07 Dec 2009
Spokane is a growing wine region. With 17 wineries and a local population of nearly 500,000 people, Spokane wineries are poised to experience great growth opportunities over the next 5 years! Robert Karl, one of the regions first, is a gem hidden away in a pocket of downtown dating back to Spokane’s origins. Originally a horse drawn firehouse, Robert Karl Cellars entire annual production of its 2500 cases, is at 115 W Pacific Ave just one block west of Division. The tasting room is open Thursday – Saturday.
Joe and Rebecca Gunselman moved to Spokane in 1998 after Dr. Joe (anesthesiologist) developed a passion for the wine business while writing a marketing paper for his MBA. During our conversation, I learned that the Gunselman’s and I have a Roanoke, VA connection. Joe and Rebecca lived there after Joe got out of the military prior to their move to the northwest.
Joe was unable to meet with us for long because he had to tend to a medical case, but Rebecca – the consummate host -gave her attention to walking us through their wine, explaining their history and vision, and providing a fantastic tour of the facility and their winemaking process. Rebecca’s video tour captures the essence of how their wine is made and provides a great primer for beginning wine tasters as well.
Robert Karl, a name derived from Rebecca’s side of the family (Robert) and Joe’s side (Karl – also their youngest son’s name), procures their grapes from four vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA in the lower Columbia Valley. The Gunselman’s own an eight acre block while three other vineyards grow dedicated blocks under Joe’s specifications. Horse Heaven Hills is a perfect growing climate for Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, Merlot, and Malbec. The vineyards also provide Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. Rebecca says the Sauvignon Blanc was recently chosen so she had ‘something to drink during the hot summer nights’ in Spokane.
Watch the video, get to know Rebecca and the wine, then make it a point to stop by their winery / tasting room and enjoy a glass wherever it is on the wine list. If you stop by during the right time of year you can see the process in action. Below are my tasting notes for the five wines I tried (my apologies for the brevity, there was a lot of tasting).
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon $30
- The Swirl: Beautiful opaque rich color
- The Sniff: This is a big wine. The explosion of spice, dark berries, leather, and dirt (in a good way)
- The Sip: Like Rebecca said, cherry is the primary front end of this wine. As it opens up more dramatic spice come through. There is a lot of acidity and tannin on the finish. This wine should be consumed with food for maximum enjoyment. A hearty well seasoned steak or spicy pork strips are the first to come to mind.
- The Score: At $30, I score this wine a 3+ (out of 5) – If you like a big bad Cabernet, you’ll love this wine.
2007 Syrah $30 (92% Syrah 8% Viognier)
- The Swirl: Don’t recall
- The Sniff: Very fruity blueberry, chocolate and smoked bacon
- The Sip: Typical sweet fruit Syrah, but not nearly as overwhelming as its Australian sisters. A very nice tannin finish provided just enough structure to pair well with food.
- The Score: At $30 I score this wine 4 (out of 5) - If you need a high quality sipping wine or would like to introduce your non-wine loving friends to something better than the Costco Yellow Tail, then start here.
2007 Estate Merlot $20- 100% Andrews Horse Heaven Ranch
- The Swirl: slightly lighter than the previous two, more pearlescent in color with strong legs (indicating higher sugar and alcohol)
- The Sniff: Cherry tart, pepper, and a little woodsy
- The Sip: Very sexy – not as smooth as some Merlot’s I love, but with the chocolate finish and the mouth-watering acidic ending this works well to sip or with food. (UPDATE: Drank second bottle a few nights later with a heavy Salmon Pasta dish – definitly pairs best with food. The initial sip is light but opens up as it sits in your mouth)
- The Score: At only $20 I score this wine a strong 3+ (out of 5). Give this wine 3-5 years in the cellar and it will be a 4 for sure!
2006 Inspiration $45 - (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot)
- The Swirl: This and the Claret were the most beautiful to look at. The light seemed to dance off the top during the swirl
- The Sniff: I detected a floral scent, like violet along with fragrant blueberries and a smokey cigar box
- The Sip: You can tell that this wine is an investment. If 2006 is a special year for you (anniversary, birth of a child, etc) but a few of these and put them away for up to 25 years. The flavor is very nice and peppery / spicy. Currently pretty tart on the very back of the mouth with a lot of tannin.
- The Score: At $45 I score this wine a 3+ (out of 5) Knowing that we live in a satisfy me now society, drinkers who open this immediately after purchase should decant it a few times.
2007 Claret Red Blend $20 (55% Cabernet Sauvignon,
20% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot, and 5% Malbec)
- The Swirl: Amazing color, light plum and clearer toward the edges
- The Sniff: My favorite by far – I could smell this wine before I even gave it the swirl. Scents of cherry and vanilla with mild sweet spice (like a red pepper)
- The Sip: The Claret blew me away, unfortunately there were no more to purchase (the customer just before me bought 14 bottles). A beautiful earthy floral taste with medium mocha and cherry flavors.
- The Score: At $20 I would score this wine 4 (out of 5) - I will stay in touch with Joe and Rebecca so I can get my hands on any more as they come available.
Contact Robert Karl Cellars on Twitter @RKCellars or through their website www.robertkarl.com
Enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY
06 Dec 2009
I work at least 70 hours a week. By day, I’m a project manager for the intranet of a Fortune 15 company (who still sadly has no major inroads in social media), by afternoon, I’m a licensed Realtor, and by night I’m a wine and coffee lover exploring the vast worlds of the wonderful nectar provided to us by the gods. The weekends can be interesting, especially around the holidays. This weekend I had to balance cleaning our rental property for a new tenant, two Christmas parties, laundry, putting up Christmas lights, and still managing to move forward with the newfound world of DrinkNectar.com Below is a recap of my weekend of bad wine, good wine, cat pee, Clark Griswold, and CRUSHING IT!
Friday Night – After wrapping up a productive week of project management, blah blah blah, was looking forward to the office real estate party. Wife and I got dressed up and went to a nice event facility in Spokane at the Lincoln Center. Nice event place with good party food and desserts. Band was good. It felt like we were walking into a scene from Wedding Crashers. The band was playing Sweet Home Alabama, middle aged rich people were shaking it up on the dance floor and there was a long line at the bar
“Tattoo on the lower back? Might as well be a bullseye.”
WINE CHOICE: The wedding, er…Christmas Party didn’t have much of a wine selection. The options were Beringer White Zin, usually found in the brown bag of your local bag lady, can be purchased for as low as $3 in the local store, a red choice and a white choice both from Columbia Crest Two Vines (budget brand). I chose the Cabernet Sauvignon over the Sauvignon Blanc. The bottom line of the review is AVOID THIS WINE. There are better $7 choices out there. For $4.75 a glass, I would’ve been better off drinking a glass of watered down Welches. To their credit CC Two Vines does make decent juice. We enjoy the Cab-Merlot blend on a semi-regular basis but for some reason this Cab on its own was sub-standard.
With a poor wine selection and no hope of seeing the bride get drunk we headed out of the good ol’ boys club party in search of greener pastures, or at least better wine.
I remembered from my Facebook and Twitter happenings that it was First Friday in downtown Spokane (a blend of the arts and unique businesses). We headed to the Whitestone Tasting Room - @PIECESOFRED on Twitter – to sample their offerings. Ahhhh, finally something that actually passes for wine. I arranged an onsite review of these guys in the next few weeks, so I won’t go into too much detail. The offerings were Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, Merlot and two different blends. Grown on the banks of Lake Roosevelt in North Central, WA the Estate Pieces of Red is a blend of a very bold and spicy Cab and a well structured Merlot. At $17, Pieces of Red is a great choice for wine drinkers who like bold and spicy with deep dark berry fruits. definitely enough tannin and acidity to be cellared for many years. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. The night was redeemed.
The hopes of sleeping in were dashed against the rocks of reality knowing I had three days of chores to cram into one day. The morning and early afternoon would be consumed by playing cleaning lady and Clark Griswold.
I knew I was taking a risk, but now I know that cats should not be allowed to live in confined spaces. One of my rental units is a 200 SF loft. I let the last tenant house a cat. As a result, I spent 3 hours on my Saturday attempting to remove the smell of cat litter for the new tenant. It wasn’t a horrible cat pee smell, but it was certainly enough to hit you like a ton of bricks when you walked in the door. Should I deduct from the deposit the same amount I make per hour?
Yes it is, it’s a bit nipply out. I mean nippy out, what did I say, nipple? Huh, there is a nip in the air. - Clark Griswold
After satisfactorily eliminating the cat pee from the apartment, I turned my attention to checking 1000′s of little twinkle lights. The results, threw away three strand of lights, went back to the store and bought new LED lights, put up the inflatable Snoopy, stood back and admired all that I had created. I was ready for the evening festivities and wine.
I was looking forward to the next two activities all week. The first stop of the evening was Spokane winery Robert Karl Cellars (@RKCellars). Joe and Rebecca Gunselman, Spokane wine veterans, with nine vintages under their belt, are generating buzz in the WA wine world. Procuring grapes from their own estate and three other vineyards, all in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA (Central WA), the Bordeaux style varietals are big and dynamic but also have an immediate drinkability to them. The interview and tasting notes are coming soon. I had the pleasure of tasting an 07 Merlot, 07 Syrah, 06 Cabernet Sauvignon, 06 Inspiration Reserve (blend), and the 07 Claret (blend). The day was definitely looking up.
The wife and I concluded the evening at a friends Christmas party. Looking back, I don’t think I ate dinner all weekend. I had my share of meatballs, mini-sandwhiches and cheese & crackers. The spread at @bethany_kate was phenomenal. Chad is the master bar tender mixing up Elf Pee, Reindeer Farts and more! I brought a bottle of Merlot from Robert Karl and learned a valuable taste pairing lesson: RK Merlot does not play well with Reindeer Farts (Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and Vodka). After cleansing the palate with a few crackers, cheese and brownies, I enjoyed the character of the Merlot. The body of this wine is very sexy and has a long lingering finish that brings up cherry tart, cocoa powder and acid that makes your mouth water to the point of drool. Needless to say, I left the party with a nice red toothed grin! HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
Now, I wrap up my working wino weekend, hoping to satisfy the many fans of DrinkNectar.com (the wife, the mom, and the sis) and watching the Redskins in an epic fail as they blow the late lead against the undefeated Saints. Not much to cheer about this year, that win would’ve been a great notch in the belt. Where’s my wine!
02 Dec 2009
Gonzaga Bulldogs; once the cinderella of college Basketball. Washington State Cougars; once the cellar dwellers of the PAC-10 conference. Both teams are now solid contenders with Gonzaga making the NCAA conference for 10 straight seasons and WSU reaching the Sweet 16 in 2007. Tonight, Dec 2, they battle in Spokane at the MAC.
Spokane wine is an underdog among the growing Washington wine explosion. WSU, in the Palouse, and just a short drive to the prestigious Walla Walla wine region. Tonight they battle in the drinknectar challenge!
WSU is represented by their new head coach, the top scorer in the nation Klay Thompson and Cougar Crest Winery. The 2005/6 Bordeaux style blend (with Syrah). Winemaker Deborah Hansen offers a smooth smelling and tasting blend that give the Cougars a strong showing. The wine lack a lot of intrigue and character but has a nice finish. Proceeds from this wine go to support ICU, neurosurgery, and trauma doctors who help give life to winemaker Deborah Hansen’s daughter.
The Zags are represented by 10 years of winning tradition, the 2nd winningest active coach, a young inexperienced team wanting to prove themselves again, and Grande Ronde Cellars. Grande Ronde procures their grapes from the Walla Walla region but calls home 902 W. 2nd Ave in Spokane. The 2005 Cellar Red is a traditional Bordeaux style blend. The sniff is more dynamic and the sip is more floral, perfume, and spice.
Grande Ronde Cellars 2005 Cellar Red
- The Swirl – Medium tone with a very nice purple jewel tone. Moderately see through
- The Sniff – Immediate sense of clove and cinnamon spice. The berry comes through on the back-end. A slight floral element presents itself
- The Sip – Still spicy on the sip with a good interesting flavor. Dark berry fruits begin to present themselves and the finish lingers for quite some time. Tannins, alcohol and acid are not dominant. My wife noted a perfume / soap taste.
- Price to Value Ratio $$$ The wine has a wide flavor profile and gives the drinker a lot to consider but in the end there is too much perfume as it finishes.
Cougar Crest 2005/6 Dedication Three
- The Swirl: The Cougar Crest is slightly more cloudy but still mildly translucent. Lack of legs for low residual sugar.
- The Sniff: Not as much aromatic presence on this wine. More fruity with cherry being the most predominant.
- The Swirl: Good smooth flavor profile. The wine lacks a lingering finish but presents a hint of chocolate at the end. This wine has slightly more acid but less tannin and moderate alcohol.
- Price to Value Ratio $$$+ With a more easy drinking feel and an overall stronger quality, the Cougar Crest is the better value for $20.
Led by senior Matt Bouldin, Gonzaga overcomes a 14 point deficit to beat the Cougars 74 to 69. Once again the hustle, strong coaching winning experience prevail. As far as the wine goes the final decision rests with you. If I were to buy another bottle for another game, I would choose the Cougar Crest only because of the mild flavor profile. Like I said in the video, if you are after a more dynamic taste experience, then go with the Grande Ronde. Great showing by Spokane and the Palouse. Basketball game goes to Gonzaga, wine goes to Cougar (Crest).
01 Dec 2009
“You can’t be greater than Elvis, change things as much as The Beatles, or be as original as Led Zeppelin. All you can do is rip them off.” Billy Corgan
As promised, here is part 2 of my rock n roll wine pairing (See Part 1). Thanks to the comments and suggestions from my fellow bloggers (1winedude, vinegeek, weeklywinejournal, rocknrollwine and coffeenate). Part one of this post was viewed more than any other post I’ve contributed to this point.
The rules: These are my pairings from my experience with wine and music. The pairings all come from music that I listen to and wines that I drink. BUT – I would love to hear how you would pair the music you listen to. Would you put Josh Groban with Sauvignon Blanc or Aligote. Would it be Dave Brubeck or Dave Mathews with Grenache? Is Carlos Santana a Tempranillo or is that too cliché?
Malbec – One of the noble Bordeaux varietals that has experienced a resurgence in popularity, even as a stand-alone grape. It is rich, and dark in color and juicy with tannins for structure. Malbec tends to be fickle and doesn’t always produce the highest yield. Young wine drinkers are consuming cases in quantity from Argentina (due to the lower price). This old classic blend is making a comeback tour. MY ROCK-N-ROLL PAIRING: Aerosmith - The bad boys from Boston are rock nobility. Like the Malbec taste, their music is rich, bold, classic, and part of the blend of classic rock from the 70′s. After disappearing from drug abuse in the 80′s, Aerosmith made a comeback in the 90′s and today with the younger generation providing poppy rock jams. The band is still volatile and their latest records don’t produce the consistent high quality yield but still offer some good tracks.
Sauvignon Blanc – I like a good Sauvignon Blanc. This amazingly talented grape is grassy and sometimes sweet and tropical. It’s lighter in color and sometimes lighter in body and structure than wish it was. This Bordeaux / Loire Valley grape for some reason reminds me of California. MY ROCK-N-ROLL PAIRING: One tweep suggested Janis Joplin or Hendrix, but I went with the more modern John Mayer. Mayer’s guitar playing is among the best alive, but under-rated. His records are often a blend of retro earthy sounds and sweet pop. I always come away from a studio record wanting more substance (which is how your high volume Sauvignon Blancs fare). Get John live and he shines! A well-made Sauv Blanc will rock your pants off.
Sangiovese – This Tuscan Italy super-grape, best known for Chianti can range from strawberry and mild cinnamon to very oaky, musky and thick. Sangiovese is Italy’s most planted grape and is quickly becoming popular for superblends in CA. I really like well made Sangiovese. MY ROCK-N-ROLL PAIRING. I’m going to go with the supergroup Cream. With Jack Bruce on Bass, Ginger Baker on Drums and the incomparable Eric Clapton on Guitar, Cream influenced Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Rush, Black Sabbath and more. Their music ranged from the pop, I Feel Free, to the dark White Room. If it’s been a while since you tried a Chianti or listened to some Cream – try them both together and rediscover the appreciation.
Viognier – This once nearly extinct grape is the only approved varietal approved in Condrieu of the Rhone Valley. It’s scent is floral and sweet but the sip is rather dry. I think this is a sexy varietal. It pairs very well with spicy food. I think hot, I think Viognier. The lower alcohol and mid-high acid are great to cut through the spice of Thai or Spicy Tuna Roll. You’ll find this grape planted in WA, VA, CA and Australia. This wine also blends will with other varieties too. MY ROCK-N-ROLL WINE PAIRING is the hot, sexy Alicia Keys. She is smooth and flowery but her amazing talent is hot. She can be dry and raw or silky and sultry. Miss Keys is getting the credit she deserves but, similar to Viognier, I think we’ll see more from her in the future. Lately, she has lent her talent through ‘pairing’ collaboration efforts too!
Zinfandel – My final pairing is my favorite varietal. To me, Zins are floral and fruity in smell, big and bold fruit and spice in taste, high in alcohol, and pair well with the food I like (BBQ, Pizza, Steak – although a good Cab is preferred, and Pasta). I’m not a fan of the White Zin, but always will choose a big red Zin from the wine list if I don’t feel confident in the other choices. MY ROCK-N-ROLL WINE PAIRING: KISS! Bwahahahaha. While Kiss doesn’t get the respect of other bands, they have stood the test of time and with world wide record sales approaching 100 million, they, like Zin, are a household name. They are the kings of commercializing themselves and never believe in overexposure. They are big and bold in everything they do. Like the red production of Zinfandel, they provide just enough sweet and sap but are not overly offensive (okay maybe sometimes). Through their glam phase (especially Paul Stanley), they could be compared to a white Zin. Most importantly, like the Zin, they tend to be the group I can count on to power me through a run, push me through a slow afternoon, and pump me up.
What about you? What wine would Lady Gaga be? Is there a wine that is similar to Michael Jackson? I would love to hear it. Comment below!
Enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY
30 Nov 2009
Those that know me would confirm that I am a goal setter. I like to set personal markers and celebrate accomplishments and milestones. I work hard to achieve success (attainment of my goals) in everything I set my efforts to.
DrinkNectar.com is the latest in my adventures. It is an outpouring of my passion for coffee, newfound (last five years) love of wine, and entrepreneurial (risk taking) side. The goal, an increase in the awareness of regional wine and coffee and eventually a self-sustaining business.
With one month in the books, I wanted to reflect on the progress. The post is intended to be a journal entry, recording this point in time and not necessarily an entertaining entry to read.
Considering that all numbers were at zero just 30 days ago, here is where we are today: Over 500 visits to the site, 125 Twitter followers, and almost 50 Facebook fans. These new friends have consumed 250 tweets, 17 blog posts, and 8 videos (including 3 on the street reviews).
The most popular post of the month was my Rock n Roll Wine Pairing and the most watched video was the Left Bank Wine Bar review. I want to thank those that have shown interest, whether you’re my mom or a newfound friend in Boston. I especially want to thank the dozens of amazing wine and coffee bloggers out there that serve as inspiration and encouragement.
What will the future hold? Hold on and see. This is going to be a fun and amazing ride. Already lined up are custom logo, video intro, winery reviews, bloggers conference and more!
Enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY