This week I was graciously invited to the Northwest Expressions - a #WAWine Food and Wine Experience hosted by Josh Wade from the Nectar Wine Bar as well as Visit Spokane. The luncheon featured five wines from the Spokane region paired with food catered by Geppetto Catering, Inc. There are just over 20 wineries located around Spokane, with many operating tasting bars downtown. Whereas some grapes used by Spokane are wineries are sourced from other AVAs, we learned how challenging the Sokane environment is for estate vineyards - particularly their early frost and late Spring. In fact, the region encountered it's first frost of the season two nights ago - whereas here in Virginia - harvest continues for some varieties like Cabernet Franc. And being only 15 or so miles from the Idaho border, the Spokane region probably has more in common with the Snake River Valley AVA then other Washington state AVAs. We also learned that Spokane is home to Washington's first post-Prohibition distillery - Dry Fly Distilling - that's reason enough to plan a visit.
We started our tasting with the Arbor Crest Wine Cellars 2011 Bacchus Vineyard Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc paired with an assortment of appetizers - seconds were ordered for the Rabbit Empanadas. Apparently Arbor Crest with their Cliff House Estate is a popular tourist attraction, particularly in the Spring when over 20 thousand tulips bloom. The winery is also one of the oldest in the Evergreen state (the 29th) and has been producing Sauvignon Blanc from the very beginning. The 2011 Bacchus Vineyard is an excellent value ($10) for a lemon-citrus wine with sweet sensations followed by a tart and acidic lemon finish - without the grassy flavor of New Zealand.
Next up was the Barrister Winery Barrister's Block Red, a non-vintage blend of four grape varieties (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, and 5% each Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec) from three separate vineyards ( Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills and Bacchus). This was my favorite wine of luncheon, pepper in the nose and tail; but a silky creamy mid-palette that was quite savory. This was also the most expensive wine in the tasting - $32.
Josh served the Mountain Dome Winery Brut as a palette cleanser for the main course and this wine proved that affordable and tasty sparklers are available in Spokane. The wine is made méthode champenoise and consists of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. It is a clean refreshing wine with subtle green apple flavors. Quite tasty - and priced between $15-$18 - a bargain.
The main course included roasted herb chicken and wild Atlantic Salmon cakes, so we broke etiquette and consumed the Robert Karl Cellars 2009 Horse Heaven Hills Claret ($20). The winery loves to hold wine back in the bottle to allow it to mature and this is no exception. This wine exudes cherries, from front to back, with an interesting leather character.
We finished lunch with the Townshend Cellar Late Harvest Chenin Blanc and an apple tart with Josh explaining that the wine must be sweeter than the dessert. At 12%RS, this is a sweet wine - reminiscent of some Tokaji wines - with apricot flavor predominant. Wonder if dry Chenin Blanc and Furmint are similar? In any case, this was a splendid finale for the lunch - great to spend time with old friends and finally able to meet Josh and the Visit Spokane folks. Hope to share a meal with them again on their side of the country - perhaps in the Spring - we all love Tulips.