28 Nov 2009
My apologies on the front end for the video quality. The place was dark and I don’t use a light when I film. :0)
When my sister and brother in-law invited us to a Portland, OR wine bar during our Thanksgiving visit, I jumped at the opportunity! Three days of the in-law scenery warranted a trip to drink up with the cool kids!
Wine Down, in NE Portland’s revitalized 28th Ave district (map here) is a quaint place where wine snobs can enjoy their high-end wine and blue-collar wine drinkers can experience new tastes side by side. This unpretentious and comfortable ‘neighborhood’ restaurant will blow you away with its selection and with the amazing service and knowledge.
The atmosphere is cozy. The fireplace crackled and the warmth of our private booth offset the 40 degree foggy Portland night. Blues legend, Terry Robb was playing live providing a fantastic backdrop for the evening. Wine Down is not about amazing decor or expensive ambiance. Their wine selection and service speak louder than their decor. At Wine Down you’ll also find free Wi-Fi, comfortable couches, outdoor seating (when warmer), live music (Wed-Sat), and the largest by the glass Port selection in the United States! Stop and read that sentence again!
The Wine Down vision began with owner Stuart Herold in 1983 while serving in the military in Beruit. Seventeen years later, after the birth of his disabled son, Wine Down was born as an expression of his business passion and offering the flexibility to take care of his severely disabled son Cameron.
Our experience began with the bartenders flight of three wines. Kimberly and I enjoyed the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Lodi California Petite Sirah, and a Napa Zinfandel. Our hosts (Thad and Rebecca) enjoyed a Diamondback California Cabernet Sauvignon, a Couvee blend and a Spanish red blend. The enjoyable thing about the tasting was that between the six wines and the four palates we all had our favorites and least favorites and none agreed upon an overall ‘best.’ That is the beauty of wine. There is a taste for everyone to enjoy. Finding it is the fun.
The 600 bottle rotating selection (with 50 active reds and 30 active whites) is impressive. I found myself looking forward to the next time I could come back and sample other vintages that I would not normally find and to try their ‘second to none’ Port selection. Stuart’s passion to provide a neighborhood experience paired with top quality wines was contagious. I wanted to open my wallet like a church collection plate and contribute to his cause. Recently, Wine Down learned that the landlord was selling the building out from under them with the hopes of capitalizing on the new found growth of the district (of which Wine Down helped to establish). As of January 1, Wine Down hopes to reemerge on Alberta Ave with not only a new larger location, but a refreshing concept. YOU MUST stay in touch with their web site, Facebook page and Twitter account for all the latest happenings.
While the goal of DrinkNectar is not to be a food critic or food reviewer, I must point out that their full service menu is of fantastic quality as well. Our party enjoyed the Gnocchi Geneosa, Baked Brie Platter, Flat Iron Steak, and a Salad. The menu contains a large selection of appetizers and a moderate (but carefully crafted) assortment of entrees.
Even if NE Portland is out-of-the-way for you, Wine Down is a great spot to wind down for the evening. You’ll quickly become a repeat customer as you work your way through their extensive wine selection.
NectarView (the glass selections – that I remember)
Dobbs Family; 2006 Meyer Vineyard Pinot Noir $65
- The Swirl – Very light in color; translucent plum
- The Sniff – From what I remember the nose was not overwhelming. It was a good balance between spice and pomegranate.
- The Sip – extremely light and watery on the front with sweet cherry and white pepper in the middle. The finish was mildly sweet and acidic. Has a great structure.
- Price to Value Ratio $$+ At $65 I expect to be blown away. This sub par rating could be my lack of experience and interest for Pinot Noir, so take with a grain of salt. With $65 to spend, there should be better values out there.
Hybrid (by Peltier Station) Lodi Petite Sirah $32
- The Swirl – Dark and inky purple
- The Sniff – smokey forest fire and grandpa’s tobacco pipe
- The Sip – Amazing balance of spice and blackberry fruit. The acidity was intense but not overwhelming. The finish lingered forever. This is the glass I chose with my bacon flavored Gnocchi.
- Price to Value ratio $$$+ Pricey for an everyday wine (for me). Definitely a value when needing an impressive bottle to bring to dinner or serve for the holidays!
Overall our experience was great. The service and wine selection outshined the ambiance. After my conversations with Stuart about their landlord battles, I can understand not putting too much money into certain aspects. I look forward to a return visit to see how Wine Down has reinvented themselves on Alberta Ave.
As always – enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY.
25 Nov 2009
Remember to give thanks for all the amazing blessings we have in life. Regardless of where you find yourself at this exact moment in time, you still have your life, family, friends and heck some wine to be thankful for! Enjoy the day. Take the poll below and let me know what wine you drank for Turkey day or what wine you are planning to drink.
25 Nov 2009
Simply the most beautiful place that I’ve ever tasted wine!
I’m not a world traveler. I’ve never been outside the US, unless you count downtown San Francisco – okay, I’ve been to Canada but not the cool parts. I hear great things about wine tasting in Napa. I’m sure tasting rooms in Northern Nevada and the East Coast are tops too. From my limited experience (5 regions in WA), Lake Chelan AVA is tops! The majority of the wineries are small lot makers of 5000 cases or less that either grow their own grapes or source from local Columbia Valley or Walla Walla. These are passionate people who have yet to be consumed by the lust of big money and big business!
Kimberly and I enjoyed this trip so much that we have already planned a return trip in May, 2010.
Washington’s youngest AVA (American Viticulture Association), born in May, 2009 boasts 14 wineries. If I were a betting man and had any money to bet, I would put a C-Note down that in 3 years or less you’ll see no less than 30 wineries and tasting rooms in the area.
Of the 12 wineries we visited (sorry to say we missed 2), it was truly difficult to pick our favorites. We loved the personality of Nefarious, the grand tasting room of Benson, the grounds and atmosphere of Vin du Lac, the sexy story behind Hard Row to Hoe, and the impressive underground cave of Karma! However the WINE is the most important part. While we purchase wine at EVERY place we visit, there are a few that lose their appeal when leaving the sunny slopes of the mountain lake.
The Nefarious Cellars wines were amazing. We only purchased the whites (there must’ve been a reason for that – either we didn’t like the reds or they were already sold out). Heather and Dean Neff (owners and wine makers) create a personal wine that reflects their own individual passions using grapes grown on their plots of land or from respected vineyards in WA. The video review shares more of their information and the review of their white blend, 2008 Consequence. The wine, nearly a 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Aligote (some Viognier thrown in), gave me an opportunity to try a varietal that I’ve never experienced in the Aligote. My research found that this grape, mostly grown in France as a blending grape has a good sparkling quality to it. This wine is definitely crisp and refreshing. Makes me wish I would’ve opened it in the summer. The 350 cases of Consequence are now sold out.
I typically do my reviews first and then double-check my work with other tasting notes and reviewers to see if I’m full of it. We enjoyed a glass with a Roasted Chicken, Scalloped Potatoes on a bed of veggies. The wine paired well with the dish and didn’t shrink away.
- The Swirl: Lighter than a Chardonnay but not as light as a Sauvignon Blanc
- The Sniff: At first I smelled pears, citrus fruits and rockyness. My wife said she got the smell of butter, like movie theater butter (not the popcorn, just the butter)
- The Sip: Crisp, like biting into a crunchy pear or apple. It felt like a non-oaked Chardonnay with more citrus to it. During my video tasting I mentioned the lack of acidity or finish, but after taking the final glass to the hot tub, I must contradict myself. The structure began to come through after sitting out and being just below room temp (maybe 60 degrees)
- Price to Value Ratio: ($17) $$$$+ If this wine were over $20, I would not score so high. Great value only if you like the style I’ve described.
For me, if you love crisp wines that are not too dry and not too sweet, this is a great buy (if you can find any). If you’re in the mood for something with strong passionate flavor and acidity, then skip it.
DOTD? Currently, while I write, I’m having a Widmer Brothers Drop Top Amber Ale. Soon, I’ll be examining our wine selection to see what wine to take on our Thanksgiving trip with family. You?
While away for Thanksgiving, I’ll try to put together an on the spot Thanksgiving review of the wines other people brought and get candid response from some family members.
Enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY!
23 Nov 2009
Inspired by mega wine blogger 1WineDude (@1WineDude) and Rock and Roll Wine (I decided to put my Rock-n-Roll perspectives on the wine varietals (types of grapes) that I’ve had the pleasure of ingesting. Wine itself, doesn’t get its due in rock music. The most common reference is to cheap wine (ala Billy Joel and Neil Diamond). True rockers (and hillbilly) go for beer and whiskey references. The best props to wine, at least the Champagne variety, comes from the hip-hop world.
Below are my rock-n-roll reviews of the basic wine grapes from music that is on my Zune (yes, I own a Zune and not an iPod). Feel free to pass this along as a form of reference and awareness to your beer swilling, martini sipping, Jack and Coke slugging friends. (Part 2 is here)
Merlot - The Merlot grape is very palatable and an easy to drink red. Can be paired with lots of foods and rarely is it found offensive. My music pairing is Bon Jovi. Their music is still relevant and tasty, but rarely is there anything memorable from their recent records. They can make a crossover to other genres, their music is rarely bold or offensive and they reach a broad audience.
Chardonnay - Popular and hearty. Grows in a number of climates Can come across mis-understood by some and smooth and buttery by others. Overall, a decent white wine to cut your teeth on and an overall classic. My musical pairing, U2. Making chart topping AND socially conscience music for over 25 years, U2 can be smooth but also abrasive. Wide appeal but losing their former luster.
Cabernet Sauvignon – Rich, bold red that is considered the king of red grapes. Very strong flavor, tannins and acid that cut through food, often overpowering to be consumed without food. Can be offensive to some but to those who understand its brashness is very much appreciated. Music pairing - Was torn on this one, so I chose ACDC and Led Zeppelin. Both bands are kings of their genre. Hard hitting, in your face, and often under appreciated. Can be tough to listen to in their entirety, but very much a delight when a song comes up on shuffle. The bands are huge in sound but still have an amazing appeal. Some are completely turned off by their sound.
Riesling - In some regions this wine provides a dry flavor that is great with fish, chicken and pork. California Riesling tends to be sweet and lacking acidity and balance. Liked by many and a great crossover wine grape that tends to be popular among the female crowd for social drinking. Music pairing – Taylor Swift; While I don’t have any Taylor on my Zune (I swear), you can’t help but notice that her music is sometimes dry, sometimes sweet and sappy, lacks balance and has a hugely wide appeal…just sayin’.
Pinot Noir - This difficult to grow grape is rarely blended with other varietals. Can range from sweet and fruity to rough and earthy. The Noble Pinot Noir is either loved and cherished for its complexity and terroir specificity or disliked for the same reasons. Musical Pairing – Beatles (specifically the later years). While I have yet to discover a palate for Pinot Noir, I am a huge Beatles fan. In my interactions with people, I find they either are passionate about them or could take them or leave them. Regardless of their like or dislike people always respect their influence in music and popular culture. While their early success was based on hysteria and less substantive music, their best stuff came as they explored the boundaries of music and what was considered ‘popular.’
I think I’ll make this post a two parter. I would love to hear your thoughts. For my wino friends, what musical pairings would you offer to the varietals you enjoy.
DOTD? (Drink of the Day) – Finished of the last of the 2004 Brassfield Estate Bottled Round Mountain Zinfandel. You?
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