17 Jan 2010
This weekend I left the bleak grey confines of Spokane, WA for the land of eternal sun, Phoenix. While my itinerary consisted mostly of pounding my 37 year old body into the pavement for the PF Changs Rock-n-Roll Marathon, I also enjoyed visiting with my sister, her husband and my mom and dad.
In addition to the body torture, new twitter friend, Tim Hilcove @wklywinejournal organized a wine / adult beverage tweetup. The first stop was FnB Restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale. This fantastic part of town is thriving with activity; restaurants, bars, wine bars, art galleries, and live music. This is an adult playground! While FnB wasn’t a “wine bar,” I was thrilled to see a great selection of Arizona wine. During the tweetup, we met some fantastic people (featured below).
FnB was very accommodating with our group of 12. Due to lighting conditions, food aromas, and my memory, I’m unable to provide a full NectarView of each wine, but below is what I drank and what I thought!
2008 Pillsbury “Casa Blanca” Pinot Gris, Cochise County $20
- The wine had an interesting minerality on the nose. The Pinot Gris’ that I’m used to usually have a very crisp apple, pear, and pineapple aroma. This was a very good wine that seems to be made in the traditional Italian wine making style. The sip provided some nice effervescence and reminded me of Champagne (w/o the bubbles). I would definitely buy it (if I could ever find it in our area).
2006 Dos Cabezas “Toscano” Red Blend, Conchise County $22
- This wine was lighter shade with similar colorings and translucence as a Pinot Noir (jewel like). Toscano is a Sangiovese, Cab, Syrah, Petit Sirah blend. The flavors were sour cherry with a dry tartness and mild acidity. This wine wasn’t in my wheelhouse, but it did seem well made with nice character.
2007 Pillsbury “Roan Red” Syrah, Conchise County $24
- The color presented fairly dark plum with mildly clear edges. Once again, this wine seemed to be made in the traditional Rhone style. Taste was fruity grape and blackberry and had a descent tannic structure and a nice long finish (see Tim’s description in the video).
The most enjoyable and biggest surprise for me was the Casa Blanca
After wrapping up dinner, one of our tweeters (@juxtapalate) recommended we head to Kazimierz World Wine Bar. This place needs to be seen to be believed. There are no establishment name signs on the building, the entrance is in the rear and the only sign, above the entrance door, says “The Truth is Inside.” The inside is reminiscent of what I would envision an old French cellar would look like (cobblestone, wood, barrels). Hot jazz was playing and the place was alive with beautiful people (current blogger not withstanding). The hostess brought a wine menu which included a nice selection of flights. @Juxtapalate asked the waitress for the “wine bible.” The Kazimierz Wine Bible contained 2600 wines by the bottle. WOW! I think I need to spend more than just a three day weekend here. A cellar was dug out under the building to hold all the wine. After analyzing the flights, I chose something that would make fellow wine blogger @vinegeek proud, Mourvedre. Sadly, my reviews were tainted by the smell of garlic as we sat right outside the kitchen.
2006 San Isidro Monastrell, Cepas del Zorro; Spain $11
- This was a big earthy chewy wine. It was aroma challenged. I wasn’t too pleased with this wine because it was mostly tart and tannic with hints of leather but no lace.
2007 Castano Monastrell Organic, Spain; $8
- This wine also didn’t produce much effort on the nose. The first two offering were definitely giving me a picture of Spanish Mourvedre but I wasn’t totally into what they were painting. I did pick up some red cherry jam but the wine was simple with a short finish.
2006 Cline Mourvedre, Ancient Vines, Contra Costa; $12
- I’ve had several positive experiences with the Cline brand and this one was no exception. This wine was much smoother and had a nice strawberry tart taste with a hint of smoky oak. Discovering that the wine is only $12 means that this is one I would pick up to share with friends.
Earlier I mentioned that we enjoyed our tweetup with several local foodies and winos. It was such a pleasure to meet these guys and they are definitely worthy of a follow on twitter.
@CChaseEnt – Colleen runs @AZGrapeEscapes and has the joy of organizing wine tours to the nearby Phoenix area vineyards and wineries.
@JuxtaPalate – Ty is a great connector. His blog is witty and fun as he explore the Phoenix food and drink scene. He also runs a PR firm for local restaurants.
@JustinEats – Justin writes a fantastic food blog with insightful reviews of local restaurants.
@wklywinejournal – Tim was gracious enough to organize the tweetup. His wine blog has been on my reader list for months. Tim’s passion is promoting the AZ scene. Go Tim!
Several others came and went throughout the night but I did not get to converse with them all; @CiaoMari Niki Buchanan (food writer for www.azcentral.com) and @foodieslikeus
Life is meant to be enjoyed with friends and I’m already looking forward to my next trip to sunny Phoenix in April. Kazimierz will probably be the first stop on the way from the airport! DRINK.HAPPY
13 Jan 2010
You either have to be crazy or passionate about your topic to launch a new print magazine in today’s economic condition. I think a little of both could be used to describe the launch of Washington Tasting Room magazine. Founders John and Adean Vitale hope to provide a “wealth of tasting experiences…as we celebrate the truly amazing wines being produced across the state.”
I received the first two copies of Washington Tasting Room as an industry sample with the intention to review.
The magazine is a quarterly publication that intends to explore tasting rooms across the state. Each edition is divided into Tour (wineries and vineyards), Taste (culinary, restaurant, food pairings), Travel (hotels, resorts, bed & breakfasts) and At Home (general wine info, art, etc). Every edition also covers key news, trends, tasting room openings and an event calendar. The advertisements were not overwhelming and each was nicely placed on the page or grouped together to not distract from the article.
As I flipped through each edition, I was extremely impressed with the quality of the writing, including two of my online favorites Kori Voorhees from www.winepeeps.com and David LeClaire from www.vinolover.com. Other writing contributors varied between publications but each article was nicely crafted. To me, the star of each edition is the photography. The panoramic landscape photo’s of vineyards and the thumbnail shots of various tasting rooms gave me an overall impression of visiting each space. A few of the centerfold type shots had me holding the magazine up akin to a teenage boy with those “other” kind of magazines that people read for the articles.
While there is nothing negative to say about the magazine, I do have an observation and a suggestion. My observation is based on my geographical bias. So far, with two issues there is nary a mention of the Spokane wine scene. While I realize that Spokane is not an AVA, nor is it synonymous with wine (ala Walla Walla or Lake Chelan), however Spokane metro is 350,000 people strong and has 18 very good wineries. Several of Spokane’s wine makers are fathers of wine in the state. I would hope to see some sort of representation in the Spring edition.
My suggestion revolves around the very nature of the print medium. Of the 34 pages that had article text, 5 were dedicated to events. The lead time of print to publication to distribution to ending up in my hands means that there are probably several events that don’t make the list (and others that have come and gone by the time I pick up my magazine). Building out a robust event section on the web site would allow for more real time addition. A few of the articles (not all) should be available on the web site with some features published online between issues. I’m sure several WA wine bloggers would love to syndicate their content. In short, I think the survival of the print medium is a synergy between print, web, and social media. Readers are going online. One magazine I read regularly starts the article in the magazine and then references a second part or additional information that is online…very clever.
Washington Tasting Room is a good magazine for wine lovers in our state. I’m a huge fan and supporter of anything that promotes the beautifully crafted quality wines that come from Washington. I wish John and Adean success with their venture. Be looking for a subscription order from DrinkNectar.com.
11 Jan 2010
Buy Local! It makes sense supporting local businesses; higher profit margins, more money stays in the local economy and the capacity to create jobs increases. For the New Year, I vocalized my desire to buy more of my wine locally. I am extending this challenge to all of my wino friends. The resolution is not to buy ALL of my wine locally, just more of it. I commit, where possible and when fiscally responsible (I’ll explain later) to purchase most of my wine from local wine shops or directly from the winery.
Who’s with me? Does it make sense? For me, this is a major departure from the way I traditionally buy wine. My wine purchases typically come from the grocery store, Costco, and occasionally from a local shop near our home. Going local will mean going out of my way to make an additional stop. Our ‘good wine’ purchases tend to come from our bi-annual trips to Washington wine regions.
2010 also brings a challenge to try ‘new’ and interesting wine. I’ve been challenged by my friend James Yates (@winecentury on twitter) to join the Wine Century club where I taste 100 different grape varietals. Currently, my total is at 42. Have you made the Wine Century club? Who’s with me on this journey? What is your starting number?
Financial responsibility is important. Nothing irks me more than buying something only to find out that I could have gotten it cheaper at another store or online. In a recent post on www.corkd.com Robert Dwyer (@RobertDwyer on twitter) posed the dilemma of buying local or buying for the best deal. This is a challenge for local retailers who have less buying power and run on higher overheads. In our global economy the local retailer MUST compete on price AND relationship. If the local shop offers no additional benefit, service or connection then the price will always win. Wineries should also keep this in mind when selling in their tasting room. I recently purchased a nice $48 bottle of wine at a winery only to hear of a blogger friend who picked it up “on sale” for $29. To be honest, this pissed me off. I have a local buying price threshold. This is the difference in price I’m willing to pay for the service, experience or relationship that the local store offers. My max threshold runs around 8-12% (depending on the price bracket). In the case of the wine mentioned above, I would be comfortable with paying $48 FROM the winery even though it could be purchased for $40 at the box store. For the $16 discount wine at the grocery store, I’m okay paying $20 at a local shop (but not $22 or $24).
My 2010 approach to wine is to support local wine for most of my wine purchases. The two caveats revolve around selection and price. If I discover a wine that fits my goals to have new experiences while at Costco, then I’ll buy it. If the wine is consistently 10% or more less at a box store, then it may get my business, especially if the local retailer offers little or no additional value (relationship, experience, or knowledge).
What are your thoughts? Do you have a price threshold? Are you ready to join me on my 2010 Wine Challenge?
Buying Wine “Locally” in Spokane
Are we missing your favorite Spokane Wine Shop? Email us at email@example.com
- 3319 North Argonne Road Spokane Valley, WA
- (509) 443-4027
- 926 South Monroe Street Spokane, WA
- (509) 358-8955
Left Bank Wine Bar
- 108 North Washington Street, Spokane, WA
- (509) 315-8623
- The Drink Nectar Review (Nov 2009)
Niko’s Wine Bar
- 725 West Riverside Ave, Spokane, WA
- (509) 624-7444
- The Drink Nectar Review (Jan 2010)
- 726 East 43rd Avenue, Spokane, WA
- (509) 343-2253
Vino! A Wine Shop
- 222 South Washington Street, Spokane, WA
- (509) 838-1229
- 8801 North Indian Trail Road, Spokane, WA
- (509) 468-9463
Yokes Fresh Market Stores (6 Spokane Locations)
- Locally owned with one of the largest selections in the NW
- http://www.yokesfoods.com/ visit site for store locations
- Wine365 – Yokes Wine Blog
Williams Seafood Market & Wines
- 10627 E Sprague, Spokane Valley WA 99206
- (509) 922-4868
Jim’s Home Brew & Wine
- 2619 N Division St
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.
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!