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!
18 Dec 2009
The thermometer read a brisk 20 degrees and my shoes were wet from the snow piled up on the streets. The place was filling up. Jane mentioned to a customer that she didn’t think they would be busy this morning with the frightful weather. The customer replied, “well, the food is just that good.”
The food is “just that good.” This beautiful jewel at 180 S. Howard in Downtown Spokane is a savory and sweet treat not to be missed.
Taste Cafe & Gourmet To Go opened their doors in February 2009. Mother and daughter, Jane and Hannah Heber, dreamed of providing a modern comfortable atmosphere where people can get quality food (to stay or to go)! Jane, a British native by way of Laguna Beach, spent 17 years dealing in British antiquities prior to moving to Spokane in 2007. Hannah, slaving away in the big city corporate world of San Francisco, jumped at the opportunity to explore her baking passions. She attended culinary school in Spokane prior to opening Taste Cafe.
The atmosphere is modern, elegant and comfortable. Photography by Todd Sackmann adorns the exposed brick to the left, while beautiful modern art paintings on display from Ed Gilmore line the remaining walls. See the video for the visual tour. Taste Cafe offers sweet morning treats from sticky buns, scones, muffins and the amazing twice baked almond croissant to afternoon sweets like cookies, cakes, tarts and pies. For the savory side of morning you can enjoy sausage rolls and assorted baguettes. Stop by in the afternoon or on the way home for dinner and dine on a rotating assortment of soups, salads, paninis, lasagna, pot pies and more.
In my review, I feel that there are three things that set Taste Cafe apart as a top notch business in Spokane; 1) Impeccable taste – in atmosphere, decoration, design (logo & print) and food. Everything is made with fresh ingredients and from what I ate, I can only assume that everything is amazing. Jane and Hannah wanted to give special recognition to their brand, web and print consultants, The Purple Turtle 2) Beer and Wine service – it is more common to enjoy a beer or glass of wine with lunch. The selection of each was small but included quality offerings for discerning customers. 3) To Go! – Being in a downtown urban core, there is not a lot of opportunity for drive by coffee service, but getting amazing breakfast and lunch delivered to your downtown business is perfect. Not only can Taste Cafe cater (and host) your office event or party, they are available to cater weddings, birthdays, and other special events.
- Taste Cafe is open 7am – 4pm Monday – Friday and on Saturday for brunch (and their regular menu) from 8am – 3pm.
Brunch is definitely on my upcoming calendar of things to do. Taste Cafe is a perfect excuse to head downtown on a Saturday morning for brunch before going shopping at River Park Square. Give them a call when planning your next event or party too. Let them prepare the sweet and savory, so you can enjoy your guests.
- www.facebook.com/tastecafespokane and www.twitter.com/tastybuns
- 180 S. Howard 468-2929 www.tastecafespokane.com
The Coffee: Taste Cafe serves Doma Roasting Company coffee. I enjoyed an Americano from their Vito’s Espresso blend.
- The Swirl: The cup was not clear but from what I could tell the color was very dark and was obviously a dark roast blend
- The Sniff: Great aroma – scores very high on the wake you up in the morning meter. Got a little dark chocolate and forest on the sniff
- The Sip: Much smoother than I expected. Not bitter like big brand espresso roasts. Finished with that hint of chocolate.
- The Score: Top notch a high 4
Life is meant to be enjoyed with friends. Stop by Taste Cafe, order up some coffee, wine or beer and DRINK.HAPPY!
10 Dec 2009
“I didn’t have the skills to be a plumber and the aromatics are much better.” This was the response from Lone Canary wine maker Mike Scott when I asked “Why did you get into wine making?”
**UPDATE MAY 14, 2010**
After 30 years of wine making in Spokane and 7 years as the co-founder of Lone Canary Winery, Mike Scott is no longer with Lone Canary. They company was sold in late 2009 to Spokane wine maker Don Townshend. While efforts were being made to bring the company into profitability, financial issues forced a change in direction. “The only thing I regret is not having the proper goodbye for the people who have grown to love Lone Canary and Mike Scott wines,” says Mike. After efforts of a third party investor fell through to purchase the winery, Don has decided to move Lone Canary to his Caterina Winery location on North Washington. What will become of Lone Canary? Will the wines be distinct and different from Don’s other brands? In this writer’s opinion, Lone Canary is on life support without Mike Scott’s involvement. The two are inextricably linked. How Lone Canary can survive is a story for another post…until then…thank you Mike for all the great years and all the fine wine.
Wine selling transformed into wine making which gave Mike the first real creative spark that he experienced in life. After learning the wine making craft at Latah Creek through 1990, Scott moved on to work for Steve Livingstone which led to the birth of Caterina Winery in 1993, in which he worked as the head wine maker. In 2002, Steve and Jeanne Schaub approached Mike for a business partnership that gave birth to Lone Canary in 2003.
Choosing a name was not only a difficult task but a potentially costly one. After researching a name that was memorable and conveyed Washington, they came across the state bird, the American Goldfinch also known as the Wild Canary. Perfect! The name was available and they proceeded with logo design, packaging, Federal approval, promotional materials…until…a call from lawyers representing bourbon maker Wild Turkey. Evidently the powerful Kentucky company owns the rights to the name “wild” on an alcoholic beverage – especially when paired with the mighty American Goldfinch (canary). Rather than pursue expensive litigation, the name Lone Canary was born.
With that behind them, Mike, Steve and Jeanne moved forward with the wine making operation. Six years of success – and a few missteps - has brought the operation to 4000+ cases. Crushing is done in Pasco and aging occurs in the Spokane tasting room / warehouse. Brand popularity necessitates growth, prompting the team to look at larger locations in the area. Current wine offerings are the 2007 Barbera, 2007 Syrah (reviewed below), Bird House Red (blend), 2007 Cuvee Rose, 2007 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, 2005 Merlot, 2007 Sangiovese, 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, and a 2008 Pinot Grigio.
My final question, “What’s next for Mike Scott and Lone Canary?” Mike’s eyes lit up as he talked about his newfound passion for the Italian varietals that grow so well in the Yakima region. He’s excited about the Barbera, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, and the future release of Dolcetto and Nebbiolo at some point. I find it interresting that an English man moves to America to make Italian wine! “We were meant to drink wine,” says Mike, “I want people to be impressed with the quality of the wine in the bottle, rather than the price on the bottle.”
From everything I can see, this funny little bird that went toe to toe with a wild turkey (and lost) is one to watch (and taste).
2007 Syrah (100%) $21.95 – only 40 cases left
- The Swirl – Very dark and opaque, low legs – indicating lower alcohol content
- The Sniff – An initial blackberry earthy smell is first. Subtle oak gives this smooth smelling wine enough anticipation heading into the sip.
- The Sip – a soft front with a little lilac floral component, mild acidity, and smooth fruit (definitely not a fruit bomb). Dangerous sipping wine because of its contagious taste.
- The Score – At $22 I score this wine a $$$$ (out of $$$$$) This is a Washington Syrah to put on your list to try. If you’ve grown tired of the $8 Australian Yellow Tail, give this Yellow Finch / Canary a try.
Visit Lone Canary at 109 S. Scott / www.lonecanary.com / Twitter @clooneycanary and Facebook at www.facebook.com/lonecanary. Stop by Thursday – Sunday from Noon – 5PM for your own tasting experience. Enjoy live music every first Friday of the month as a part of Spokane’s First Friday 5-9PM.
Enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY!
21 Nov 2009
Combine passion, a lifelong dream, and social consciousness and you have Coffee Social. Owner Rachel Young pursued her dreams and has a hit on her hands. Centrally located near Gonzaga University and the bustle of Division / Ruby, is a coffee shop with a conscience.
Spokane transplant, via Post Falls then Seattle, Rachel opened Coffee Social 14 months ago. Through the economic down turn and recession she has managed to grind and brew her way to success. In my opinion, part of that success comes from providing a good, consistent product. Coffee Social makes all its products with organic locally sourced ingredients. From what I tried, that formula equals yummy! Check out the NectarView review and read more of my review below!
Coffee Social sits in an older, non-descript renovated building just 1 block West of Division (113 W. Indiana to be exact). Parking is tight on the sides, but there is more around back. Upon entry, you are greeted with a warm simple interior that will perk you up as much as the coffee. Beyond the lobby and register is a fantastic seating area where you can enjoy games and the free WiFi with your coffee and food. The space is cozy without being overly opulent and large without feeling cavernous.
Wow! I purposely did not eat breakfast because I had a hunch that I would find “all kinds of yumminess” (a direct quote from Rachel). Coffee Social keeps their menu simple and direct with a selection of quiches, sandwiches, soups, salads, and pastries. Follow them on Twitter (@coffeesocial) and you know exactly when the good stuff comes out of the oven. My ham and cheese Quiche was a perfect choice for breakfast. The texture was perfect with the dish cooked all the way through (which is tough for a Quiche sometimes) and the crust still light and flakey. While looking in the food case, an egg nog chocolate pie captured my attention. “All in the name of being a good reviewer,” I told myself, “I must try it.” This is truly a must have! If you’re reading this, STOP, and head straight to Coffee Social and order a slice – in fact, I bet you could order the whole pie for Thanksgiving dinner if you hurry.
DOMA coffee roasters provides the eco-friendly coffee for Coffee Social. (Check out their site to learn more about their roasting process and vision). Their certified organic, fair trade coffee was exceptional. I ordered their Columbian roast, and as always drank it black. The flavor was good with caramel and vanilla undertones. What struck me most was how smooth the finish was. There was zero bitterness on the aftertaste. My next trip to the Social, I’ll have to test Rachael’s barista abilities with a latte or macchiatto.
The restroom was basic and could use some updating. Being a young business start-up, I’m sure Rachel wanted to put her money elsewhere.
Coffee Social truly does support going ‘green.’ Several discounts are offered if you show proof of arriving via bus, riding your bike, or walking (honor system). Rachel also gives back to the community by supporting several local programs with at least 5% of the profits.
This business is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for a number of reasons! Great food, great coffee, supporting local businesses and farmers, eco-friendly, and a great location. Spread the word! Not only will you get a great cup of coffee, you’ll feel good doing it.
As always – enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY!
11 Nov 2009
I love Wine! I also love Coffee! My love affair with wine began in 2005 when I met my wife, Kimberly. I’ve been a coffee lover since I was in my early 20′s
I’ve always enjoyed exploring my passions. I believe there are other people passionate about similar subjects. My desire is for drinknectar to bring those people together. Specifically, to provide people in my community with an interactive social experience that can assist in making educated decisions when it comes to their wine and coffee drinking experiences.
what will you see at drinknectar.com
drinknectar will take to the streets of Spokane, WA (and elsewhere during my travels) for on location reviews of Spokane wine bars, coffee shops, local wineries and more (we may even explore the occasional pub or local brewery). Armed with my flipcam we’ll even get the ‘on the street’ taste test of wine and coffee. My goal is to expand the awareness of the great places serving nectar and help people explore tastes that they may have never considered. By no means do I consider myself an expert. I am a fan, like you, with a passion.
I’ll try to post daily, but not all posts will be reviews. Currently I’m setting up my first round of nectarviews, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, follow me on twitter @nectarwine or look for the facebook fan page drinknectar (all one word).
Drinking tonight: Lodi, CA Seven Deadly Zins Zinfindel – YOU?
QOTD: Where do you buy your wine?