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
18 Nov 2009
Recently my wife and I spent 3 days in Woodinville, WA. We’re trying to make our way to all the appellations and wine meccas of WA and were excited to visit the area.
Woodinville is home to two of Washington’s largest (Chateau St. Michelle and Columbia Winery) These two building dominate the landscape, however, the shining stars can be found in the small strip malls and the industrial warehouse district. We purchased more wine on this trip than on our previous 4 trips and the winery that captured our imagination and taste was Alexandria Nicole.
I love the business of wine and pairing the experience with the flavor. When I say that ANC (@ancwine - twitter) was our favorite, it’s because the combination of the wine flavor, the employee’s personality, the building decor and the obvious passion that came across from everyone we met.
Hidden within the maze of white industrial space is the gem of Woodinville! When entering the tasting room you are greeted with simple, warm decor, and a beautiful slab granite tasting area. Beyond the main area is a fantastically decorated meeting space, wine club member area for tasting and events. The hosts were extremely informative and the love of their work came through. We tasted all they had to offer and purchased a little of each.
The other evening we were asked to bring a good wine to dinner. I really wanted to drink the Crawford Viognier and even though the pairing with Jambalaya didn’t seem quite right, I thought the Viognier would hold up well to the spice in the dish. Although I was slightly off with my pairing, I thoroughly enjoyed the wine (the dish was much more tomato based and not nearly as spicy – a Cabernet Sauvignon or even a Pinot Noir would have stood up better).
2008 Crawford Estate Alexandria Nicole Viognier - Columbia Valley $20
- Swirl: Very light in color, pale and clear – can tell just from the swirl that this is going to be crisp and refreshing
- Sniff: Wow, extremely potent with citrus, peach and melon, minimal floral scent (reminiscent of Hawaii)
- Sip: Tasted more of an apple crisp, like having an apple cobbler of some sort including the vanilla ice cream, extremely crisp. could drink the whole bottle by the fire on a cool September evening. Mild alcohol aftertaste but not enough to deter from the flavor. Only flaw is the flavor trails off quickly.
- The Score: At $20 I can easily score this a 4 (at the $15 range would make this easily a 5)
This wine scored 91 from Wine Spectator and definitely deserves that rating. I’m looking forward to our next trip and the next bottle in the rack.
2007 Alexandria Nicole Gravity Merlot
- The Swirl: Dark plum in the center with a light ruby at glass edge. No visible sign of legs
- The Sniff: Spicy leather and cherries jubilee with some chocolate shavings on top.
- The Sip: Good tannins but presented a mild hot alcohol on the back end. Not a typical smooth Merlot, had a big bold taste.
- The Score: At $24, I score this a 3+. It’s a well made wine but seemed a little off balance to score as a 4 or higher.
Other scores were found on Cork’d as a 91 and on Cellar Tracker as a 86.
Enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY!
17 Nov 2009
Now, I’m on a quest; the quest to find three good wines under $10 (maybe even under $7). Tonight, I must say, I took one for the team. It’s no secret that we drink wine. admittedly we probably drink over 200 bottles a year. My budget says, I can’t be drinking $20+ bottles every night (somewhere north of $4,000). If you’re like me, we need a few great selections we can trust. Good staples are a smooth, sweeter red, a spicy meaty red, a crisp full white, and a sweet summer white. We need that $7 trustworthy wine for daily use.
The Rocket Market (726 E 43rd Ave) is a great place to try new wines. You can count on them to have hundreds of bottles to choose from ranging from $5 – $105.
Tonight I reviewed three wines available for under $7 with hopes that one could be added to the “trusted” list.
2008 Estrella White Blend; California $5
With no pronounced varietals, I didn’t expect much, other than a white grape bland wine. I was pleasantly surprised.
- Swirl: Good crisp color darker than a Sauvignon Blanc, but lighter than a Chardonnay
- Sniff: Crisp nose with strong butter reminiscent of a Chardonnay. In the video I mentioned a peach smell, but after a few more sips, the strong flavor is apple, and a mild citric.
- Sip: Butter smell carried over to the flavor. Really noticed the citric flavor here too with mild vanilla on the back end. The finish was mild without overbearing alcohol.
- Price to Value Rating: $$$$ – this is a pretty darn good value. Not a ton of structure or distinguishing flavor, but nothing offensive either.
2008 Estrella Red Table Wine; California $5
- Swirl: Cloudy purple color, weak legs
- Sniff: Fruit forward, jammy smell, a little spice on the back end. Reminiscent of a Australian Syrah
- Sip: Ick, Sugar water, weak grape juice on the front end, more structure as it sits but the best it could do is dark blackberry, strong alcohol leaving me with a chewy tongue
- Price to Value Rating: $+, skip this one and keep searching
2008 Hacienda Cabernet Sauvignon
- Swirl: More structure to the color, nearly see to bottom of glass, no legs
- Sniff: Not very strong with moderate spice and pepper
- Sip: A decent structure, not overpowering or overly-meaty like some Cabs. A mild alcohol finish. Should be consumed with food but not too over powering to be drank alone
- Price to Value Rating: $$$ – This wine is almost there but not quite the one to add to the trusted list. If you’re in need of a decent burger wine, this could work.
After tonight’s adventure, the journey continues. I would safely add the Estrella White table wine to my list of trusted under $10, but there are already a few there. The quest continues.
Enjoy life with friends and <drink.happy>