If one word had to describe Coeur d’Alene Cellars’ attitude toward winemaking, it would probably be "meticulous." During each stage of creation, from vineyard selection and harvest to bottling, winemakers carefully supervise and adjust conditions to suit their visions. They hand-harvest fruit from their eastern Washington vineyards only on days that fit specific temperature conditions. Between pickings, the vines are pruned for low yields that concentrate flavor and quality. And their syrah and viognier grapes are both hand-sorted the night of harvest before they’re pressed and fermented.
That process is carefully controlled as well. Syrah blends first ferment in open-top vessels, allowing for closer management of color and tannins. Only later do they age inside French and American oak barrels, like former daredevils bent on reliving their trip over Niagara Falls. Viognier blends, on the other hand, spend both fermentation and aging periods in small oak barrels.
The resulting well-balanced wines can claim myriad accolades from publications such as Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. Their 2004 Sarah’s cuvée viognier, for instance, earned 89 points from Wine Enthusiast, which praised its "good balance" of "peach, apricot, sour lemon candy and even a bit of cinnamon." Current vintages include the 2007 Alder Ridge Vineyard syrah, whose smooth body supports flavors of berries, vanilla, and cinnamon that conclude in a lingering finish.
These and other wines are poured at Coeur d'Alene's onsite wine bar, Barrel Room No. 6. Inside, sleek red walls help create an upscale vibe. Glasses perch beneath pendant lighting on the bar or glitter on top of old wine barrels repurposed as tables. As customers sip, knowledgeable wait staff can suggest ways to bring out the wines' subtle flavors by nibbling aromatic cheese pairings or the hem of a neighbor’s freshly laundered shirt.
Oftentimes when people talk about what inspired them to start a new business venture, they wax nostalgic about family history or speak profoundly about a life-changing event. But in the case of Savor Spokane, the founders were inspired by a completely mediocre experience. While on a city food tour in 2009, they had an OK time, but left feeling like there should have been more...something.
They mulled it over, and eventually realized what was missing: their tour hadn't been local enough. So, they began developing a framework for what they thought would be a more complete experience. They wanted local food, local guides, and an integration of relevant historical and cultural information.
Today, these are exactly the kinds of tours they organize with Savor Spokane. Though the focus is food or wine, as groups walk from destination to destination, they pick up interesting tidbits about Spokane geography, architecture, and culture. The guides say they've been able to enlighten both tourists and locals, often finding even lifelong residents admit they've learned something new, been to a restaurant they didn't realize was there, or figured out their key to the city doesn't actually open anything.
As soon as young Ed Dickson could swim three laps in an Olympic-size pool, he earned his free time on Lake Michigan; his mother gave him a 12-foot aluminum motorboat and told him he could fish anywhere, provided he was home by sunset. Reflecting back on his childhood, Ed suspects his family ate more fish than they wanted to.
Nowadays, Ed is the owner of Diamond Charters and a Coast Guard captain with more than 15,000 hours on the water, which he accumulated on Lake Michigan, the waters of California and Mexico, and in his current lake of choice: Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille. Since 1992, he has been cruising the landlocked lake for its rainbow trout, famed for growing to record-breaking sizes and skirting predators by blending into nearby rainbows. Ed also showcases the lake to his guests on fishing expeditions through Diamond Charters. On any given excursion, he steers passengers to the best fishing spots aboard his 32-foot Twin Volvo Turbo Carver yacht, outfitted with amenities that include a TV, microwave, and a set of more than 1,000 lures.
Vintner Tim Nodland approaches blending his wines like arranging a song, which makes sense, because as a professional jazz musician he possesses an astute sense of creativity and balance. He describes his winery as being “more like a musician’s studio” and his wines as “liquid art.” Nodland's musical background inspires the names of wines such as "Bebop" and earned his winery a mention in Wine and Jazz magazine. Nodland Cellars produces only one red wine and one white wine every year, allowing the winery to focus all of its energy on refining each vintage. Nodland's meticulously selected grapes, sourced from quality Columbia Valley vineyards, are each handpicked before enjoying a gentle press in stainless steel. Each vintage, aged in 100% new french oak, uses a blend of six grapes, primarily made up of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, which recalls a classic bordeaux from the late 1700s or early 1800s. Nodland's private blend’s complex Old World flavor comes from rare carmenere grapes, which were wiped out in Europe by a phylloxera blight in the 1800s.
In 1982, Mike Conway walked away from more than a decade of large-scale wine production at E.&J. Gallo, Parducci, and Franzia Brothers to open Latah Creek Wine Cellars with his wife, Ellena. Today, with help from their daughter Natalie, they package more than 17,000 cases each year. The trio devotes much of their winemaking expertise to their most popular bottles, which include a riesling, Huckleberry L'Atah, and a chardonnay that Wine Press Northwest describes as "exotic and hedonistic." They develop each varietal with a minimal amount of processing and handling to keep flavors intact and prevent grapes from having reasons to make tell-all appearances on afternoon talk shows. The team can also swathe bottles in personalized wine labels for special occasions such as weddings and birthdays. The winery welcomes visitors to amble through its tiled walkways and arched courtyard, around the winemaking facilities, and into a gift shop teeming with trinkets and a well-stocked wine-tasting bar.
The owners of Spokane Winery Tours wanted to make a career of enjoying good food and drink, and realized the only thing they needed to do it was a bus. They created a logo, slapped it on the side of their first Wino Wagon, and began living their dream. They take groups of wine lovers and neophyte drinkers alike on tours Valley wineries, teaching them about the process behind creating a bottle. They also ferret out some of the best samples for the region has to offer for their guests to try.