09 Dec 2011
Wine often mystifies and is seldom the same. Vintage variation, winemaker whimsy, and laborious labels can make choosing something you LOVE like dropping a quarter in the state of Texas and sending you out blindfolded to find it. If I had a dollar for every time I was asked, “What is your favorite wine?” I would actually be writing this post from the beaches of Aruba or some exotic place. To help answer the question, I’ve identified the 5 best wines you will ever have. I’m sure you’ll agree!
Your First Wine
While you may not have understood all the intricacies of the taste or it might have been a wine of substandard quality, your first wine will always hold a special place in your heart…and palate. Your first time will always be remembered because it started your life long affair with the fermented grape. Even though you fumbled your way through the swirl, sniff, sip and the experience was over far too quickly, it created a spark that now burns as a raging unquenchable desire.
My first wine (or at least the one I remember) was a 2002 Meridian Merlot purchased just before a first date. Interestingly enough it is this wine that birthed this blog, Nectar Tasting Room, Spokane Wine Magazine, and for that matter just about everything I’m doing right now. The wine…unassuming and unmemorable, but the results have been life changing.
The Celebratory Wine
A wedding, the birth of a child, a job promotion, days when the sun comes up; each of these is deserving of a celebration. Many of these celebrations involve wine. Celebratory wine is some of the best wine you’ll ever have. Your brain creates a powerful positive trigger connecting the wine with the emotions from the event. An average wine can taste good and a great wine can become life changing.
Many of us choose sparkling wine for these celebrations. Two sparkling wines that hold special memory for me are from Spokane’s Mountain Dome (Cuvee Forte), and the Northwest Cellars 2001 Brut that I recently opened during the release party of Spokane Wine Magazine.
The Vacation Wine
Oh, the vacation wine, often known as the wine tasting trip wine – for some reason this wine always tastes 2-3 times better in the tasting room than when you get home and taste it. I would offer that it is the sights, sounds, smells, and overall experience that make the wine enjoyable. While the wine may be really good when you get home, the memory of the time at the winery (or even at the dinner table that night), makes the wine taste better. Some of my favorite wines are from wine trips to Yakima, Woodinville, Walla Walla, and Lake Chelan. BEWARE: There will be times you spend your good money on a wine as you are immersed in the experience that will result in disappointment when popping the cork to enjoy with your frozen dinner.
The Wine in Your Glass
I often answer the question, “What is your favorite wine,” with the answer, “the one in my glass.” While this is a humorous response, it actually holds quite a bit of truth to it. The reason…variety. No two wines are the same. Wine is an artistic and creative product and enjoying it provides a unique experience. Rarely do I buy the same wine twice. While there are many wines that I fall in love with (and I’ll go to these for events, gifts, dinners, dates, etc), I love discovering something new. As a wine writer, I am blessed to get samples from wineries all over the world. I love experiencing Assyrtiko from Greece or Gruner Veltliner from Austria or a bold Napa Cabernet from an artisan producer. I encourage everyone to do this. Find your favorites but enjoy the wine that is in your glass. That wine has its own unique characteristics and qualities, discover them.
The Wine Enjoyed with Friends
The best wine, in my opinion, is the wine enjoyed with friends. Long before there was a ‘brick and mortar’ Nectar Tasting Room, I envisioned groups of people sharing a bottle of wine, laughing and creating memories. My tag line for all my video blogs has always been, “Enjoy life with friends…drink happy.” This actually graces our windows at Nectar. Wine is a social beverage, and a social lubricant, and is tied to so many amazing memories with people you love and enjoy.
While writers and pundits, and even this blog from time to time, rate and score the quality of a wine, the ultimate test and character of a wine is…do you like it? Enjoy the art. Celebrate the variety. Enjoy life with friends, drink happy!
*Photo credit Retro Classics Photography / Crystal Toreson
10 Nov 2011
Two years ago, I had no idea that registering the domain name drinknectar.com at GoDaddy would change my life. While the story still continues to unfold, today I celebrate the second birthday of this social experiment. The last two years has contained many challenges, opportunities for growth, and so many blessings and successes. In the midst of it all, I’m reminded of something I recently read:
“You are exactly who, what, where you are supposed to be and you are lovely.”
Last night I was reading through the ‘happy birthday, year one’ post thinking, “Wholly heck, how in the world did you find the time to write so much content?!” I guess the answer lies in the fact that now I run three businesses (while still managing a full time day job), have had some major personal changes in life, and have really taken the time to enjoy all the moments with friends that I get.
During the first year I wrote 317 blog posts (year 2 saw almost 100). The adage that “content is king” rings very true. As the content decreased, average page views declined from 20,000 per month to just under 10,000. My commitment for 2012 is to get back to what I love doing; creating. While I can’t commit to writing something new every day like I did in 2010, I can get back to video reviews, wine interest stories, and more wine exploration.
Thanks for a great two year run. Here is to kicking off the third year in grand style.
Below are the top posts for the year and few all time favorites of mine. Clicking through them brings back so many memories. I’m very proud of the interaction on the site (over 3500 comments) and the continued support, surpassing 250,000 page views. Thank you!
#5 - No I Won’t Be Your Friend – A gentle admonishment to businesses using Facebook friend profiles instead of business pages. Includes practical tips to change over.
#4 - The Social Experiment – Nectar Opens to a Packed House – Reliving the success and stress of our opening weekend
#3 - Hello Kindness, Are You There? Wine Tasting Gone Bad – by Benny Hilzinger – Ben shares his not so pleasant experience while wine tasting ‘over the mountains’ in Woodinville
#2 - Five Wine Tasting Tips For Wine Newbies by Benny Hilzinger – some practical tips to remember before going out on your wine tasting adventure
#1 - Five Things NOT to do While Wine Tasting – a humorous look at some actual things that happened at Nectar the first few months of business
All Time Favorites
Leavenworth – Bavarian for Wine? – a recap from my trip to Leavenworth for wine. Great post for those wanting to tour this popular area. Also happens to be the spot for the next Nectar Tasting Room (June 2012)
Restaurant Wine Lists Are Put on Notice – obvious that people are fed up with overpriced, lack of quality and service from many restaurant wine lists. Continues to be a top 10 post.
The Top Value Wines From 2010 – evidence that people are always looking for value. This post recaps my favorite finds from hundreds of wine reviews in 2010.
7 Creative Uses To Recycle Wine Bottles – Most Viewed All Time and still wildly popular. A look at some fun ways to recycle your wine bottles.
2011 started with the opening of Nectar Tasting Room. So many amazing opportunities have been afforded to me, it is difficult to capture them all.
- January – Opening of Nectar
- June – Selected one of the 20 under 40 business people in Spokane
- July – Attended the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference in Virginia.
- September – Announced that I will be providing video content with national training site lynda.com
- September – Announced partnership with KXLY TV’s Mike Gonzalez to co-host a winery focused TV segment on his show “In the Kitchen” (still in progress)
- October – Nectar Tasting Room featured on MSNBC.com
- November – Issue #2 of Spokane Wine Magazine hits the streets
On the radar: Being featured in a local cookbook of the who’s who in Spokane. Talks are in the works for a weekly wine tip feature on a local radio station. Being featured in Alaska Airlines magazine February 2012 issue of top business people in Spokane.
02 Nov 2011
2011 marks Spokane’s 26th annual Holiday Wine Fest. One of four major events sponsored by the Spokane Winery Association, Holiday Wine Fest takes place the weekend prior to Thanksgiving. During the three-day event, a record 25 official wineries in Spokane will open their doors to the public (with Nectar Tasting Room housing five wineries and a satellite tasting room for Cougar Crest Estate Winery opening earlier in the year). What better way to shake off the cold and kick-start the holiday season than by sampling the wide variety of world-class wines that Spokane has to offer (and perhaps take care of a little holiday shopping, as well)? Here, a few wineries whet your appetite…
Mike Conway, Owner/Winemaker at Latah Creek Winery, says that the spirit of Holiday Wine Fest really hasn’t changed, as it has always centered around gift-giving and exciting new food-and-wine pairings. Now President of the Spokane Winery Association, Mike Conway incorporated Latah Creek in 1982 (the same year as another mainstay, Arbor Crest Wine Cellars), and was part of the original HWF event in 1986. Each year, his wife, Ellena, creates a special 4-5-course meal, a different course to be featured at each pouring station. Latah Creek also boasts one of Spokane’s best winery gift shops, which Ellena will stock with brand new holiday items.
One of the main attractions to HWF is that winemakers are typically on-site to pour wine and answer questions. Steve Trabun, Owner/Winemaker of Barili Cellars, says “It’s important that people really understand (the winemaking process). We like to educate and we like to do it with a real personal touch.” It’s that personal touch that Barili, one of a few micro-boutique wineries in Spokane, feels fortunate to be able to provide year-round. Since joining the Spokane Winery Association in January of 2010, Steve and fellow Owners/Winemakers Dana Trabun and Russ and Marlene Feist, have been able to grow the operation from just over 150 cases per year to 400 cases. They believe that part of their success is their low price point of $15-$22/bottle, which customers can most certainly take advantage of during HWF weekend. Barili invites you to join in the season’s camaraderie and fun.
Perhaps a great thrill to the 1,000-plus crowd expected on HWF weekend is the prospect of discovering a hidden gem. Tucked away in the depths of the Freeman Center on 2nd and Lincoln, a spot almost as elusive as Barrister Winery’s Railroad Avenue, is just such a gem: Grande Ronde Cellars (though not to fear, as HWF tour maps will be available at all participating locations!). Owner/Winemaker, Dave Westfall, owned a wine import business for 17 years prior to starting Grande Ronde in 1997, and in 2009 published a book he co-wrote with Sam Lange called Journey to… Eastern Washington Wine Country. His industry experience and connections to winemakers and vineyard owners near and far perhaps make him one of the most knowledgeable winemakers in the state. Grande Ronde’s Red wines consistently score 90 points or higher in Wine Spectator.
Visit these and Spokane’s many other wineries this holiday season. Holiday Wine Fest 2011 runs November 18th-20th, 11 am to 5 pm. Remember, if you are planning to taste with a group of 10 or more, please be courteous and call the winery ahead of time. Tasting fees may apply. For more information about this event and all participating wineries, visit www.SpokaneWineries.net. Visitor information can be obtained at www.VisitSpokane.com. For wine tours, visit www.GroupCoordinators.com or www.SpokaneWinerytours.com.
About the Author:
Sulo Abeid is a wine slinger at Nectar Tasting Room and the mother of two. Sulo is a graduate of Gonzaga University and is currently studying for her Masters in business administration at Whitworth University. Sulo’s wine experience comes from her years as the tasting room manager at Lone Canary and work at other Spokane wineries.
Before this gets going, I really must inform you the two reasons I’m slightly on edge right now. First of all, I am fresh off a seriously sour wine tasting trip and second; I have the ever-so-thrilling film Derailed playing in split screen on my computer throwing twists and turns at every corner so I apologize if my tone is a little harsh. That being said, I’ve stated from day one that my reason for being so involved in the wine industry is to bridge the gap between the horrifying façade and its beautiful approachability to the younger generation. Because this goal runs through my veins with every new wine experience, it’s a bittersweet symphonic moment when I find myself in situations that truly frustrate me, yet fortify my passion for changing the way people interact with each other both behind the bar and as a customer. I welcomed this much-needed incident to finally give me an idea for a new blog. Sorry Josh!
I can’t say I’ve done hundreds of wine tastings. To be honest, its still part of a mere two-year old passion and my busy schedule hinders my ability to venture too far from home as often as I like. So, when I got the chance to take a vacation with my fellow wine-appreciating girlfriend, hitting up their local tasting rooms certainly made our list of must do activities. We designated an entire day, called, texted, tweeted and facebooked all my wine-friends for suggestions of the six stops we should select out of the over eighty options, and finally made our list. (Out of respect and my own fear of hate mail, I will not mention any of the wineries or the wine region itself…so deal with it! I am only trying to make a point). We already knew that a third of the stops were going to be the big guns for that region just to say we went there. We didn’t, however, want the best experience to be from them. We were hoping to find the ma and pa operation of which no one’s heard only to fall in love and bring their name back home, but alas, our fears came true. Being young wine drinkers in our early 20’s, I can see how its hard to believe I know two shits about wine, but for heavens sake don’t shut me out completely! Like clockwork, we would walk in the tasting room, get looked at, then be treated like college kids trying to get a buzz. “How long was this aged?” “What are the percentages of varietals in this claret?” “Can you tell me a little back-story of your winery or winemaker and how you got the name?” Simple, engaging questions that I’d had loved to know, but since we weren’t the 50+ couple flaunting an American Express, getting treated like a member of wine society was far from a reality. When I pay the small fee for a tasting, I don’t expect a drone to pour me wine. I expect to be educated and informed while I drink. “But Ben, they were probably too busy to talk to everyone.” WRONG!!! It was a slow weekday and it couldn’t have been easier. To make it even more ironic, we walked out with more bottles than the older couples throughout the day. In your face wineries! Yes, I’ll still buy wine despite bad service.
I know I’m coming across pretentious and needy, but I just don’t get it. I forget sometimes, from working behind the bar so much, how truly frustrating wine tastings can be as a newbee trying to find comfort. My heart goes out to the young generation that gets treated so poorly and honestly doesn’t get shown the right hospitality. Who the hell do some people think they are?! Its simple, wine is supposed to be enjoyed no matter the age or suspected knowledge. Not just enjoyed on the palate, but enjoyed as an experience whether it be during a soiree, a nice dinner, an evening alone with a good book, or during a wine tasting. I’m telling this anecdote as a reminder of why we all fell in love with wine in the first place. Most of you reading this will not own a tasting room, but for those who will, don’t ever judge a book by its cover. And one day, when you’re the 50+ couple being treated like royalty next to some fresh meat, help them out and use you authority and love for wine to create a better experience for everyone.
Ben Hilzinger is a wine slinger at Nectar Tasting Room and at the Arbor Crest Winery. During the day he masquerades as an aspiring drum teacher seeking to instill a sense of rhythm in wanna be rockers. In the evening Ben dons his rock star cape as a drummer for a local band and occasionally travels the world with Jonathan Jones. Ben hopes to share the love of wine with his generation and has aspirations to be a wine maker. Follow Ben on Twitter @benhilzinger
07 Sep 2011
Time to hit the prime time! Okay, well it’s not quite prime time, but I’m excited to announce that I’ve signed an agreement to appear on a local TV program with KXLY’s Mike Gonzalez. HFNTV’s In the Kitchen airs Saturday morning on KXLY in the Spokane area and in Tri-Cities, Yakima, and Alberta. The potential viewing audience is 600,000 people. In the Kitchen showcases local food fare at area restaurants. The addition of a weekly wine segment is a fantastic combination.
Each week I’ll showcase a Northwest winery (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alberta), vineyard, or wine event. The five minute segments will be a great way for wineries to be introduced to a large audience base.
In addition to the weekly segment, HFNTV and I will be exploring the options for developing a regionally focused wine program of which I will be the host. This is all very exciting and something that I had visions of when I first launched the drinknectar.com blog in November 2009. Thanks everyone for your ongoing support and encouragement along the way.
ATTENTION WINERIES: If you are interested in learning more about appearing on HFNTV’s In the Kitchen, please email Josh at email@example.com.
****************************FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE*************************
HFNTV ANNOUNCES NEW WINE SEGMENT WITH NECTAR TASTING ROOM’S JOSH WADE
Hispanic Food Network TV’s ‘In the Kitchen’ program announces a new partnership with Mike Gonzalez, KXLY evening anchor, and Josh Wade, Nectar Tasting Room. “Wine and food are a perfect pairing,” says Gonzalez, “and Josh was the most logical choice for the evolution of the show.” Wade will be developing and hosting a regular weekly Northwest wine segment featuring wineries, vineyards, and wine events across Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and parts of Canada. Josh has developed a strong following through his blog, drinknectar.com and the businesses Nectar Tasting Room and Spokane Wine Magazine. “I’m very excited to be working with Mike and his crew. Together we will help bring a greater awareness to the diverse wine and culinary experiences in our area,” says Josh. In the Kitchen airs Saturday morning on KXLY in the Spokane area and regional affiliates in Tri-Cities, Yakima, and Alberta, Canada. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
www.drinknectar.com www. hfntv.com