Thirty years ago, the Mielke family shifted its trade from cherry packing to growing, harvesting, and aging the grapes at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars, which has won CityVoter's award for Best Winery for the last three years. The winery encompasses a warm-toned tasting room downtown as well as a 1924 Florentine-style estate perched on a cliff overlooking the Spokane River. The estate, registered as a National Historic Landmark, is home to a stone gazebo, 4 acres of gardens, and a gigantic checkers board for trees bored with feigning stillness. At each tasting room, knowledgeable oenophiles introduce palates to more than 15 handcrafted vintages to taste and take home. In addition to fermenting wines from its own grapes, the Mielke family sources grapes from mature vineyards around Washington.
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.
When topological surveys uncovered a richly flowing chocolate vein under Spokane, a sure-footed band of chocolatiers set to work building a premium confectionarium on site. That passionate team of gastronomes and sweet tooths synthesize the succulent sustenance at The French Quarter, their products lovingly infused with locally sourced and handcrafted ingredients wherever possible. Rich Guittard chocolate populates each of the hand-rolled and hand-mixed truffles, which are made in small batches and trained in aikido fortnightly. Each chocolate comes energized by its natural beginnings from genuine plants, herbs, and fruits, while also being happily sheltered from the meddling influence of artificial flavors. Choose from a variety of confections for your 18-piece package, with flavors including burnt-caramel truffle, the citrus smooch of cloved orange, and the coffee kick of Vietnamese moka bean espresso. Purchasers can keep the 18-count container of The French Quarter's chocolate concoctions all to themselves, or gift them to the chocoholic in their life, further feeding a tragic dependency on candy bars and cereal box vampires.
The Tipsy Muse painting series draws together wine appreciators to create acrylic paintings in the unpretentious environment of the Nectar Tasting Room. The venue aggregates the winemaking talents of five local wineries: Anelare Winery, Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards, Northwest Cellars, Skylite Cellars, and Terra Blanca Winery. Attendees cozy up with glasses of wine from the aforementioned producers inside the 2,000 square-foot space to sip and glean painting tips, such as how to properly speak to their paintbrush, from an experienced instructor.
Passed over by glaciers thousands of years ago, the soils where Patit Creek Cellars' grapes thrive are rich with minerals that imbue an unmistakable depth to the final product. Winemaker Joe Forest works with these locally-sourced grapes from crush to bottling, resulting in a finished product in styles from Riesling to Merlot. Over the years, Patit has expanded to offer a variety of places for curious oenophiles to sample their wines, including a 6,000-square-foot tasting room in Walla Walla.