02 Dec 2009
Gonzaga Bulldogs; once the cinderella of college Basketball. Washington State Cougars; once the cellar dwellers of the PAC-10 conference. Both teams are now solid contenders with Gonzaga making the NCAA conference for 10 straight seasons and WSU reaching the Sweet 16 in 2007. Tonight, Dec 2, they battle in Spokane at the MAC.
Spokane wine is an underdog among the growing Washington wine explosion. WSU, in the Palouse, and just a short drive to the prestigious Walla Walla wine region. Tonight they battle in the drinknectar challenge!
WSU is represented by their new head coach, the top scorer in the nation Klay Thompson and Cougar Crest Winery. The 2005/6 Bordeaux style blend (with Syrah). Winemaker Deborah Hansen offers a smooth smelling and tasting blend that give the Cougars a strong showing. The wine lack a lot of intrigue and character but has a nice finish. Proceeds from this wine go to support ICU, neurosurgery, and trauma doctors who help give life to winemaker Deborah Hansen’s daughter.
The Zags are represented by 10 years of winning tradition, the 2nd winningest active coach, a young inexperienced team wanting to prove themselves again, and Grande Ronde Cellars. Grande Ronde procures their grapes from the Walla Walla region but calls home 902 W. 2nd Ave in Spokane. The 2005 Cellar Red is a traditional Bordeaux style blend. The sniff is more dynamic and the sip is more floral, perfume, and spice.
Grande Ronde Cellars 2005 Cellar Red
- The Swirl – Medium tone with a very nice purple jewel tone. Moderately see through
- The Sniff – Immediate sense of clove and cinnamon spice. The berry comes through on the back-end. A slight floral element presents itself
- The Sip – Still spicy on the sip with a good interesting flavor. Dark berry fruits begin to present themselves and the finish lingers for quite some time. Tannins, alcohol and acid are not dominant. My wife noted a perfume / soap taste.
- Price to Value Ratio $$$ The wine has a wide flavor profile and gives the drinker a lot to consider but in the end there is too much perfume as it finishes.
Cougar Crest 2005/6 Dedication Three
- The Swirl: The Cougar Crest is slightly more cloudy but still mildly translucent. Lack of legs for low residual sugar.
- The Sniff: Not as much aromatic presence on this wine. More fruity with cherry being the most predominant.
- The Swirl: Good smooth flavor profile. The wine lacks a lingering finish but presents a hint of chocolate at the end. This wine has slightly more acid but less tannin and moderate alcohol.
- Price to Value Ratio $$$+ With a more easy drinking feel and an overall stronger quality, the Cougar Crest is the better value for $20.
Led by senior Matt Bouldin, Gonzaga overcomes a 14 point deficit to beat the Cougars 74 to 69. Once again the hustle, strong coaching winning experience prevail. As far as the wine goes the final decision rests with you. If I were to buy another bottle for another game, I would choose the Cougar Crest only because of the mild flavor profile. Like I said in the video, if you are after a more dynamic taste experience, then go with the Grande Ronde. Great showing by Spokane and the Palouse. Basketball game goes to Gonzaga, wine goes to Cougar (Crest).
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
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!
17 Nov 2009
Now, I’m on a quest; the quest to find three good wines under $10 (maybe even under $7). Tonight, I must say, I took one for the team. It’s no secret that we drink wine. admittedly we probably drink over 200 bottles a year. My budget says, I can’t be drinking $20+ bottles every night (somewhere north of $4,000). If you’re like me, we need a few great selections we can trust. Good staples are a smooth, sweeter red, a spicy meaty red, a crisp full white, and a sweet summer white. We need that $7 trustworthy wine for daily use.
The Rocket Market (726 E 43rd Ave) is a great place to try new wines. You can count on them to have hundreds of bottles to choose from ranging from $5 – $105.
Tonight I reviewed three wines available for under $7 with hopes that one could be added to the “trusted” list.
2008 Estrella White Blend; California $5
With no pronounced varietals, I didn’t expect much, other than a white grape bland wine. I was pleasantly surprised.
- Swirl: Good crisp color darker than a Sauvignon Blanc, but lighter than a Chardonnay
- Sniff: Crisp nose with strong butter reminiscent of a Chardonnay. In the video I mentioned a peach smell, but after a few more sips, the strong flavor is apple, and a mild citric.
- Sip: Butter smell carried over to the flavor. Really noticed the citric flavor here too with mild vanilla on the back end. The finish was mild without overbearing alcohol.
- Price to Value Rating: $$$$ – this is a pretty darn good value. Not a ton of structure or distinguishing flavor, but nothing offensive either.
2008 Estrella Red Table Wine; California $5
- Swirl: Cloudy purple color, weak legs
- Sniff: Fruit forward, jammy smell, a little spice on the back end. Reminiscent of a Australian Syrah
- Sip: Ick, Sugar water, weak grape juice on the front end, more structure as it sits but the best it could do is dark blackberry, strong alcohol leaving me with a chewy tongue
- Price to Value Rating: $+, skip this one and keep searching
2008 Hacienda Cabernet Sauvignon
- Swirl: More structure to the color, nearly see to bottom of glass, no legs
- Sniff: Not very strong with moderate spice and pepper
- Sip: A decent structure, not overpowering or overly-meaty like some Cabs. A mild alcohol finish. Should be consumed with food but not too over powering to be drank alone
- Price to Value Rating: $$$ – This wine is almost there but not quite the one to add to the trusted list. If you’re in need of a decent burger wine, this could work.
After tonight’s adventure, the journey continues. I would safely add the Estrella White table wine to my list of trusted under $10, but there are already a few there. The quest continues.
Enjoy life with friends and <drink.happy>
13 Nov 2009
I am totally excited to post my first video blog. Welcome to EPISODE 1 – November 13, 2009. Inside, I provide some basic introductions and a quick review of a 2007 Red Diamond Merlot from WA. Not a bad wine for $7.
- Taste: Big, fruity, bold
- Flavor: Cherry, Plum, Vanilla, hints of Cocoa and Caramel
- Finish: Mild tanins, mildy acidic
- Rating to Price ratio: 3 out of 5
Check out the video and provide your comments. It’ll take me a few more days to set up my first ‘on the street’ nectarview.
Thanks for watching drink happy