28 Mar 2012
Wine lists at restaurants are important to me, almost as important as the food menu. Often times I find myself either frustrated at the lack of creativity, the lack of knowledge or the absurd pricing that makes beer or cocktails seem so much more appealing. I’ve heard rumors of a restaurant with stellar service, phenomenal food and a spectacular wine list. Recently, after a long wait and many friend suggestions, I finally got the opportunity to try Masselow’s Restaurant in the Northern Quest Resort & Casino.
As greater Spokane’s only AAA Four Diamond restaurant, my expectations were high. I was warmly greeted by the host and directed to the booth. The restaurant was nicely appointed in warm colors and wood. The fixtures were understated and fit the decor nicely. I wouldn’t say I was wowed with the design of the space but it was certainly well done. Although we were in a large restaurant (seating for 144), the booth was very private with tall sides.
The service throughout the meal was exceptional starting with the offering of two different sparkling wine options to the clearing of each course and the presentation of the wine (many local restaurants could learn from this here). The waiter was very knowledgeable about the menu and was very articulate in explaining the specials and the various courses.
Masselow’s menu consists of traditional cuisine with a northwest flare that includes bison rib-eye, king salmon, and locally grown chicken along with delicacies that include grass fed filet mignon, and north Atlantic lobster. The meal started with traditional Indian fry bread accompanied by a huckleberry marmalade. The assortment of bread was served with three different butter spreads that each left my mouth watering. The attention and care to each element of the meal was impressive.
My guest and I opted for the Masselow’s Winter Grill (a selection of Montana Rib Eye Bison, Draper Valley Free Range Chicken, and Wild King Salmon) and the Washimi Filet Mignon. The presentation of each was nicely appointed and each dish was cooked to perfection. The only exception was the chicken, which was a little dry. The spaghetti squash and potatoes were a great accompaniment to each. The Filet Mignon was on par with some of THE best cuts of meat I have ever had the privilege of enjoying. Luckily my guest couldn’t finish hers and I couldn’t let it go unfinished. See the full WINTER MENU HERE.
While the desert menu looked inviting, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to indulge any further.
Now, for most important part, and maybe even the reason you’re reading this review…THE WINE. The 10 page wine list is easily organized into glass, 1/2 bottle, bottle, and local selections. Continuing the theme of a northwest inspired menu, the wine list consists largely of Washington and Oregon wineries. A few California, Italy, French and Argentine wines round out various sections. Glass pour prices on the ranged from $6-$13. I would like to see the pricing of some of the reds be more in the $10 range. Paying $13 for a glass of wine that retails for $35 is a little high for me. A excellent balance of price points and high end selections are good to see. The Masselow’s section of the web site contains a link to the current (and ever changing) wine list.
I appreciated the bottle pricing. Most of the wine seemed to be priced very well with only a nominal mark up. While I can tolerate higher glass prices, nothing ticks me off more than seeing a $15 bottle of wine on a menu for $35. Below are a few comparisons:
- Domain Ste Michelle – LUXE; Retail $23, Masselow’s $38
- L’Ecole Luminesce; Retail $19, Masselow’s $39 (would like to see this more at $25)
- Leonetti 08 Cabernet Sauvignon; Retail $99, Masselow’s $165 (why not sell it for $119?)
The Masselow’s wine list showcased wine from 10 of the 19 Spokane producers. This is more than any list I’ve seen in town. We opted for one of my favorites, the 2006 Reserve Blend from Nodland Cellars. The retail on this wine is $35 and Masselow’s price was only $40 making it a great restaurant value. See my review of the 06 Private Blend. Overall the list is excellent and deserves the accolades it receives.
If I were reviewing this restaurant I would give it a 4+/5 stars; coming just short of a perfect review with the dry chicken and slightly high bottle prices on the wine. But, I’m not a food critic and all I can offer is that Masselow’s is one of the best, if not THE best, dining experiences in Spokane. The short 20 minute drive from downtown Spokane is well worth the experience.
Get the details on Northern Quest Resort and Casino and Masselow’s Restaurant.
21 Mar 2012
Spokane and wine again? You got it, I never tire of talking about the amazing wine scene in Spokane. With 25 wineries claiming a presence (19 producers), Spokane provides residents and visitors an abundance of grape exploration. Four downtown locations, including Nectar Tasting Room have recently teamed up to provide a walking wine pass.
Arbor Crest (at River Park Square), Cougar Crest, Whitestone Winery, and Nectar Tasting Room are all within 4 blocks of each other. Whether you’re staying at The Davenport Hotel, doing some shopping at River Park Square, or coming downtown for dinner, the tasting pass lets you taste wine at all four wineries for only $10 (regularly $20). The pass can be purchased at all four locations and has a one week expiration date.
Get out and explore.
*The Walking Wine Tour card is not valid on First Friday or Spokane Winery Association event weekends. Limit one pass per person.
Arbor Crest Winery – 808 West Main, 3rd Floor of River Park Square
Cougar Crest Winery – 8 North Post
Whitestone Winery – 8 North Post
Nectar Tasting Room – 120 North Stevens
22 Nov 2011
It’s the time of year when almost every wine blog and major newspaper posts their Thanksgiving wine pairing suggestions. They range from the crazy 1WineDude pairing to the regional suggestions of New York Cork Report or Washington Wine Report or the predictable newspaper offerings. Why? Well, people must want to know. I look at how people arrive to my site almost daily and Google analytics tells me people are searching for Thanksgiving wine pairings. Since I live in Spokane and I love Spokane wine, here is what will be on my table if I can make it to the store in the midst of my schedule.
As people arrive for dinner and settle in to watch the Macy’s parade or the Cowboys or Lions game, it’s good to have something light and refreshing waiting for them. A good sparkling wine is always a hit. I’ll be serving the Northwest Cellars 2001 Brut. This wine is made in Oregon from Willamette Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and has a beautiful bready apple aroma and a crisp dry finish ($31) / available at Nectar Tasting Room
Another one of my favorites is Townshend Cellar Huckleberry Brut. A traditional dry sparkling wine with just a touch of huckleberry juice added for an amazing flavor that will please most discerning guests ($19) / available at Townshend Cellar and many local grocers.
Many people struggle with wine pairing at the Thanksgiving dinner table because there are so many varying flavors that compete for attention. Keep one thing in mind…acid. Wines that are high in acid help to cleanse your palate between bites and marry with the acidity that is present in most foods. Two really good options come to mind, Pinot Noir and dry Riesling.
Pinot Noir – Washington is not known for Pinot Noir but there are a few growing regions starting to show a lot of promise. Lake Chelan’s Hard Row to Hoe has a Pinot that presents earthy aromas of campfire, bacon and cherry fruit. The finish offers more structure than some candy strawberry Pinot’s out of Oregon. This wine reminds me of a traditional Pinot from Burgundy ($30) / available at Nectar Tasting Room.
Dry Riesling – Riesling is traditionally high in acid and pairing a bone dry Riesling with the traditional turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, and yams makes a great balance in the flavor. Rieslings subtle apple and pear flavors along with the minerality and stone flavors will enhance the meal. Nodland Cellars Bebop Riesling ($19) is a top choice for me. The wine is available at many local retailers right now for $10-$15. Arbor Crest offers a good alternative with an off dry Riesling from Dionysus vineyards. The subtle peach, pineapple and honey flavors finish with the good acidity that is needed ($10-12). The wine was selected as one of the Wine Enthusiast top 100 value wines of the year – 91pts.
Other Ideas – Some other great wines for the table include the Pinot Blanc from Bridge Press Cellars. With slight citrus and tart characteristics the flavors will balance well with much of what is on the table. I would also suggest having an earthy Syrah on the table. One of my all time favorites is the 2008 Barrister Morrison Lane Syrah. It might be tough to find, but worth it if you can.
Pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple crisp…so many dessert options. Finding a wine that pairs well can be a challenge. Once again a sparkling wine would work well here but finding something sweet can be fun too. As a general rule of thumb, find a wine that is sweeter than your dessert. The Latah Creek Mascato D’Latah is a perfect pairing. Flavors of peach, apricot, and honey are balanced by a sweet acidity. At $15, this wine will delight. If you’re in need of fruit salad in a glass, give the 2009 Terra Blanca Late Harvest Chenin Blanc a try.
Above all, enjoy time with your family and friends. All the wine you pair over the holidays is amplified by sharing it with the ones you love. Happy Thanksgiving and THANK YOU for all of your ongoing support and encouragement.
Enjoy life with friends, drink happy!
25 May 2011
Chardonnay is one of the world’s most planted wine grapes (second to Spanish grape Airen). A major component in Champagne (and other sparkling wine), Chardonnay is known as a winemakers grape because of the ability for the winemaker to impart their stamp on the overall outcome. Chardonnay is crisp and clean in Chablis and has a reputation for being thick and buttery in California, although many wineries are moving away from this trend.
In Washington, Chardonnay is still king with nearly 6,000 planted acres (Cabernet Sauvignon is a very close second). While producing predominately red wine, a handful of Spokane wineries showcase the best qualities of Washington Chardonnay.
2010 Arbor Crest Chardonnay
Sourced from two quality vineyards (Connor Lee and Bacchus) the 2010 Chardonnay sees moderate time in new and used French oak. The malolactic fermentation gives a nice full round mouth feel that is accompanied by hints of oak and honey. Light aroma and moderate acidity make this a good Chardonnay for the price. At $14 retail 3+/5
2009 Arbor Crest Connor Lee Chardonnay
Sourced from Conner Lee vineyards this premium Chardonnay is barrel fermented in new French oak with malolactic fermentation. Enjoy big flavors of apple cinnamon crisp and toasted walnuts. The touch of sweet honey and good acidity are reminiscent of many traditional American Chardonnay. $20 retail 4/5
This nearly naked Chardonnay is 75% stainless steel and 25% eastern European oak providing a great balance of crisp and clean with a hint of toasted almonds. Enjoy the green apple and pear flavors with smoked salmon or fruit salad on a summer day. $15 retail
100% Preston Vineyards fruit. The wine spends six months in 50% new French oak. Very impressive with thick juicy flavors. A subtle effervescence greats the tip of your tongue and then gives way to an abundance of fruit. Lots of subtle layers in this full bodied white wine with honey, crisp pear, vanilla, and peaches. The finish on the wine has moderate acid and dissipates quickly. At only $12 this wine outperforms many at twice the price. This is a strong recommend and a definite re-buy for any food appropriate dinner or Chardonnay lover. 4/5
Fruit from Conner Lee Vineyards; full malolactic fermentation and 2 months in French oak. Mild nose with hints of pear and honey. Big and rich butter, vanilla and pear. No oak to speak of. Felt thick and meaty. Finished with a beautiful acidity that washed across the back of my mouth. At a retail price of $12, this is a very well made Chardonnay. I score it a 4+. So far this is one of the best “value” Chardonnay’s that I’ve had. Kudo’s, Mike!
“Sweet lemons, pineapple, & Golden Delcious apple aromas. The entry is exotic and hedonistic with more apple, banana, & lemon custard flavors, balanced by a remarkable tartness that targets your cheeks.”-WinePressNW 2010
This stainless steel fermented and lightly oak aged wine has scents of lemon, pear, honey-dew melon with a hint of cinnamon and flavors of baked Granny Smith apples sprinkled with nutmeg and a squeeze of lemon. $9.99
2011 Chardonnay Day
Celebrate the second annual Chardonnay day (May 26) with any of these fantastic Spokane Chardonnays. Join the conversation by tweeting about your experience. Add the hashtag #chardonnay and do a Twitter search and you can see the tweets from thousands of people worldwide. For tips on how to participate, visit here.
Nectar Tasting Room is joining the celebration. Stop by all day for ½ price glasses of Chardonnay from Terra Blanca and Northwest Cellars. Order a full bottle and get your appetizer plate ½ price (open 2-8pm).
November 23 and 24 were the punctuation mark on a long cool growing season for Washington grape growers. With temperatures plunging from 30 degrees to -4 degrees and lower in a matter of a few days, vineyard managers were scrambling. As wineries wrapped up the 2010 harvest, doubts about the 2011 harvest lay heavy on many people’s hearts. Much of the damage will be uncertain until Spring but many areas had a lot to be thankful for over the holiday.
Washington grape growers understand hard freeze. With one coming every 5-8 years, this part of the business is nearly unavoidable. Not every region in the state is susceptible to hard freezes. Much of Washington’s grape growing region lies along the moderate temperature control of the mighty Columbia River. There are some vineyard sights in higher elevation, or away from water that can cool off quickly.
Michael Haig, of Spokane’s Whitestone Winery, manages his wineries estate vineyards off of Lake Roosevelt, an area of the Columbia River created by the Grand Coulee Dam. Michael explains the potential devastation of a hard freeze and shows how wineries check the primary, secondary and tertiary buds for damage. What makes this freeze unique and potentially damaging is how early and how quickly the freeze came. Haig says, “Over time the buds will become cold hard, which means as the temperature slowly drops, the buds can withstand colder temperatures.” Michael peels back the layers of the bud to expose a positive sign, green. The primary buds, at Michael’s vineyard, remain intact indicating a full harvest for 2011.
Many vineyard managers I contacted held similar sentiments regarding damage, “I’ll let you know in the Spring.” An article in the Tri-Cities Herald by Andy Perdue paints a grimmer picture in certain areas of the state.
“It’s not pretty,” said Rob Andrews of McKinley Springs Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. “It’s too early to tell 100 percent what is going on, but in the 30 years I’ve been growing grapes, this is the hardest I’ve ever been hit. We’re looking at a tough 2011.”
Preliminary investigation reveals little to moderate damage in most areas with Horse Heaven Hills containing pockets of greater damage. Damage will depend on grape varietal and specific topographical location for many of the vineyard blocks. The results will reveal themselves more fully with the Spring thaw.
The Washington State University Viticulture and Enology program has an informative Cold Hardiness Website that breaks down the potential damage to various grape varieties. According to the site, the more cold hearty varietals include Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. The more fair weather grape varieties are Barbera, Mourvedre, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sangiovese. A mere 5 degrees can separate 10% bud loss from 90% primary bud loss.
During my visit with Michael, he was excited to announce the second annual release of the Pieces on Earth red blend. The wine is one of four wines that make up the Pieces series (Pieces of Red, Love You to Pieces, Scared to Pieces, and Pieces on Earth). The predominately Cabernet blend is available for a limited time and has a special holiday label. The medium bodied blend has a balanced structure of dark red fruit, coffee, cigar box, and moderate cedar. The tannins are well integrated and perfect for enjoying now or with your upcoming holiday dinner. At $20, this is a solid 3+/5
Whitestone will be releasing their 2007 Merlot on December 17. From Michael:
“This is our most coveted and award winning wine. In blind competition, our Merlot has won gold at every major wine competition in the United States, along with being named Top Merlot for the State of Washington. The 2007 vintage features rich textures of leather and spice adding deep texture to rich raspberry and currant. Ripe tannins find harmonious balance in this well structured wine, which finishes off with a long, smooth after taste. $26 bottle”
Whitestone’s Spokane tasting room is located at 111 S. Cedar and is open Noon – 6pm Thursday – Saturday. Watch their Facebook page for special events and live music when they‘re open until 9pm.