It is the heart of summertime here, and while many are camping, taking vacations to theme parks, or cruising across country, I find myself relaxing in my backyard with the kiddos and their pool. Barbecues and chilled Rosés have become our evening norm. My current situation as a graduate student on summer break, working odds and ends as "foster aide," "housekeeper," or "maintenance worker" through this season leaves for a less-than-stellar summer vacation to brag to my cohort about later when classes resume in September. However, just because my husband and I can't whisk away to some foreign land or exotic beach right now doesn't mean we can't have a good time. Spokane does boast many an event and fun time, especially during the summer; I love our parks, summer concerts, the many farmer's markets, the lakes for boating and wakeboarding, countless hiking trails, kayaking (someday!), etc. etc. Spokane is really the outdoorsman's dream! Oh! And we have wineries, eighteen as of my last count. If you splice up the five different labels located within Nectar Tasting Room, then Spokane is home to over 20 wine rooms! And this isn't including wine shops that offer tastings, such as Vino! A Wine Shop in downtown Spokane, or Vintage Vines out in Spokane Valley who often brings in local Washington wineries. I believe Spokane's slogan should be revised more accurately to: "Near Nature. Near Wine. Near Perfect."
I said it first. Patent Pending ;)
This past weekend a landmark Spokane winery, Latah Creek Winery celebrated their 31st anniversary/birthday. In all my years of drinking wine, I had never been to Latah Creek. For nearly five years, they were practically in my backyard. Inexcusable! I needed a day away, girls time if you will, and my husband needed a weekend to work on his mistress (a 1969 Dodge Charger). WIN! So I grabbed a friend and off we were to our first stop at Latah Creek. Upon entering, you will find the most beautiful winery gift shop I have seen in all of the greater Spokane area (and this is something I DO look for!). Beautiful wine racks, holders, glasses, gift baskets, clothing, baby bibs (yes, bibs), wall art, food items, etc. etc. I was in heaven! We were greeted by an assistant wine maker, and off to the tastings for us! I found their 2012 Pinot Gris and the 2011 Cabernet Franc to be most noteworthy.
Next up was Robert Karl Cellars, located off the main track of any downtown Spokane street. They can be hard to find at first, and if you catch them in the afternoon of a cold winter day, you may wonder if you've stumbled into a wrong area. But don't fear. It is a quiet street and directly across from the beautiful home shop, 1900, which I encourage you to stop into. Stepping into Robert Karl, I have witnessed many patrons poke their heads in, looking quite unsure if they are in the right place. The building does look like a warehouse, as it is a warehouse of wine with a recently expanded tasting area. I wrote up on Robert Karl's 2009 Claret earlier this year, quite an exceptional wine. While still a nice wine, I felt the 2010 vintage lacked the depth of the 2009. But again, as any winemaker will tell you, or as other bloggers/writers have stated, 2010 is a year of "patience." Some wineries certainly faired better than others, and Robert Karl still has a beautiful red Claret to show you. If Sauvignon Blanc is your style, their 2011 took Double Gold at the Seattle Wine Awards. The bright acidity of the 2012 is certainly refreshing on these hot days.
We walked across the street to MarketPlace Wine Bar, home to both Bridge Press and Emvy wines. The two had been previously located inside Spokane Public Market, a large inside gathering for local artists and farmers alike. Only recently did they officially open doors to their new location (only a block north) in a newly renovated building. Many cheers to them for reviving an old beautiful Spokane original. Most noteworthy on this trip is the Emvy Devotion 2008 and the 2012 BridgePress Rosé. I do recall the "ultimate" Devotion to be the 2006 vintage, but the 2008 is still a popular choice of those who stop by Emvy Cellars. A bottle of this little gem will set you back about $40, but I can assure you it is money well spent. Will hold now and will age beautifully. The Rosé gives fragrances of bright red fruits, with a slightly sweet and oaky palate, rounded off with summer fruits.
Up next was to introduce Christina to my dear friend, Sonya, at Patit Creek. I have written on several of their wines, most recently on "The Brook" Rosé and the Trinité. They have recently released the 2010 vintage of their Tempranillo. Given the reaction seen at the Vintage Spokane preview night, this wine was the "Tweep" favorite (what is "Vintage Spokane"?). Sonya, who hosts the Spokane tasting room, is quite the chef as well and proudly creates some wonderful pairings for the wines. She has a Chardonnay mustard that will have your literally licking the plate clean. Great food to pair with great wine? Sign me up!
As I stated earlier, Spokane is home to 18 wine rooms throughout the area. Thus, this post is only beginning to scratch the surface of what we have to offer. A most beautiful part of the world, Spokane has much to offer. Kayak or hiking in the morning? Wine tasting by mid-afternoon? Who wouldn't want to be here?!
The final lessons learned at the end of this: your own backyard can offer some pretty exciting mini-vacation ideas when you change your perspective. Be a tourist in your own town/city for a day or a weekend. Even when you run into people you know, ask them about new places or ideas for the town you're in. And lastly, be proud of your local scene. Be it farmers, artists, business owners, or wineries (if you are so blessed to have them), and insist on frequenting them as much as you can. I don't ignore the "outsiders" by any means. But by visiting those local in your own town, you can forge relationships and a sense of belonging that you won't find elsewhere. My few hours of "vacationing" and visiting the local wineries was refreshing, enjoyable, and just what I needed to "get away" for a while.
About the Author: Jennifer Heinecke is a graduate student living in Spokane who makes a hobby of writing about her wine experiences on her blog, The Washington Vine. You can read this blog post with additional wine reviews here.