17 Jan 2010
This weekend I left the bleak grey confines of Spokane, WA for the land of eternal sun, Phoenix. While my itinerary consisted mostly of pounding my 37 year old body into the pavement for the PF Changs Rock-n-Roll Marathon, I also enjoyed visiting with my sister, her husband and my mom and dad.
In addition to the body torture, new twitter friend, Tim Hilcove @wklywinejournal organized a wine / adult beverage tweetup. The first stop was FnB Restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale. This fantastic part of town is thriving with activity; restaurants, bars, wine bars, art galleries, and live music. This is an adult playground! While FnB wasn’t a “wine bar,” I was thrilled to see a great selection of Arizona wine. During the tweetup, we met some fantastic people (featured below).
FnB was very accommodating with our group of 12. Due to lighting conditions, food aromas, and my memory, I’m unable to provide a full NectarView of each wine, but below is what I drank and what I thought!
2008 Pillsbury “Casa Blanca” Pinot Gris, Cochise County $20
- The wine had an interesting minerality on the nose. The Pinot Gris’ that I’m used to usually have a very crisp apple, pear, and pineapple aroma. This was a very good wine that seems to be made in the traditional Italian wine making style. The sip provided some nice effervescence and reminded me of Champagne (w/o the bubbles). I would definitely buy it (if I could ever find it in our area).
2006 Dos Cabezas “Toscano” Red Blend, Conchise County $22
- This wine was lighter shade with similar colorings and translucence as a Pinot Noir (jewel like). Toscano is a Sangiovese, Cab, Syrah, Petit Sirah blend. The flavors were sour cherry with a dry tartness and mild acidity. This wine wasn’t in my wheelhouse, but it did seem well made with nice character.
2007 Pillsbury “Roan Red” Syrah, Conchise County $24
- The color presented fairly dark plum with mildly clear edges. Once again, this wine seemed to be made in the traditional Rhone style. Taste was fruity grape and blackberry and had a descent tannic structure and a nice long finish (see Tim’s description in the video).
The most enjoyable and biggest surprise for me was the Casa Blanca
After wrapping up dinner, one of our tweeters (@juxtapalate) recommended we head to Kazimierz World Wine Bar. This place needs to be seen to be believed. There are no establishment name signs on the building, the entrance is in the rear and the only sign, above the entrance door, says “The Truth is Inside.” The inside is reminiscent of what I would envision an old French cellar would look like (cobblestone, wood, barrels). Hot jazz was playing and the place was alive with beautiful people (current blogger not withstanding). The hostess brought a wine menu which included a nice selection of flights. @Juxtapalate asked the waitress for the “wine bible.” The Kazimierz Wine Bible contained 2600 wines by the bottle. WOW! I think I need to spend more than just a three day weekend here. A cellar was dug out under the building to hold all the wine. After analyzing the flights, I chose something that would make fellow wine blogger @vinegeek proud, Mourvedre. Sadly, my reviews were tainted by the smell of garlic as we sat right outside the kitchen.
2006 San Isidro Monastrell, Cepas del Zorro; Spain $11
- This was a big earthy chewy wine. It was aroma challenged. I wasn’t too pleased with this wine because it was mostly tart and tannic with hints of leather but no lace.
2007 Castano Monastrell Organic, Spain; $8
- This wine also didn’t produce much effort on the nose. The first two offering were definitely giving me a picture of Spanish Mourvedre but I wasn’t totally into what they were painting. I did pick up some red cherry jam but the wine was simple with a short finish.
2006 Cline Mourvedre, Ancient Vines, Contra Costa; $12
- I’ve had several positive experiences with the Cline brand and this one was no exception. This wine was much smoother and had a nice strawberry tart taste with a hint of smoky oak. Discovering that the wine is only $12 means that this is one I would pick up to share with friends.
Earlier I mentioned that we enjoyed our tweetup with several local foodies and winos. It was such a pleasure to meet these guys and they are definitely worthy of a follow on twitter.
@CChaseEnt – Colleen runs @AZGrapeEscapes and has the joy of organizing wine tours to the nearby Phoenix area vineyards and wineries.
@JuxtaPalate – Ty is a great connector. His blog is witty and fun as he explore the Phoenix food and drink scene. He also runs a PR firm for local restaurants.
@JustinEats – Justin writes a fantastic food blog with insightful reviews of local restaurants.
@wklywinejournal – Tim was gracious enough to organize the tweetup. His wine blog has been on my reader list for months. Tim’s passion is promoting the AZ scene. Go Tim!
Several others came and went throughout the night but I did not get to converse with them all; @CiaoMari Niki Buchanan (food writer for www.azcentral.com) and @foodieslikeus
Life is meant to be enjoyed with friends and I’m already looking forward to my next trip to sunny Phoenix in April. Kazimierz will probably be the first stop on the way from the airport! DRINK.HAPPY
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!
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.