page to 725,000 “likes” and over 110 million video views. The brief campaign of 180 recorded video responses to “fans” set traditional marketing on its ear. The results, a one month sales gain of 107% (Nielson Research).
New World, Old Spice Lessons for Engagement
Be Creative with Your Story
What’s the message of Old Spice? The body wash will make you a sexy manly man that can rip the head off a lion while wearing only a towel. What is the story of your winery? Is it “get 20% off of Sauvignon Blanc through Thursday?” While Old Spice’s message was a crazy, quirky message, it was the creativity of telling it that engaged new customers. Once you have an engaged customer base, they’ll respond to your sales pitch. Your story doesn’t have to be crazy and quirky but it does need to be creative. One very positive example that I see in Washington State is small producer Hard Row to Hoe. They have tied their creative play on words into their label, wine names, marketing copy, tasting room, and even their bathroom wallpaper. Ben Simons of Vinotology recently did a great job summarizing their creative approach in his post “Good Wine, Prostitutes and Capitalism.” Hard Row has positioned themselves for a viral media campaign that could quickly send them to the next level in wine sales.
Be Consistent (and patient) with Your Message
Old Spice didn’t jump out of the gate with this campaign just yesterday. We were first introduced to Old Spice Guy in February 2010 during the Super Bowl. The kitschy message continued for several months and we developed a trust and acceptance of it. Chances are if the July campaign came out in February, it may have fallen flat. Introduce your creative campaign and build acceptance of it. You’ve got a wine in barrel right now. What is it going to become? It won’t be released for several months, but the right creative message can build a buzz for that barrel that when it’s released, you’ll have built in demand.
Engage Influencers in your Industry
It’s no accident that Old Spice engaged Kevin Rose, Ellen DeGeneres, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore and Alyssa Milano. These celebrities are active on Twitter and helped their message go viral. Answering a question from Josh at DrinkNectar may have been fun, but chances are Old Spice Guy would have had better success in the wine world with Gary Vaynerchuk. When considering your message, look for the influential people in your area of wine. Sean Sullivan of www.wawinereport.com has a way different area of influence than Dezel Quillen of www.myvinespot.com. Rick Bakas says, “This is a tip you hear from social media marketers across the board. You have to find and engage with people in social media who can amplify your message quickly.”
You’ve got your creative story, you’ve been consistent and patient with the message, now it’s time to engage people who can help you get the word out. If it’s creative and they trust you, they’ll be happy to help!
A key to the Old Spice campaign was that it was viral in its creation. It was easy to share and easy to consume. The use of YouTube videos that were less than 60 seconds ensured that people would watch them and share them. Throw out your two page press releases and five minute winery feature videos and create something short, fun (or meaningful) and engaging. Tell a story and make a connection. Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars created a fun video (Sommelier Starts a Winery) that went viral with over 20,000 views (pretty significant in the wine community). Personally, I think Gramercy could have capitalized on this momentum that could have led to a really cool and engaging campaign.
Leah Hennessy of Millennier.com (wine for millennials) wraps it up nicely in her latest post, “Go be creative and awesome. If you’re not creative and awesome, find someone who is. A few months from now I want to be writing about a video like this (not referring to Old Spice, but could be) for a wine. And you know what? I will. Maybe I’ll just make it myself. If you want in, let me know.”
28 Jul 2010
Budweiser may be the “King of Beers” but it has nothing on Cabernet, the King of wine. Okay, yes I realize Barolo has been deemed the “wine of the kings,” but in America, King of Rock is Elvis, the King of Pop is Michael Jackson the King of burgers is Burger King and the KING of wine is Cabernet! I have to admit, I love the king!
Last week we explored the noble queen of wine, Pinot Noir. Each of the lovely ladies paraded their wears without shame. They pranced across the stage seeking to be chosen for the night. Some pushed forward their lush fruit while others were coy and playful with a velvet touch. The same night, five big bold king Cabernet sat across the room posturing for position. With their broad shoulders, each stood erect, claiming their dominance over the other.
In the previous review, Signorello Estate Vineyards stood proud and represented two of the five Cabernet Sauvignon. Today we explore two more California Cabernet based wines and one Walla Walla rock star! Of the five, who is crowned the king of kings?
Do You Love Cabernet? Rick Bakas of St. Supery Winery is hosting worldwide Cabernet day on September 2. Use the #Cabernet hash tag when posting on Facebook, Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter, blogs and all the other sites you hang out on. You’ll be able to connect and chat with other Cab drinkers around the world that day. I’ll be there! If you’ve never participated in an online tasting, it is an amazing experience as hundreds (and potentially thousands) of wine lovers share their passions. Drink.Share.Connect.
2007 Edge Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, aged 16 months in a combination of new French and American oak; extended maceration; 14.4%ABV
- The Swirl: Lush plum color with good color to the edges. A nice ruby jewel tone refracts in the light.
- The Sniff: A shy nose that offers up hints of oak and dried cherries. Over time the nose softened and reacted very well to aeration bringing out better aromas of pepper and brier.
- The Sip: A darker feeling Cabernet that showcases dark blackberry fruit, cloves, tobacco and vanilla. Looking for bright cherry fruit and full tannin? You won’t find it here, but the wine offers a medium balance and an average finish for the price point.
- The Score: At just $20 retail, this is a good tasting wine that will pair well with hearty steak, blue cheese sirloin burgers, and testarossa pizza. The Edge provides enough layers of flavor and structure to feel more expensive than $20. 3/5
Other Scores: 90 points Wine Enthusiast; Cellar Tracker 88.2 with 18 reviews
2007 L’Ecole 41 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 100% Cabernet from Seven Hills, Loess, Va Piano, Pepper Bridge, and Yellow Jacket vineyards; aged 22 months in 40% new oak; 2300 cases produces; 14.5%ABV
- The Swirl: Bright crimson and plum in color with slightly thin edges
- The Sniff: The fruit seems to be somewhat absent from the nose as dusty earth, spice pepper and cocoa float from the glass
- The Sip: Hello fruit, I’m glad you decided to join us. A full rich and thick cherry fruit mixed with hints of plum and white pepper. There is flavor that moves across all areas of your mouth that make this for a fun sipping experience. The tannin is mild and the acidity and finish are medium.
- The Score: At $40, this is a high quality, well layered Cab that reminds you of why Walla Walla is so great. $40 is fairly steep for a large percentage of people but know that you can trust this label (not to be confused with the Columbia Valley version) to be a special wine for parties, gifts, or a celebratory dinner. 4/5
2006 Fuse Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 75% Cabernet and 25% Syrah; cold soaking and extended maceration; aged 16 months in French and American oak; 6,000 cases produced; 14.1%ABV
- The Swirl: A very smooth velvet plum color that presents itself as about 90% opaque; a slight tanning from age is presenting itself at the edges.
- The Sniff: A very big and bright aromatic nose that has a perfume exotic spice, lavender, and big cherry fruit. A beautiful marriage of Syrah and Cabernet
- The Sip: Starts off with a cedar / oak attack that almost immediately softens to a very full and round velvet cherry mid-palate. Subtle spices of nutmeg and baking spice jump up on the back end with the medium tannin and lingering finish.
- The Score: At only $25 the beautiful fusion of Cabernet and Syrah are showcased in the 06 Fuse. The blend highlights positive aspects of each grape and comes together to create a fantastic blend. 3+/5
Cellar Tracker 88 points in 12 reviews; 4 Stars Vines Magazine
Blind Cabernet Showdown
The Signorello reds participated in a blind Cabernet tasting that included a 2007 Walla Walla L’Ecole 41, The Edge and Fuse. The wines were bagged and tagged and 12 participants were asked to rate them with 1 being their favorite and 5 being their least favorite. The interesting results (from lowest to highest) are below:
- 2006 Signorello Estate Cab ($50) – Avg Score 3.8 – Received 4’s with a 2 and a 5
- 2007 Edge Cab ($20) – Avg Score 3.6 – Received several 2’s and several 5’s
- 2007 Fuse Cab ($25) – Avg Score 3.5 – Received all 3’s and 4’s
- 2007 L’Ecole 41 Cab ($32) – Avg Score 2.2 – Received mostly 2’s with a 1 and a 5
- 2006 Signorello Padrone ($110) – Avg Score 1.3 – Received all 1’s and a 2 (almost unanimous)
*Wines were provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
27 Jul 2010
I recently visited the two lone Spokane restaurants that received a nod in the 2010 Wine Spectator “Restaurant Wine List Awards.” As I perused the lists, it got me thinking, “What makes a good wine list?” I refuse to pay for wine rags subscriptions like Spectator and Enthusiast when good information is available for free, so I went Googling (sort of like fishing but for information). After a few casts of the line, I pulled back some very interesting insights. I added my own ideas to compile my thoughts on what makes a good restaurant wine list.
If you’re looking for a rant on restaurant pricing visit Wine: Ripped Off and Ticked Off for a fun read (one of my most viewed and commented posts to date).
Size – It’s Not the Size of Your List It’s how You Use It
Sure, we’ve all heard this before, but when it comes to restaurant wine lists, size doesn’t matter. Actually, there comes a point when too big just hurts…to read. Restaurants need to balance inventory and overhead with service and selection. Too small and you’ll leave the customer feeling unsatisfied and longing for more. Too big and they’ll be overwhelmed and afraid to take it all in (yes, pun intended…I’ve got to make it interesting). I recently visited restaurants that fit into each of these categories. One was a local place that boasted a whopping 8 wines by the glass. To be honest it wasn’t the lack of selection that bothered me as much as the lack of consideration for the list. Put Beringer and Sutter Homes on your list and my chances of returning to your establishment are significantly reduced.
The second restaurant, (in the city of the rising bird) lured us with their impressive stature of over 3,000 bottles. Their “everyday” menu was a fine selection of flights and glass pours, but we had a group of 20 and wanted to order several bottles. The waitress returned with a wine “bible.” We sifted through the poorly organized list and attempted to decipher the layout. After several attempts and with some guidance from the waitress we made our selection. Not once, not twice, not three times, but four of our choices were “out of stock.” Finally we settled for several run of the mill selections that you could find at BevMo the next block down.
If you’ve got a small list, you need to work it. It needs to be well thought out and have some special attention paid to make it perform. If your list is well endowed, make sure you rein it in and present it in a way that is easy to handle. Clearly marked page headings, categories, and themes will make the experience more enjoyable. If you want to really stand out, you can go “high-tech” like this wine bar in New York City that has a full interactive bar where users can select by variety, region, price, and more!
Make Sure Your List is Dressed Appropriately
How does the saying go, “No white shoes after labor day?” Your wine list should be dressed appropriately. What I’m getting at is make sure the curtains match the drapes. If you’re a down to earth American fair place, don’t stock your wine list with French Bordeaux and Italian Super Tuscan and if you’re gourmet Italian, you may want to pay special attention and bring in some small lot wines from Trentino, Veneto and Tuscany. Yes, this will require some attention. No, you probably won’t be able to use the same distributor for everything.
Additionally, design a list that has specific wine and food pairings. I’ve really enjoyed restaurants that have suggested wine listings paired with each menu item. This, along with the tasting notes, gives me a sense of confidence that someone on the staff took special care to pair the two items together.
If I Wanted To Get Screwed I’d Rent a High Priced Hooker
My apologies for being so vulgar, but nothing says bend over more than seeing a bottle of Dancing Bull Zinfandel on a list for $30+. I understand the need to balance profits, overhead, storage and loss but gouging customers for a $10 retail / $6 wholesale bottle of wine is wrong. Many restaurants are starting to wise up as they see people order water or beer with their dinners. Personally, I’m impressed when I see an honest $15-$18 for that same bottle of Dancing Bull. At that price I’m more inclined to buy the bottle.
There is one brave restaurant in town that actually sells their wines by the bottle at retail. Bless their heart! I have no problem ordering a large calzone and a bottle of Kiona Cab/Merlot for only $12. As I looked through one of the Wine Spectator “Award” recipient lists from the area, I was very impressed at their price ratio. I randomly chose 10 wines and found that the majority were under the standard double mark up (average was $20 retail / $36 restaurant) however, a few were a little disproportionate in charge.
The Devil Is In the Details
Sweat the small stuff. Even if you’re a burger or pizza joint you should pay attention to your wine list. For those places I suggest going local and staying in an appropriate price range $15-$30 per bottle. Pay attention to the details. Make sure your list is up to date. You can put Bud Light or Apple Martini on a list and it pretty much never changes. Wine vintages and “stats” change with every new release. Your list should always include grape variety (Pinot Noir, Cab, Red Blend), year, producer, region (Napa, Alsace, Walla Walla) and of course price. You get bonus points if you’ve taken the time to offer tasting notes (preferably your own).
Other Random Tips for a Great Wine List
- Support your local wine scene – I recently visited New York City and not one restaurant carried wine from New York (in spite of the state being the fourth largest producer of wine in the country).
- Train your staff – Nothing is more frustrating than a wait staff that can tell their Pinot Noir from their Pinot Grigio. Take the time to bring your staff up to speed on the stereotypical food / wine pairings. If you’re going for a high-class vibe where a lot of wine will be sold, it is strongly recommended that you send your staff to a wine class.
- Don’t be a snob – It’s just booze, let people enjoy it. If you’ve got a large list of wines, make sure you have price points and styles for people of all price levels and wine knowledge. I’m coming to your restaurant to enjoy myself, not feel intimidated.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help – If wine is not your thing, enlist the help of your distributors (but be aware they have product to move and may not always have your best interest in mind), contact a local wine store, or contact your local wine blogging celebrity (if there is such a thing), we’re always happy to give our opinion.
There you have it, my take on what makes a great restaurant wine list. What other ideas do you have? I’d love to hear your thoughts, or examples of places that’ve got it right. By the way, congratulations to Ambrosia Bistro and Wine Bar and Max at Mirabeau for being recognized for their stand out wine lists in Spokane, WA.