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.
Impressed. This single word describes my entire experience at The Red Lion Hotel in Pasco. Hungry. This is the word that describes how I’m feeling right now, re-living the culinary experience at the hotel restaurant, Bin No. 20. Jealous. This is the word that you’ll be thinking after reading this post, looking at the pictures and watching the accompanying video. Living in Spokane, I’m very fortunate to have access to some top chefs, quality food, and top notch experiences. My first thought would not be to make the 120 mile drive to the Tri-Cities to have those experiences elevated to a new level…but I was open to be proven wrong.
When I was invited to a winemaker dinner at Bin No. 20, I was in from the mention of the word “Fidelitas.” Fidelitas Winery, situated in the Red Mountain growing region outside the Tri-Cities, has been a longtime favorite of mine. Regardless of what the food experience was going to be, I knew that the wine experience would be off the charts. Watch the video for my interview with owner/winemaker Charlie Hoppes for more information on Fidelitas Winery.
While the Pasco Red Lion is getting along in years, the hotel is timeless in its architecture and has a grand entrance to accompany its three restaurants and well appointed rooms. We were fortunate enough to be put up in the Presidential Suite and were impressed with the spaciousness of the room, separated bedroom / living space, large bathroom with separate shower and jetted tub and a balcony. I’m not a hotel room snob. The room was spacious and clean, the bed was comfortable and I slept well.
Having had a preview of Chef Jonathan Gilbertson’s menu, we entered the restaurant in eager anticipation of the night. My how our expectations were exceeded. Chef Jonathan brings a vast restaurant experience to Pasco by way of top restaurants in Vail, CO, Palm Springs and San Diego, CA. Having him at Bin No. 20 in the heart of Washington wine country is a stroke of brilliance.
Course One (not pictured)
Pan Seared Diver Scallops served with vanilla bean savory grits and Maryhill peach coulis. This was my favorite dish of the night. Sadly, I missed taking a picture of it because in my excitement, I devoured it. The scallop was perfectly prepared and the combination of the creamy grit and the sweet coulis matched amazingly with the Fidelitas Optu White (blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon).
Hudson Valley foie gras and Key West spiny lobster Napoleon. Served with malbec infused mission fig and mallard remoulade. The lobster was flown in from Key West overnight and once again the marriage of flavors was succulent. This wine was paired with the somewhat earthy vanilla and blueberry Fidelitas Malbec. The wine provided more structure and content for the foie gras than I expected.
Intermezzo of Gialla Watermelon Consomme & Raspberry Sorbet
Beautiful palate cleanser as we moved into the final two more hearty dishes.
Majoram Venison Loin served with celery root puree and rabbit saddle jus. I’m not a huge venison eater but this was cooked very nicely. The meat was exceptionally tender and was easily cut with the fork. The Fidelitas Columbia Valley Merlot was, once again, a great pairing.
Queen Charlotte BC Salmon served with saffron pancetta risotto and el maiz-fennel compote. I liked the combination of the pancetta risotto with the marble laden salmon. While my serving of fish was slightly dry, the flavors were still well balanced in the dish. The tricky part here was the pairing of the Fidelitas Columbia Valley Cabernet. While I’m all for breaking the molds when it comes to wine pairing, the curious combination did come across as slightly disjoined to me and my guest. Others at the table raved. The wine, stand alone…beautiful.
I’ll let the picture speak for itself. This artistic creation was as tasty as it was beautiful. Charlie Hoppes opened a special treat with their award winning Champoux Vineyard Cabernet. This highly extracted dark fruit wine was a little big for the chocolate…but at this point…who cares! Both were spectacular.
Bin No. 20 Wine Dinners
Red Lion and Bin No. 20 will continue hosting winemaker dinners each quarter. The price tag on this dinner was a mere $80 per person (easily worth it). Visit their website for a schedule and plan a visit to the hotel as soon as you can. With over 160 wineries within an hour’s drive, this is a great location to call base camp while you explore the amazing variety of Washington wine.
We were so excited by Chef Jonathan, the hotel staff, and the wine tasting experience, we have started the talks to bring Chef Jonathan to Spokane for a preview dinner and then a wine tasting journey through the Tri-Cities. Tickets will be limited, join our mailing list (top right of this page) to be the first to know.
29 Jul 2011
About an hour outside of Washington DC sits an amazing wine destination to rival those of Sonoma, Napa, Walla Walla and even France. Breaux Vineyards is on 404 acres among the beautiful backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Producing 18 grape varieties and over 10,000 cases of wine, husband wife team, Christopher and Jennifer Blosser (owner’s daughter) oversee the operations of this beautiful facility.
Paul Breaux, a local real estate broker, found himself captivated with the 404 acres of property and in 1994 purchased the land (which included 3 acres of planted grapes) to fulfill the vision of Breaux Vineyards. With the help of winemaker Dave Collins, Breaux has blossomed and has been voted Virginia’s favorite winery 3 consecutive years.
I was first introduced to Breaux through their interactions on Twitter leading up to the 2011 Wine Blogger’s conference. Fellow tweeter @suzielin encouraged Jennifer Breaux-Blosser to reach out to me at the conference and boy am I glad she did. During a tasting of “the other 46″ (wines from other than California, Washington, Oregon and New York), I was introduced to their Cab Franc, Nebbiolo and Meritage blend. All three showed very well. I was excited to run into Jennifer as I was leaving the conference and she asked if I wanted to take home some wine…”duh,” I thought and politely stuffed three wines into my suitcase for the 3000 mile journey home.
The video is shot from my friend’s downtown condo with the rushing of the Spokane Falls in the background and highlighted by the great downtown skyline. Enjoy, and drink happy!
2010 Breaux Vineyards Viognier
This is classic tropical Viognier here folks. Love the amazing nose of peaches, papaya, and lychee fruit. In the mouth the wine is not quite as thick as some other Viognier I’ve had recently but does score well with a nicely balanced acidity. The price point is a little higher than I would want to see ($24) but overall this would pair well with a slightly sweet dish (pea salad, fruit salad), sweet-n-sour pork or a light chicken dish. Viognier has been named Virginia’s signature grape and this is a classic example of why! 3+/5
2002 Breaux Vineyards Merlot
Okay, I have to admit. I drank way too much of this wine. Most of you know I’m a Merlot lover, when done right – and this one is done right. It is most likely the age of the wine (going on 10 years) but this was without a doubt the BEST Merlot I had the entire visit to the commonwealth. The wine showed a typical browning from the age and was moderately translucent. LOVED the deep, slightly burnt cherries and dark chocolate that emanated from the glass. For a wine of such age the tannins were still relatively thick and the finish showed a strong amount of fruit and almonds. This is a library wine, so getting it might be a challenge. 4/5
2007 Breaux Vineyards Cabernet Franc
Cab Franc is another of Virginia’s four prominent grapes (Viognier, Merlot and Petite Verdot being the others). Most of the Cab Franc I tried in VA was reticent of under ripe fruit and bell peppers. While the hearty grape grows well, there does seem to be quite a bit of vintage variation. This wine boasted a great complexity of flavors ranging from coffee to deep plums and tobacco. My full tasting resulted in the same score as my first impression at the conference. 3+/5
05 Jul 2011
Wawawai Canyon Winery is in the heart of wheat country and colleges in Pullman, WA. Among the wheat, David and Stacia Moffet planted the first commercial vineyards in Whitman County since the prohibition. With a hot climate (one of the hottest in the state), and fertile soil, the results have been spectacular for this small winery.
On a previous trip to Pullman I had the pleasure of visiting Wawawai Canyon and Merry Cellars. The facility has modern clean lines and showcases various art exhibits for visitors to enjoy while wine tasting.
For today’s wine review the familiar ACDC Thunderstruck returns for my first video blog in 5 months. Between opening Nectar Tasting Room and having the worlds slowest laptop (which finally gave up the ghost), I’ve not been able to get any videos done. With my new laptop in tow, I’m hoping to be able to deliver more regular videos again.
This proprietary blend contains fruit from the three growing regions that Wawawai Canyon uses in their wine. The blend is 62% Syrah, 25% Carmenere, and 13% Petit Verdot. In the glass the wine is very dark and has shimmering jewel tones on the outer rim. Immediately aromas of cedar, campfire smoke, dark raspberries and licorice jump out of the glass. This is one of those wines where the aroma is as intoxicating as the drink. In the mouth the wine is very elegant and thick. I get immediate flavors of dark chocolate covered raspberry fruit, hints of smoke, a black licorice and anise spice as well. The finish is smooth and lingers for several seconds. At $29, the Ittero ali Rosse is a beautiful blend that delivers on all levels. Once the bottle was empty, I found myself wishing I lived among the wheat fields of the Palouse. 4/5
Every once in a while I receive wines that surprise the heck out of me. They are sometimes at low price points that provide a consistent and approachable tasting experience, some are amazingly vibrant and full representations of the grape varietal, and other times there are small wineries who send samples that truly impress me across the board. This shipment of Benessere wines from Napa, California fits into that last category. The winery sent two of each wine which gave me the opportunity to share with Ben Hilzinger, my main wine slinger at Nectar, as well as with a few friends.
Benesesere (ben-NESS-seh-ray), Italian for prosperity was founded in 1994 by John and Ellen Benish and produces about 5000 cases of Italian varieties and Zinfandel. Benessere farms 36 acres surrounding the winery, predominately Sangiovese and Merlot (27 acres). Winemaker Jack Stuart brings his 36 years of experience to the St. Helena winery where his approach of “not overripe, not over-alcoholic, but graceful flavorful and balanced,” is displayed.
I have to admit I didn’t share this wine. The blend of 49% Zinfandel, 41% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot is made from the run off juice that is drained from the main tanks of what becomes their intensely dark red wines. With only 12-18 hours of skin contact the juice is fermented separately in stainless steel tanks to make this fairly dry “pink” wine. With less than 1% residual sugar the slightly tart wine demonstrates nice balanced flavors of raspberry and spice. At only $16 per bottle this is a winning wine for summer barbeque or hanging out on the boat. 3+/5
2009 Benessere Pinot Grigio
In the glass the nearly colorless wine gives off aromas of lemon zest, and peaches. During the winemaking process the juice spends a few months in neutral oak barrels before bottling. An added depth of complexity is added to the palate of the wine. Boasting flavors of citrus and mild tartness the soft medium acidic finish lends me to believe that the wine will pair well with an array of food. The $22 price tag is a little much for me on this wine. I would encourage a trip to the tasting room to see if it fits in your flavor profile. 3/5
2007 Benessere Sangiovese
The 100% estate Sangiovese comes across slightly darker than its Tuscan counterparts. At 14.4% alcohol by volume the wine is also more alcoholic than the Italian versions. Aromas of wet leather are merged with soft red fruit and spice. The flavor profile is medium bodied and consists of subtle spicy leather, mint, and earthy raspberry. There is a modest amount of acidity and tannin on the back end giving the wine more structure and depth than what I was expecting. In all, a very well made Sangio that gives the characteristics of the grape variety while providing the strength of Napa Valley. At $28 retail, this is a nice wine, 4/5.
2008 Benessere Zinfandel “Black Glass Vineyard”
The 100% estate Zinfandel is 14.7% ABV and spends 18 months in French and American oak barrels. The color is noticeably lighter than many California Zins that I’ve tried. Smells of freshly laid tar are interwoven with the traditional dark strawberry and black pepper. In the mouth there are indications of leather, meat and herbs that nicely accompany the moderately jammy fruit. This is an approachable wine but at the $28 price point reminds me more of something I would find at ½ the price. 3/5
2007 Benessere Zinfandel “Old Vine”
With vines planted in 1923 from Collins Vineyards this Zinfandel lives up to what California Zin is known for. The grapes undergo an 23 day extended maceration to slowly extract the flavor before lumbering for 15 months in French and American oak barrels. With a deep color and flecks of jewel toned purple at the rim, the Zin is moderately robust with aromas of blackberry and earth along with tobacco. The palate reminds Ben of cherry Shesha and me of flowers and strawberry jam. If you like fruit forward Zinfandel then this is a wine you will definitely enjoy. The modest price point of $32 makes this an attainable treat too. 4/5
2006 Benessere Phenomenon
An estate super Tuscan blend of 56% Cabernet, 37% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot and 2% Syrah. The dark bold colored wine went through a gentle handling wine making process with careful attention paid at each step. The flagship wine was bottle aged a full 12 months before being released in 2009. When sharing this wine with a friend, she said, “WOW, this is an amazing wine.” This statement was said before revealing anything about the blend, price or geography. Full complex flavors invade every portion of the palate including oak, olives, sweet vanilla, tobacco and dark red fruits. Every aspect of the wine continues for an eternity on the finish providing an incredibly enjoyable experience. So far, for 2011, this is the best wine I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying. 4+/5 ($50)