25 Nov 2009
Simply the most beautiful place that I’ve ever tasted wine!
I’m not a world traveler. I’ve never been outside the US, unless you count downtown San Francisco – okay, I’ve been to Canada but not the cool parts. I hear great things about wine tasting in Napa. I’m sure tasting rooms in Northern Nevada and the East Coast are tops too. From my limited experience (5 regions in WA), Lake Chelan AVA is tops! The majority of the wineries are small lot makers of 5000 cases or less that either grow their own grapes or source from local Columbia Valley or Walla Walla. These are passionate people who have yet to be consumed by the lust of big money and big business!
Kimberly and I enjoyed this trip so much that we have already planned a return trip in May, 2010.
Washington’s youngest AVA (American Viticulture Association), born in May, 2009 boasts 14 wineries. If I were a betting man and had any money to bet, I would put a C-Note down that in 3 years or less you’ll see no less than 30 wineries and tasting rooms in the area.
Of the 12 wineries we visited (sorry to say we missed 2), it was truly difficult to pick our favorites. We loved the personality of Nefarious, the grand tasting room of Benson, the grounds and atmosphere of Vin du Lac, the sexy story behind Hard Row to Hoe, and the impressive underground cave of Karma! However the WINE is the most important part. While we purchase wine at EVERY place we visit, there are a few that lose their appeal when leaving the sunny slopes of the mountain lake.
The Nefarious Cellars wines were amazing. We only purchased the whites (there must’ve been a reason for that – either we didn’t like the reds or they were already sold out). Heather and Dean Neff (owners and wine makers) create a personal wine that reflects their own individual passions using grapes grown on their plots of land or from respected vineyards in WA. The video review shares more of their information and the review of their white blend, 2008 Consequence. The wine, nearly a 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Aligote (some Viognier thrown in), gave me an opportunity to try a varietal that I’ve never experienced in the Aligote. My research found that this grape, mostly grown in France as a blending grape has a good sparkling quality to it. This wine is definitely crisp and refreshing. Makes me wish I would’ve opened it in the summer. The 350 cases of Consequence are now sold out.
I typically do my reviews first and then double-check my work with other tasting notes and reviewers to see if I’m full of it. We enjoyed a glass with a Roasted Chicken, Scalloped Potatoes on a bed of veggies. The wine paired well with the dish and didn’t shrink away.
- The Swirl: Lighter than a Chardonnay but not as light as a Sauvignon Blanc
- The Sniff: At first I smelled pears, citrus fruits and rockyness. My wife said she got the smell of butter, like movie theater butter (not the popcorn, just the butter)
- The Sip: Crisp, like biting into a crunchy pear or apple. It felt like a non-oaked Chardonnay with more citrus to it. During my video tasting I mentioned the lack of acidity or finish, but after taking the final glass to the hot tub, I must contradict myself. The structure began to come through after sitting out and being just below room temp (maybe 60 degrees)
- Price to Value Ratio: ($17) $$$$+ If this wine were over $20, I would not score so high. Great value only if you like the style I’ve described.
For me, if you love crisp wines that are not too dry and not too sweet, this is a great buy (if you can find any). If you’re in the mood for something with strong passionate flavor and acidity, then skip it.
DOTD? Currently, while I write, I’m having a Widmer Brothers Drop Top Amber Ale. Soon, I’ll be examining our wine selection to see what wine to take on our Thanksgiving trip with family. You?
While away for Thanksgiving, I’ll try to put together an on the spot Thanksgiving review of the wines other people brought and get candid response from some family members.
Enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY!
23 Nov 2009
Inspired by mega wine blogger 1WineDude (@1WineDude) and Rock and Roll Wine (I decided to put my Rock-n-Roll perspectives on the wine varietals (types of grapes) that I’ve had the pleasure of ingesting. Wine itself, doesn’t get its due in rock music. The most common reference is to cheap wine (ala Billy Joel and Neil Diamond). True rockers (and hillbilly) go for beer and whiskey references. The best props to wine, at least the Champagne variety, comes from the hip-hop world.
Below are my rock-n-roll reviews of the basic wine grapes from music that is on my Zune (yes, I own a Zune and not an iPod). Feel free to pass this along as a form of reference and awareness to your beer swilling, martini sipping, Jack and Coke slugging friends. (Part 2 is here)
Merlot - The Merlot grape is very palatable and an easy to drink red. Can be paired with lots of foods and rarely is it found offensive. My music pairing is Bon Jovi. Their music is still relevant and tasty, but rarely is there anything memorable from their recent records. They can make a crossover to other genres, their music is rarely bold or offensive and they reach a broad audience.
Chardonnay - Popular and hearty. Grows in a number of climates Can come across mis-understood by some and smooth and buttery by others. Overall, a decent white wine to cut your teeth on and an overall classic. My musical pairing, U2. Making chart topping AND socially conscience music for over 25 years, U2 can be smooth but also abrasive. Wide appeal but losing their former luster.
Cabernet Sauvignon – Rich, bold red that is considered the king of red grapes. Very strong flavor, tannins and acid that cut through food, often overpowering to be consumed without food. Can be offensive to some but to those who understand its brashness is very much appreciated. Music pairing - Was torn on this one, so I chose ACDC and Led Zeppelin. Both bands are kings of their genre. Hard hitting, in your face, and often under appreciated. Can be tough to listen to in their entirety, but very much a delight when a song comes up on shuffle. The bands are huge in sound but still have an amazing appeal. Some are completely turned off by their sound.
Riesling - In some regions this wine provides a dry flavor that is great with fish, chicken and pork. California Riesling tends to be sweet and lacking acidity and balance. Liked by many and a great crossover wine grape that tends to be popular among the female crowd for social drinking. Music pairing – Taylor Swift; While I don’t have any Taylor on my Zune (I swear), you can’t help but notice that her music is sometimes dry, sometimes sweet and sappy, lacks balance and has a hugely wide appeal…just sayin’.
Pinot Noir - This difficult to grow grape is rarely blended with other varietals. Can range from sweet and fruity to rough and earthy. The Noble Pinot Noir is either loved and cherished for its complexity and terroir specificity or disliked for the same reasons. Musical Pairing – Beatles (specifically the later years). While I have yet to discover a palate for Pinot Noir, I am a huge Beatles fan. In my interactions with people, I find they either are passionate about them or could take them or leave them. Regardless of their like or dislike people always respect their influence in music and popular culture. While their early success was based on hysteria and less substantive music, their best stuff came as they explored the boundaries of music and what was considered ‘popular.’
I think I’ll make this post a two parter. I would love to hear your thoughts. For my wino friends, what musical pairings would you offer to the varietals you enjoy.
DOTD? (Drink of the Day) – Finished of the last of the 2004 Brassfield Estate Bottled Round Mountain Zinfandel. You?
Enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY
21 Nov 2009
Combine passion, a lifelong dream, and social consciousness and you have Coffee Social. Owner Rachel Young pursued her dreams and has a hit on her hands. Centrally located near Gonzaga University and the bustle of Division / Ruby, is a coffee shop with a conscience.
Spokane transplant, via Post Falls then Seattle, Rachel opened Coffee Social 14 months ago. Through the economic down turn and recession she has managed to grind and brew her way to success. In my opinion, part of that success comes from providing a good, consistent product. Coffee Social makes all its products with organic locally sourced ingredients. From what I tried, that formula equals yummy! Check out the NectarView review and read more of my review below!
Coffee Social sits in an older, non-descript renovated building just 1 block West of Division (113 W. Indiana to be exact). Parking is tight on the sides, but there is more around back. Upon entry, you are greeted with a warm simple interior that will perk you up as much as the coffee. Beyond the lobby and register is a fantastic seating area where you can enjoy games and the free WiFi with your coffee and food. The space is cozy without being overly opulent and large without feeling cavernous.
Wow! I purposely did not eat breakfast because I had a hunch that I would find “all kinds of yumminess” (a direct quote from Rachel). Coffee Social keeps their menu simple and direct with a selection of quiches, sandwiches, soups, salads, and pastries. Follow them on Twitter (@coffeesocial) and you know exactly when the good stuff comes out of the oven. My ham and cheese Quiche was a perfect choice for breakfast. The texture was perfect with the dish cooked all the way through (which is tough for a Quiche sometimes) and the crust still light and flakey. While looking in the food case, an egg nog chocolate pie captured my attention. “All in the name of being a good reviewer,” I told myself, “I must try it.” This is truly a must have! If you’re reading this, STOP, and head straight to Coffee Social and order a slice – in fact, I bet you could order the whole pie for Thanksgiving dinner if you hurry.
DOMA coffee roasters provides the eco-friendly coffee for Coffee Social. (Check out their site to learn more about their roasting process and vision). Their certified organic, fair trade coffee was exceptional. I ordered their Columbian roast, and as always drank it black. The flavor was good with caramel and vanilla undertones. What struck me most was how smooth the finish was. There was zero bitterness on the aftertaste. My next trip to the Social, I’ll have to test Rachael’s barista abilities with a latte or macchiatto.
The restroom was basic and could use some updating. Being a young business start-up, I’m sure Rachel wanted to put her money elsewhere.
Coffee Social truly does support going ‘green.’ Several discounts are offered if you show proof of arriving via bus, riding your bike, or walking (honor system). Rachel also gives back to the community by supporting several local programs with at least 5% of the profits.
This business is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for a number of reasons! Great food, great coffee, supporting local businesses and farmers, eco-friendly, and a great location. Spread the word! Not only will you get a great cup of coffee, you’ll feel good doing it.
As always – enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY!
20 Nov 2009
What do you get when you combine high fruit, high sugar, high alcohol, high flavor, and traditionally smooth flavor?
My favorite wine varietal.
Some oenophile’s think Zinfandels are too sweet to be considered among the elite, but the grape that makes up 10% of the California production is a complex, challenging grape to coax consistent flavor out of.
Tonight the everyday man Zinfandel gauntlet is thrown down. Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Brett Hart in a cage match to the death. Okay, so no death was involved, but this taste test certainly exposes three under $20 Zinfandel wines! Check out the NectarView and tasting notes!
- Swirl – Light in color, could see all the way to the bottom of the glass.
- Sniff - Aromatically challenged with hints of pepper and red fruit, cherry and strawberry.
- Swirl – More pepper than fruit on the front; fruit comes through on the back. Like biting into a sweeter green pepper with a mild cherry finish. Not enough acidity to compete with the big boys.
- Price to Value Ratio: $$$+
For $8, the wine wasn’t offensive or negative in taste. Overall there wasn’t anything exciting to write home about. Your everyday Hulk Hogan wine that has a lot of talk but not much substance.
- Swirl: Darker plum in color with slight cloudiness, mild legs representing mild acidity
- Sniff: Musty wet basement smell was overwhelming. With effort a little bit of spice comes through. Pretty offensive to the nose
- Sip: Now the fruit, strawberry and cherry, comes through. More acidity and tannin on the finish
- Price to Value Ratio: $ – Not recommended. Could be an issue of poor storage or a bad bottle, but the musty smell was difficult to overcome.
Like Rowdy Roddy Piper very offensive, but tries to compete with the big boys.
- Swirl: Dark pearlescent plum color with good color. Good strong legs representing good acidity
- Sniff: Wow, before I even put my nose in the glass I could smell the amazing berry fruits – especially strawberry. More investigation revealed more mild pepper, rhubarb cinnamon and vanilla – it smelled like I was going to bite into a freshly made strawberry rhubarb pie.
- Sip: The flavor did not disappoint. Just beyond the berry was a great cinnamon flavor paired with just enough spice and acidity to cut through a roast, pizza, or turkey dinner. Would even be a great dessert wine!
- Price to Value Ratio: $$$$ – Maybe not an everyday value for those on a budget, but definitely a crowd pleaser for the holidays or to show your wine sophistication.
One again Brett Hart shows everyone up as the best and most entertaining of the bunch.
Overall, this was the most interesting taste review. It was super cool to have three different price points side by side to explore the grape quality and wine making quality differences.
Enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY
18 Nov 2009
While Americans are already indebted to China for saving us from economic collapse (to the tune of $1.7 trillion dollars / 10% of our national debt), we will soon be thanking them for the explosion of the wine market to heights never seen. Wine makers will struggle to keep up with demand and our amber waves of grain could proliferate with gnarly green vines of grapes. Gary Vaynerchuk may even finally be able to buy the NY Jets if he can get exclusive shipping rights to the peoples republic.
Replacing their Pinyin with Wine
China as always been enamored with all things ‘western’ (U.S. Culture). As wine consumption grows in the states, China soon will follow. Americans are imbibing to the tune of 300 million cases per year, a $30 billion dollar business. Experts predict that America will surpass Italy as the wine’iest’ (not whiniest) nation by 2012. While Italians drink about 30 liters per person (40 bottles of wine), Americans only consume 10 liters per person (13 bottles) – Just a side note, I’m doing my very best to up that average but there is only so much one man can do and still maintain a functioning liver. - Sheer population size makes the difference (see sweetie, size does matter). Chinamen (and women) only consumer about 1 1/2 liters of wine per year. That is just two bottles. As all the wino’s out there can attest, that’s a damn shame.
Okay, public school kids, follow my basic math here. US wine biz is $30B, population is 300 million(ish) = $100 per person spent on wine. China’s current wine biz is about $18B, population is 1.3 billion(ish) = $15 per person spent on wine. If marketing experts can put their collective caps together and could get more wine over that great wall the potential is AMAZING. IF the Chinese consumed even 1/2 the wine that Americans did the result would be a wine business that is more than double the size of the U.S. biz (about $65 billion dollars).
Solving the U.S. China Debt Problem
Now, I’m no diplomat but if we could increase Chinese consumption of wine to be at par with American consumption AND we convince them to buy only U.S. produced wine, the total could be equal to the amount of U.S. debt that they currently own. In essence we get them addicted to the magical nectar we could trade wine for debt. Maybe someone at the U.S. Trade department will read this blog and our economic issues could be solved.
Men and Youngsters
Continuing our numbers game, the future of the U.S. wine market is men and the 21-30 age group (millennial generation). Men drink less wine than women. My commentary says that the good men drink wine. Confident men drink spirits of all kinds (except maybe pink martinis). Statistically, however, women drink 60% of the wine consumed in the states. Beer consumption outpaces wine consumption by more than 2 to 1. While beer flavored wine is a potential answer, I think the solution lies in the cool factor and portability of beer. Wine in a can? Maybe the wine glass is too feminine? Half naked women wrestling over a Pinot Noir shouting tastes great, less filling? Part of the battle is de-snobbing the wine world w/o dumbing it down to the Forrest Gump level of, “this wine tastes like purple grapes and this one tastes like green grapes.”
SEX is the answer. Always! Men respond to sex. Wine makers need to appeal to this to gain more inroads with men (especially men 21-30). Personally, I think wine is extremely sexy – except when you drink too much. Here are some possible marketing ideas. Switch Dale Earnhardt Jr. from Amped drinks to Seven Deadly Zins. Publish a series of ‘wine pong‘ clips to YouTube (if you don’t understand that reference then you are not part of the target market). Get Sonoma Valley vineyards to sponsor the next Lollapalooza tour. Infuse wine with ginseng, taurine, and caffeine combining the high energy effects with the mellowing effects of alcohol. Lastly, product placement – let’s see the cast of Twilight enjoying a glass of Chianti with their blood. While these quips are meant to be humorous, the fact remains that there is money to be made marketing wine to the millennial generation and young men.
So, there you have it, the future of the wine business is China and Sex, but not always the two of them at the same time