Caution: This post will be lengthy and may contain small stains of tear drops on the screen.
I’ve been putting off writing this post for quite some time. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was November 10, 2009 and I just finished reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crush It – Why Now is the Time to Cash in on Your Passions. I was filled with ideas. I was buzzing with energy. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I knew I had to take the steps to make my passions become my life.
DrinkNectar.com wine blog was born
I had no idea exactly where things were going to go. I started a Twitter account. I started a Facebook page. I went to GoDaddy and bought the domain name, drinknectar.com and started playing around with my limited knowledge of WordPress. I remember thinking that someday I hope a few hundred people know about this little blog and it helps bring customers in to whatever business I attempt to open.
Little did I know that this little wine blog would lead me on this crazy six year journey, the acquisition of a catering company, opening a second location and already making plans for locations 3, 4 and 5. Little did I know that this journey would introduce me to some of the most amazing friends, employees and even the most incredible woman I have ever met.
A few months into blogging I started seeing numbers increase to a few hundred page views a month. I remember celebrating 1000 Twitter followers. I enjoyed my nightly interaction with the Twitterverse. I met Ben from @Vinotology, Joe from @1WineDude, Joe from @SuburbanWino, the Casey’s from @michiganbythebottle and thousands more. As odd as it sounds these tweeters became my friends and increased my wine knowledge daily. As I continued to interview local wineries, wine shops, and wine bars I got the pleasure of meeting pioneers in our industry, Mike Conway of Latah Creek and the Van Loben Sels of Arbor Crest. I got business insight from John Allen (Vino!) and wine education from Pauline Riley (remember Nikos). It became an obsession to produce new content every day for the increasing audience.
A group of bloggers and I created an amazing viral wine tasting event called #WAMerlot. We were warriors of the interwebs flying high the flag of Washington Wine. Thanks @seattlewinegal, @wawinereport, @clivity (and dozens more)!
As I continued to write about the local wine scene, give wine reviews and debate on the importance and validity of wine scores I saw numbers increase to thousands of page views a month, then thousands of page views a week and occasionally, thousand page views a day. When I was hoping that a few hundred people would know about this little blog, drinknectar.com was getting 15,000 to 20,000 page views per month. We were ranked in the top 10 for every major category in the wine world. It was CRAZY.
The time on Twitter (and Facebook) introduced me to some amazing wineries and people. I met Skylite Cellars because their owner Cheryl Hodgins was tweeting. I met Hard Row to Hoe because of Don’s Twitter activity. Both Anelare and Northwest Cellars were introduced to me through Facebook friend Rebecca (Templeton) Gaudio.
I had interviewed almost every local winery on the blog. I was loving being a small part of exposing more people to the quality wine that was being produced in Spokane. One night I woke up in the middle of the night with the crazy idea of turning those blog posts into a magazine. Why not tackle the world of print? I put together my proposals and went to the Spokane Winery Association, VisitSpokane and BHW1. While I may have seemed crazy, their support was incredible. Someone introduced me to this small creative firm, Rainmaker Marketing and the rest is history. Billie Gaura and her team became the driving force of Spokane Wine Magazine (two issues) and I couldn’t have opened what became Nectar Tasting Room without them. Billie and her husband Kevin became my surrogate parents as my marriage was ending.
One day I was walking downtown and noticed a for lease sign in a very attractive old building close to Riverfront Park. The historic 1889 building had been vacant for years. I peered in the windows and knew immediately that this was it! I reached out to my winery friends and pitched them the idea of a co-op of 5 Washington wineries. They would share the cost of the lease, I would run the space, manage the employees, take care of the marketing, etc. The revenue split was minimal so for everyone involved it was a low risk / low reward proposition. I pitched the idea to 6 or 7 wineries. Two were in from the first phone call, one took a little while to crunch the numbers, on bugged me to be involved and the final winery took a while to come together.
I signed the lease for 120 N. Stevens in mid-October 2010. I had no idea what the fuck I was doing. The landlord was very generous with their guidance and navigating City Hall. I encountered several delays and fought bureaucratic red tape with a tweet and a blog. Finally, the day came. Thursday, January 6 2011 was the first day I turned the open sign on. I had no official employees, just volunteers. A steady stream of friends and family came in to show their support. The space wasn’t 100% done but it was fun leading wine tastings from our iPad menus. It was actually happening. Then came First Friday, January 7. Pure blissful chaos (check out the video) We were packed from 5pm to well past 10pm. My poor volunteers barely knew how to run the cash register let alone knew how to handle 4 people deep at the bar. It became clear, very quickly, that I needed help.
Nectar Tasting Room wouldn’t have existed without the vision, support and involvement of the five co-op wineries. I will forever count these people as friends and partners in any success I have. Thank you Kahryn and Forrest (Anelare), Bob (Northwest Cellars), Mike and family (Coyote Canyon), Don and Judy (Hard Row to Hoe), Tom and Cheryl, Greg and Ashley (Skylite Cellars) and Keith, Renee and all the crew at Terra Blanca.
I could go on and on about the days, weeks and months that followed. The best part of Nectar has been its employees. Sulo Abeid (first person I ever hired), Breanne Gordon (first person to ever work for me because Sulo had just had a baby), Ben Hilzinger – oh Benny I will always cherish our times sitting on the couch watching SNL. You became a friend to me when I really needed it. You also became the face of the Tasting Room with very big shoes to fill. Christina – what can I say, you must be a glutton for punishment because you’ve stayed by my side for almost six years. I love you and I am so proud of you. Ben (2.0), I am so fortunate to have lured you from the bright lights of the Tri-Cities. I can’t imagine doing this life without you. Go pursue your dreams and I’ll be by your side as your biggest fan! Cheryl, it is crazy that my cleaning lady would be my very best friend providing hours of comfort, a shoulder to cry on, a couch to sleep on, and a friend to rejoice with. Bethany, who knew such a young gal would have such passion, drive and maturity. I am proud to have you as a part of the Nectar journey and can’t wait to see what amazing things you go on to accomplish. The list goes on and on to the amazing team we have now – Kendall, Tricia Jo, Elise, Debbie. The teams with the catering company and in Kendall Yards make my life incredibly easy. To everyone along the way with small and large roles, THANK YOU.
Nectar Tasting Room has been a part of many of your lives. There have been dozens of first dates, a proposal, weddings, receptions, 30th, 40th, 50th, 60th, 70th and 80th birthdays. We have shared anniversaries, hosted countless charity events, and have watched people laugh, smile, cry and jump in surprise. These moments are my favorite. If that couch in the corner could talk…
December 31 will be our final event as Nectar Tasting Room. We are dissolving the co-op of 5 Washington wineries and evolving into Nectar Catering and Events. February 1 we will re-open with a new look and a new focus. Much of what you love about Nectar will continue. The changes we are introducing will make the space even better. Pretty much every piece of the space will be touched with the exception of the floor and amazing brick.
WHAT WILL 2017 BRING?
- New website Nectar Catering and Events
- Featured Washington Winery of the Month
- Craft Northwest Beer on Tap
- Week Day Lunch Service
- New Furniture Fixtures and Equipment
- New Branding and Signage
- New Hours
- More Events
WHAT WILL CONTINUE IN 2017?
- Wine tasting from amazing Washington Wineries
- On site events and catering
- Off site events and catering
- The best employees around
For me this change is bittersweet. The evolution is necessary to remain relevant and grow. I am excited about the refresh of the space to match the other locations. I know that the friendships made will continue and I look forward to being a part of your life story as well. In those final moments after our farewell for now party I will sit on the couch, look around, and the flood of your memories will come to me. I will break down and cry. Katie will comfort me and we will walk to the front door, switch off the remaining light, look back and say one final goodbye to this chapter and lock the door anticipating re-opening it again in February.
Have memories you want to share? I would love to hear about them in the comments.
Enjoy life with friends, drink happy.