07 Jan 2010
Only a handful of wine makers in the state of Washington have as much experience as Mike Conway.When Mike opened Latah Creek and Hogue Cellars in 1982 (in a partnership with Mike Hogue), there were only 18 wineries in the state. After two years as the head wine maker at Hogue, Mike left to concentrate on Latah Creek. The full history of Latah Creek can be read on their web site.
Mike crafted his winemaking skills in the 70′s working for wine giants E&J Gallo, Franzia Brothers and Parducci. It was while at Parducci that he honed his skills for white wine and brought the slow cold fermentation process to Washington state (cold fermentation brings out a natural residual sweetness in white wines at a lower alcohol level of 8-10%). It is the white wine line-up that helped Latah Creek grow to a 17,000 case per year company.
100% of Latah Creek’s distribution is done in the Northwest. The annual release of their Spokane Blush, Maywine, and Huckleberry d’Latah are highly anticipated in the region. While 70% of their sales are comprised of white wines, Latah’s future focus is the introduction of small lot reserve quality reds. The current Vinosity (reviewed below) is an example of that. While at the winery I also tried the 100% Petit Verdot. If these two reds are any indication, Latah Creek may quickly jump to a 25,000 case per year operation. In talking with Mike, his passion for Washington wine comes through. He wants to expose some of the great grapes that grow in this state (Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, Mourvedre, Malbec) to his customer base.
While Latah Creek has been a business of two people for 20+ years, in 2005 daughter Natalie joined the team. Mike and Ellena’s vision had always been for Natalie to carry on the business. In elementary school, while all the other children wanted to be firefighters, pro athletes and politicians, Natalie wanted to be a wine maker. Natalie graduated with honors from EWU with a bachelors in biology. Shortly after, she joined the team. Under her dad’s guidance, Natalie is already contributing to the wine offerings with Natalie’s Nectar dessert wine and the Vinosity red blend.
One thing that sets Latah Creek apart from all other wineries in town is their spacious tasting room and the selection of gift/boutique items. Mike’s wife, Ellena, runs the tasting room and has done a fantastic job of stocking it with whimsical gifts, wine accessories, and artful decorations. During the holidays, tasting room traffic increases exponentially, and not just for the wine.
Latah Creek; Mike, Ellena (and now Natalie), and their wines, are Spokane institutions. “Spokane is the reason we’re here,” Mike says. Beside’s the wine, Latah Creek’s gift back to the community is their support of the arts and many other charities. The Conway’s are particularly proud of their sponsorships of the Spokane Symphony and the Foster Parents Association.
If you’ve driven on the freeway in Spokane, chances are you’ve driven past Latah Creek. The winery and tasting room sit at freeway’s edge between the Pines and Evergreen exits (13030 E Indiana). If you’re headed to the Valley Mall, take a quick detour and enjoy a free tasting of their wines. Of the 13 offerings only 2 are over $20 (Petit Verdot and Vinosity). The tasting room is open seven days a week from 9AM – 5PM.
NV Latah Creek Vinosity Blend
- The Stuff: 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah and 23% Zinfandel. Produced from various vineyards in the Washington State (Wahluke and Columbia Valley) 13.5% alcohol
- The Swirl: Dark violet color with nice translucent tones. Not completely opaque. Moderate legs representing some good residual sugar and alcohol.
- The Sniff: Boom! Awake with dark blueberry and Cassis. Get a faint whiff of a tender spice and cocoa (could be the Zin).
- The Sip: While not entirely a fruit bomb, this wine has some very nice structure. I can definitely feel the Syrah, but the strength of the Cabernet balances it out. The heat and playfulness of the Zinfandel keep the finish alive for some time adding a nice acidity.
- The Score: At just $20 retail this is a heck of a buy! I score this wine a strong 4 (out of 5). If I found this wine for anywhere south of $15 I would buy several bottles.
06 Jan 2010
Tasting wine is a similar experience. Wine is a lover to be enjoyed, caressed, and passionately embraced. This is something that guys need to learn. We’re not used to the delicate intricacies of a woman (or wine). Most of the time we fumble along hoping our bodies connect in the right way. A real man appreciates the arresting aroma, savours the supple style and drinks in delicate drama that is a woman (or wine). Dude’s it is time to move from our slam a shot mentality to the savor the senses experience that is wine. This is a gentle love affair not a one night stand.
In the first two posts we talked about;
- Three reasons all dudes need to know at least a little about wine
- Explained seven wine grapes to help understand the strange new world
Today, we are going to talk about tasting wine. Wine can be described as a symphony with its subtle nuances and bold phrases emphasizing the rise and fall of emotion. As guys, we’re used to a drum solo – bam – it’s loud and fast and it’s over and we’re happy – time to sleep.
The Swirl: Getting Her Ready
Lay her back, rub you hands in a circle letting her get excited. She gets aroused as the friction causes her to breathe. With the motion you take notice of her color, her quality, and her clarity. Her juices run down the…GLASS! We’re talking about wine here guys!
Exploring wine begins with the swirl. People swirl wine to allow oxygen into the wine. A nice crystal glass and the shape of the bowl help the wine to breathe and prepare the next step; the sniff. Don’t over pour your wine. A four or five ounce pour is plenty (remember wine has twice the alcohol as a normal beer). Leave enough room in the glass so that when you swirl you’re not spilling on your girls new dress. That is a major foul and will probably not lead to the desired outcome of the night.
The Sniff: The Intoxicating Allure
The flurry of motion has released a myriad of aromas that flood the nose. With a deep inhale you allow the smell to penetrate. Your brain becomes excited at the anticipation prompting a heightened awareness of the other senses. Careful not to rush, you enjoy the smells before you dive in to taste…THE WINE. We’re still talking about wine here guys!
Wine, more than any other beverage, offers a variety of aroma (and taste). These tastes vary greatly between region, grape, year, and personal style of the wine maker. Enjoy the smells of the wine. Refer to the second post in this series for a stereotype of the seven common wines you’ll encounter.
Your senses are nearly on overload. The aroma has you transfixed, the anticipation makes you swell with excitement. Your mouth waters as you expectantly take it in. The flavors dance across your tongue. Now more than ever your senses are aroused as the full climax of the experience is revealed…still talking about THE WINE here.
As you drink in the wine, let it sit in your mouth. For the first few sips, let it rinse across all parts of your mouth from front to back. Take note of how it tastes different on the tip of your tongue to the sides of your mouth. Good wine will reveal different secrets even after you swallow it (the finish). Some wine will be smooth and sweet and others will be dry and tart. These different flavor profiles work well with different foods. Like food, you’ll develop a preference for some, but don’t be afraid to experiment.
Enjoying wine may seem as intimidating as talking to a Victoria Secret model (while she’s still in her unmentionables), but the sexiness and complexity is revealed as you pull back the covers of the Swirl, Sniff, and Sip. Keep these basic principles in mind and even the most basic dude will experience the foreplay and climax that is tasting wine.
On a final note, guys; be willing to experiment. We all want our ladies to be playful in bed and open to new experiences. We need to take our own advice. It’s okay to walk into the store and buy 3-4 different bottles just to taste. Even better, take your lady on a day trip to a few winery tasting rooms. This is a fun and affordable way to explore new experiences. Be a man, don’t be a friggin’ sissy. Man up and go wine tasting. You just might have fun and you just might get laid!
In the final post of this four-part series we will attempt to demystify buying wine at the store and ordering at restaurants.
The Dude’s Guide to Wine
- In Part One we explained three reasons all guys should know a little about wine
- In Part Two we explored the basics of grapes and their general characteristics
- In Part Three we talked about the experience of wine tasting (swirl, smell, sip, savor)
- In Part Four we uncover the struggle of ordering wine at restaurants and buying in stores
04 Jan 2010
When wine in Spokane meant a handful of wineries and a small selection at the local grocery store, Niko’s owner Laith Elaimy anticipated a trend and took a chance by hiring Pauline Riley, his wine representative from a local distributor, to run his wine menu. The seemingly odd pairing of Niko’s Greek Restaurant and its mediterranean menu and the Niko’s Wine Bar has resulted in one of Spokane’s finest places to enjoy not only a great dinner but a huge variety of wine.
“Wine is food for the soul,” says Pauline, “we want to provide a place to bring people to good conversation and good wine.” Niko’s not only provides a great dinner menu and wine selection but is a premier location for VIP dining rooms, valet parking, and catering; all of this in the heart of downtown Spokane on Post and Riverside (just 2 blocks from Riverpark Square).
Pauline is one of the go to wine people in Spokane. She is a trusted expert in the community. Her years of experience have made Niko’s wine bar the place to enjoy a good glass of wine, a fun wine flight, or buy that special bottle retail for the last 12 1/2 years.
The wine bar, an extension of the restaurant, is a quaint nicely decorated room to enjoy wine. Pauline prepares a new wine tour sheet every few weeks that features between 40-50 wines by the glass, chosen from their 1100 bottle cellar. The menu favorites are the various wine flights where you can experience regional, international, varietal or producer flights. Pauline even likes to feature a “anything but Sideways flight” where patrons get all Merlot. My favorite is the blind white or red flight where Pauline brings you a random selection. After the tasting she brings out the bottles challenging you to pair the wine you drank with the correct bottle. It is a fun and challenging tasting.
When I asked Pauline what she wants people to experience at the wine bar, she said, “I want people to embrace new wine in an environment that is conducive to shared experiences. I want to serve the best selection of wine in a beautiful location using quality stemware. Life is too short to drink the same wine twice.” Niko’s has been voted by local Spokane Inlander readers as the region’s Best Wine Bar and Spokane’s Best Wine Selection for ten straight years!
Whether you are a wine expert, new to wine or, somewhere in between (like me), Niko’s has developed a fantastic reputation as the spot for wine in Spokane. With so much wine available, Pauline sees her job to be your wine professional helping you select the best wine for your needs. “You have a Real Estate professional or a finance professional, why not a wine professional.”
- The Stats: Niko’s Wine Bar is open Sun – Wed 4pm - 10pm and Thur – Sat 4pm – 11pm. Open Friday for lunch from 11-3 (all entrée’s $10)
- The Social: www.nikosspokane.com 509.624.7444
- The Streets: 725 W. Riverside (Riverside and Post)
2010 represents Niko’s 25 years in business. To celebrate the longevity Niko’s is offering a $25 gift card to use on a return visit when you enjoy dinner during 2010. You heard it here first. Tell them DrinkNectar sent you.
NEW UPDATE 1/29/10 – Talked to Pauline last night and she has started a fantastic Happy Hour $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 – Friday! Tell them Josh @ DrinkNectar sent you!
03 Jan 2010
Obviously, I jest. No one intentionally sets out to fail, however there are several things that lead us down a path of failure. In the wine industry (which these posts are originally intended), the majority of wineries are small businesses with 1-10 employees. It can be a challenge for these small business owners to jump into the Social Media waters. NOT getting involved could put your business at a significant disadvantage. For tips on where to begin, see my two previous posts:
- Strategy: Are Wineries Missing the Social Media Money?
- Getting Started: My Social Media Resolution (very practical tips)
For those businesses that are jumping in for the New Year - here are five ways to avoid success using Social Media.
1. Begin without any set objective
You know what they call the man who is wandering around the streets with no place to go? Either homeless or lost. Being listless in the Social Media world is easy. Goals are for wimps. Jump in, start tweeting, create a Facebook business page, update your status occasionally. Make sure your posts offer no real value, are vague and self-serving, or are completely random. These actions will solidify your failure.
Success starts with a clear measurable goal. Here is an example. “Winery X will develop greater brand awareness in our community about our tasting room events. We will achieve this by connecting with local wine lovers through Twitter and Facebook. Our goal is to connect with 500 local wine lovers and drive tasting room traffic sales up by 15% by the end of the year.”
When Walmart wanted to get the word out that it had received a huge shipment of the most sought-after toy just in time for the year-end shopping season, the retailer turned to its more than 400,000 Facebook friends first. – From Baltimore Sun
2. Do not create a plan or strategy
Anyone can build a bookshelf with some plans. Where is the challenge in that? Plans are good only if you want your shelves to be straight and the bookshelf to remain standing once all the books are on it. Avoid success in the Social Media world by approaching it without a plan.
Success continues with a plan or strategy. If your goal is to drive tasting room traffic up 15% by the end of the year avoid the strategy tips below:
- Promote your Twitter and Facebook accounts on everything you send or print (email, web site, business cards, mailers, print ads, trade journals, and how about even your WINE LABEL, etc)
- Start following people in the wine industry or friend them up on Facebook (usually in smaller chunks of 50-100)
- Create Twitter / Facebook cards to specifically hand out or attach with each visit or purchase in your tasting room (store)
- Add a blog to your web site and create a weekly post about something related to your business; tasting room, wine making, harvest, events, etc.
- Once you have a following try hosting a tweet-up at your tasting room (invite your followers to come by and taste wine while tweeting about it)
When asked how Twitter has helped their business, Montaluce Winery (@Mvineyards on twitter), says, “We have seen an uptick in winery traffic, especially with a younger audience. We certainly see more contact with people who influence Atlanta food and wine.”
3. Be self-serving and erratic
Constantly posting self-promoting tweets or status updates may generate you some followers or friends, but it won’t create loyalty and action. Perfect way to fail, tweet 20 times a day, “Come by our tasting room and receive 10% off all purchases http:/addlinkhere.” You can also fail by being erratic. Develop a small following or fan base and then disappear. How does it look when fans ask you questions or post on your wall and never receive a response?
Success equals collaboration. The internet is full of relevant information. You don’t have to create everything you share.
- Post links to helpful industry items (how to taste wine, fun reviews you read, interesting blog posts or newspaper articles about wine).
- Promote events that are not your own (community interest, other tasting room hours, etc)
- Mix up your own posts, don’t always tweet the same text or information.
4. Avoid Interacting With the Natives
Those on Twitter and Facebook are connectors by nature. One of the best ways to fail is to avoid conversation with people. Do not comment on people with insightful posts. Never @people (send them a tweet) or write on anyones wall. Talking to people is scarey and intimidating.
Success equals conversation. Set aside some time each day as marketing time to connect with people.
- Ask people open-ended questions? - “What wine did you drink with dinner over the weekend?”
- Comment on other people’s posts. Read the blog, comment on the blog, then re-tweet the blog RT @nectarwine ->great insightful post on wine trends for 2010 http://drinknectar.com
Former Director of Social Media for St. Supery @RickBakas, on his web site http://justbrand.me says, “provide a stream of relevent and useful information…your audience most likely feels overwhelmed with all the information being broadcast on social networks. ”
5. Do not respond to your fans or brand mentions
Your customers are online. If you want to fail, do not get online. An even bigger fail is to be online and never respond to your fans who ask questions. Do not respond to fan page posts. Ignore retweets (RT) and direct messages (DM). Never use Twitter search to see if people are talking about your brand. Doing these things will ensure your social media failure.
The people experiencing success are doing the following things:
- Use TweetDeck or HootSuite to manage Twitter. This will give you an efficient view of all @ reply and DM’s so you don’t miss a mention or message. Never let a @ or DM go unanswered.
- When you see fans or followers in your business, thank them with a tweet or write on their wall.
- Offer periodic specials just to your fans to promote loyalty.
2009 was the year Twitter and Facebook came of age for business use. Now is the time that businesses who use Social Media will begin to see an advantage. Customers are online. They become your fans. You create loyalty. Your customers become your ambassadors. Social Media gives you an army of marketers who will promote you to success. Are you ready to succeed or fail in the New Year?
30 Dec 2009
Since I’ve only been at this blog thing for 7 weeks and December marks the close of my first full month, I thought I would start a tradition. I’m sure as history books of wine blogging unfold, this will be recorded as the start of something monumental. Those mentioned in these posts will receive world-wide notoriety and others will pine and clamor to be considered among the elite. Ah, who the hell am I kiddin’ this is what I liked and thought was cool this month!
Wines of the Month
I reviewed 25 wines in December. Several of them came from my video reviews of three local Spokane wineries. My bias is not Spokane, it’s just my geography.
Best Value Under $15: Lone Canary Bird House Red ($10-$12)
While I didn’t taste this wine during my video interview with wine maker Michael Scott, I did pick up a bottle for consumption. Of the 10+ bottles under $15 from this month, this was the clear winner.
- The Stuff - 55% Syrah, 22% Cab Sauv, 21% Merlot, 2% Sangiovese; Various Columbia Valley vineyards.
- The Swirl – a dark garnet color, not quite plum
- The Sniff – initial reaction was honey and vanilla but opened up to include the blueberry and spice of a Cab / Merlot.
- The Sip - Initially wasn’t feeling it. Left the glass and came back 15 minutes later. Dark berry with cedar and a slight cocoa finish. Medium tannin and a little hot on the alcohol.
- The Score – At $12 I would rate this a low 4 out of 5. Solid quality with good flavor characteristics, smooth finish and good structure. If I can find this wine at under $10 it easily becomes part of my Nectar Value Team.
*Runner up 2007 Arbor Crest Sauvignon Blanc ($7)
Best Wine: 2006 Mark Ryan Long Haul ($48)
We enjoyed this wine over Christmas (Episode #17 Christmas 2009). This was one of our purchases from the September trip to Woodinville, WA. The wine was spectacular then and even better to celebrate Christmas with. Hands down the best wine I drank all month.
- The Stuff: Right Bank style blend with 48% Merlot 46% Cab Franc and 6% Petit Verdot.
- The Swirl: Moderately opaque with translucent edges. Nice jewel tones
- The Sniff: Wow, this glass is alive with aroma ranging from spice to coffee to vanilla to dark cherries. Alive with juice.
- The Sip: An explosion of fruit with the right amount of structure balance and tannin to enjoy alone or with a big steak or red pasta dish. This is like sex in a glass. The orgasm of flavor blew me away!
- The Score: At $48 I would definitely buy this again and again as long as my credit card allowed. Taking into consideration the economy and value, this wine scores a 4+. Get it at $35 and it is a steal and a 5.
A twitter friend said they recently picked up several bottles for just $29. At this price I would buy a case.
*Runner up 2007 Robert Karl Claret ($20)
Random Favorites Highlights from December
The post that made me spit wine out my nose: Drinking With the Wine Whore (make sure you watch the video)
Best Wine Picture (Rated R): DrinksAreOnMe.net – Cork Taint
Best Wine Quote: WineTonite – Apples and Wine
“Men are like a fine wine. They begin as grapes, and it’s up to the women to stomp the mess out of them until they turn into something acceptable to have with dinner.” – Ed Thralls
Most ‘heady’ Wine Post Good Grape “When Altruism Needs to Equal Cooperation”
DrinkNectar Posts (Most Viewed) Wineries – Missing the Social Media Money?