22 Dec 2009
“No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!” This oft quoted line from Miles in the 2004 movie Sideways, single handedly sent Merlot (MARE-low) prices plummeting (while simultaneously causing a renewed interest in Pinot Noir). Now the Rodney Dangerfield of grapes, Merlot is striving to make a come back. At www.merlotwine.com Washington State is listed second, behind France, as premier Merlot growing areas.
Geeky fact: Merlot is the second most planted grape in the world (excluding cheap jug varietals Thompson Seedless and Airen)
Today’s review is a mash up, show down between three well known Washington producers. They represent Eastern, Central, and Western WA. Each was purchased at Costco for under a Jackson.
I added a twist to the challenge. The three wines were put head to head in a blind tasting. Although I knew which three wines I was tasting, I had no idea which wine was in which glass. Watch the video to see how the throw down showdown went down! Read below for the boring ol’ text.
2007 Woodhouse Family Kennedy Shah Merlot
- The Stuff: 80% Merlot, 12% Petit Verdot 8% Malbec from Rattlesnake Hills $12 Retail – Woodinville, WA
- The Swirl: A dull purple- moderate legs. Slightly watery toward the edges
- The Sniff: Nutmeg and Cinnamon at first, then presenting some cigar box with blackberry fruit
- The Sip: The spice comes forward and says, “hi.” The fruit has left the building not to be seen. Mild tannins. The wine lacks structure and presents itself as a basic offering.
- The Score: At just $12, I will rate this a strong 3 and would potentially buy it again. For the price it is a solid offering and I’ve had much much worse.
2007 Arbor Crest Merlot
- The Stuff: 100% Merlot from four unlisted Columbia Valley vineyards; $18 Retail – Spokane, WA
- The Swirl: Bright dark purple color but not quite as dark as plum, good structure to the edges
- The Sniff: Strong acidic or alcohol smell then smoke and blackberry (or dark berry fruit)
- The Sip: Thin on the front end then smokey in the middle. The alcohol made it slightly hot and the juice offered medium tannins.
- The Score: At $18, I can only score this a 3. At this price there are better offerings to enjoy. I would not buy this again, but I wouldn’t shy away from it if offered at a party or on a restaurant menu.
2007 Barnard Griffin Merlot
- The Stuff: 100% Merlot from Columbia Valley and the Wahluke Slope. $17 Retail – Richland, WA
- The Swirl: Darker than the Arbor Crest bordering on plum color
- The Sniff: Well hello, berry, it’s nice to meet you. A sour cherry (in a good way) with a hint of vanilla.
- The Sip: While it came across disappointing in the video, it did open up as the night went on. Slightly challenging palate with some chalkiness and earth leading to a smooth vanilla finish. The berries came out after about an hour in the glass.
- The Score: At $17 I would score this a 3+. The wine had much more structure and interest to it than the other two offerings. This bottle was purchased for just $13 making it a very good value.
None of these wines were superstars. The goal of the review is to provide you some insight for when you see these available at restaurants or at the store. No one wanted to jump forward and declare victory. Taking price, taste, intrigue, and aroma into consideration, this round of WA Merlot Mash-up goes to Barnard Griffin.
21 Dec 2009
“Dude, pass the Pinot.”
This is a statement rarely heard where guys gather across America. Walk into any bar, join any football party, or attend any poker game and you’ll see that the average dude is not consuming wine. Pilsners are preferred over Pinots and talking about NAPA means the auto parts store. This post is for the dudes you know. This series of posts aims to provide the basic wine information to the NASCAR watching, Dale Earnhardt loving, Budweiser swilling, Copenhagen chewing, Hustler reading man! “Why should I know about wine?” Well, dudes, I’ll give you three good reasons.
At some point in life you’ll experience some success. You’ll find yourself at a restaurant celebrating your engagement or job promotion. You may even find yourself entertaining work clients at a fancy dinner. These scenarios and more may require you to have a little knowledge of wine. There is nothing wrong with beer but it seems that in certain scenarios, even for dudes, beer just won’t do.
No one likes to look stupid, especially dudes. Failing to bench press at least your body weight, not knowing the difference between a carburetor and a manifold, and not understanding how a batter who swings and misses at a third strike can still make it to first base can all make you look stupid. Showing up for Thanksgiving dinner at your in-laws with a bottle of Two Buck Chuck or ordering a White Zinfandel at a fancy dinner party will make you look equally stupid. You don’t need to be a Sommelier (or even know how topronounce it) to order intelligently.
It is no secret, dudes like sex, especially sex with girls. Girls, more often than not, enjoy wine. Nothing says romance like a candle light dinner with two bottles of Bud light! NOT! Romance is home-made chicken parmesan, candles, flowers and a bottle of Sangiovese or a great Cote du Rhone blend. Studies even say that women who enjoy two glasses of wine per night have better sex! Do you need a better reason to learn about wine.
Dude! Listen up! I understand that beer is your best friend. You don’t wait for wine-thirty. The song doesn’t go “God is great and wine is good.” No-one in college plays wine-pong. I’m not saying you should give up your trusty stout. Wine knowledge is only helpful if you think you’ll ever experience success, if you don’t like looking stupid, and if you like girls and sex. Think about it…if you agree, stay tuned for the next post in this series.
Life is meant to be enjoyed with friends. There is nothing better than sharing a glass of wine, coffee or even beer with a friend.
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
20 Dec 2009
An accidental discovery or a destiny finally fulfilled?
Hailed as one of the best growing regions in the state in 1970 remained virtually unplanted until the accidental discovery in 1992. Walter and Judy Haig were flipping through a scrapbook from the original homesteader that listed an old US Agriculture map identifying what crops were planted in 1900. Wine grapes were on the list.The journey to fulfill the lands destiny began.
The lower Lake Roosevelt area formed by the Grand Coulee Dam creates the perfect microclimate for growing Bordeaux varietal grapes. The long summers, cool nights and extended growing season allow for maximum hang time producing fruit forward low sugar wines.
The Haig family wine story began with providing world-class grapes to wineries across the state through 2004. With the 2005 vintage, son Michael Haig, took over vintner and winemaking responsibilities. It’s obvious in talking with Mike that he loves his fruit and he loves the process. “My job is to stay out of the way and produce wine that tells the story of the vintage.” “Too often,” he says, “wineries try to make a wine that doesn’t fit the style of the grapes they have.” We talked about fads in the wine industry and Michael is a believer in staying true to what his vineyard produces (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.) “We are 100% estate grown. We don’t buy grapes from anyone.” A fact he is very proud of.
Whitestone has a tasting room, storage facility, and production facility in Wilbur, WA (about 16 miles from the vineyard). In April 2009, they opened a tasting room at 111 S. Cedar in West Downtown’s Carnegie Square. “Business has been great, but everyday we still hear from people who had no idea we’re here.” Part of the successful launch can be attributed to Whitestone’s commitment to Social Media like Twitter and Facebook. Whitestone is one of the few Spokane wineries taking advantage of this medium to connect with their consumers to drive brand loyalty. Mike, a self-professed techie says, “With Facebook we can post an event notice and see immediately who has responded.” Their first holiday release, Pieces on Earth V.1 went on sale just before Thanksgiving and all 135 cases are sold out (or will soon be after this prints). Promotion was done mostly through e-mail list, wine club members and social media.
Mike and I also spoke about the near term future for Whitestone. Currently producing 2500 cases per year, they are pursuing a new production facility – preferably right on the vineyard. He says, “too often people are pre-occupied with being the ‘next’ Chateau St. Michelle or whatever, I want to be the ‘first’ Michael Haig. From what I can tell the Whitestone line up is big, fruity with big tannins for grilling, steak, pot roast, and ham. The wines are held in oak for up to 30 months and will cellar well for another 5-7 years.
Whitestone is finally seeing the destiny of the land fulfilled 40 years after it was proclaimed.
The Stats: 111 S Cedar – Spokane Tasting Room is open Thursday – Sunday from Noon – 6pm. Friend them up on Facebook Whitestone Winery and follow them on Twitter @PIECESOFRED. WEB: www.whitestonewinery.com
Pieces on Earth V1 (2009 limited release – 135 cases)
- The Stuff: 34% Merlot 33% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Cabernet Franc
- The Swirl: Very dark plum, nearly opaque. Strong legs indicating high alcohol (14.1%) and acidity
- The Sniff: Dark cherry, plums, nutmeg, smoke, with a subtle hint of cocoa at the end
- The Sip: Wow, it’s like I dove into a pool of cherry nutmeg pool, drowning in that Chocolate Chucker Cherry sauce (not as sweet). Very berry front end with strong acidity on the upper mouth and medium tannins. The finish goes on for a good 10 seconds going tart then finishing smooth.
- The Score: At $17.95 (if you can still find it) I rate this wine a 5 out of 5. Mike and Whitestone have created a fantastic holiday season wine that will sip well around the fire and hold up to cranberry, prime rib and ham dinners.
In the video Mike mentions that Social Media is great but the goal is to get people to enjoy life over a glass of wine! I couldn’t say it better myself. Life is meant to be enjoyed with friends and there is no better way than over a glass of wine or cup of coffee.
18 Dec 2009
The thermometer read a brisk 20 degrees and my shoes were wet from the snow piled up on the streets. The place was filling up. Jane mentioned to a customer that she didn’t think they would be busy this morning with the frightful weather. The customer replied, “well, the food is just that good.”
The food is “just that good.” This beautiful jewel at 180 S. Howard in Downtown Spokane is a savory and sweet treat not to be missed.
Taste Cafe & Gourmet To Go opened their doors in February 2009. Mother and daughter, Jane and Hannah Heber, dreamed of providing a modern comfortable atmosphere where people can get quality food (to stay or to go)! Jane, a British native by way of Laguna Beach, spent 17 years dealing in British antiquities prior to moving to Spokane in 2007. Hannah, slaving away in the big city corporate world of San Francisco, jumped at the opportunity to explore her baking passions. She attended culinary school in Spokane prior to opening Taste Cafe.
The atmosphere is modern, elegant and comfortable. Photography by Todd Sackmann adorns the exposed brick to the left, while beautiful modern art paintings on display from Ed Gilmore line the remaining walls. See the video for the visual tour. Taste Cafe offers sweet morning treats from sticky buns, scones, muffins and the amazing twice baked almond croissant to afternoon sweets like cookies, cakes, tarts and pies. For the savory side of morning you can enjoy sausage rolls and assorted baguettes. Stop by in the afternoon or on the way home for dinner and dine on a rotating assortment of soups, salads, paninis, lasagna, pot pies and more.
In my review, I feel that there are three things that set Taste Cafe apart as a top notch business in Spokane; 1) Impeccable taste – in atmosphere, decoration, design (logo & print) and food. Everything is made with fresh ingredients and from what I ate, I can only assume that everything is amazing. Jane and Hannah wanted to give special recognition to their brand, web and print consultants, The Purple Turtle 2) Beer and Wine service – it is more common to enjoy a beer or glass of wine with lunch. The selection of each was small but included quality offerings for discerning customers. 3) To Go! – Being in a downtown urban core, there is not a lot of opportunity for drive by coffee service, but getting amazing breakfast and lunch delivered to your downtown business is perfect. Not only can Taste Cafe cater (and host) your office event or party, they are available to cater weddings, birthdays, and other special events.
- Taste Cafe is open 7am – 4pm Monday – Friday and on Saturday for brunch (and their regular menu) from 8am – 3pm.
Brunch is definitely on my upcoming calendar of things to do. Taste Cafe is a perfect excuse to head downtown on a Saturday morning for brunch before going shopping at River Park Square. Give them a call when planning your next event or party too. Let them prepare the sweet and savory, so you can enjoy your guests.
- www.facebook.com/tastecafespokane and www.twitter.com/tastybuns
- 180 S. Howard 468-2929 www.tastecafespokane.com
The Coffee: Taste Cafe serves Doma Roasting Company coffee. I enjoyed an Americano from their Vito’s Espresso blend.
- The Swirl: The cup was not clear but from what I could tell the color was very dark and was obviously a dark roast blend
- The Sniff: Great aroma – scores very high on the wake you up in the morning meter. Got a little dark chocolate and forest on the sniff
- The Sip: Much smoother than I expected. Not bitter like big brand espresso roasts. Finished with that hint of chocolate.
- The Score: Top notch a high 4
Life is meant to be enjoyed with friends. Stop by Taste Cafe, order up some coffee, wine or beer and DRINK.HAPPY!
17 Dec 2009
Thanks for stopping by. I just wanted to post this quick note to all the new visitors to the site today. My name is Josh and my passion is wine, coffee and writing about them.Take a look around the site. I think you’ll find a unique take on reviews that are creative, funny, witty, entertaining as well as informative. I don’t take myself too seriously, but I do take my wine and coffee seriously. You’ll find local wine and coffee reviews, winery visits, social media tips, and stuff to make wine accessible to everyone! Follow me on Twitter www.twitter.com/nectarwine and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/drinknectar. Have fun and stay a while.