Road Trip: Spokane

By John ~ July 18th, 2008.

As our road trip took us to Spokane, Washington, we tried to visit a representative sampling of wineries in the Spokane area. Our first stop was at Latah Creek Winery. Latah Creek, owned by Mike Conway and his wife, has been in business 26 years and produces about 15,000 cases per year. Our friendly hostess, Ruth, poured six wines for us with no tasting fee. Our favorite was the 2006 Latah Creek Winemaker’s Reserve Red – Petit Verdot. It was the first time we’ve had Petit Verdot as a stand-alone varietal, and it was pretty doggone good. A close second for us was the 2005 Latah Creek Cabernet-Syrah, an excellent value at $20.

Our next stop was at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars. Arbor Crest was founded in 1982, and today produces about 20,000 cases per year. While it is locally owned by the Mielke family, the tasting room had more of a corporate feel and their tasting fee was not refundable with a wine purchase which rubs me the wrong way. Of the five wines we tasted at Arbor Crest, our favorite was the 2005 Arbor Crest Syrah.

Our third stop was at Townshend Cellar, whose owner/winemaker is Don Townshend, an engineer by background and trade. He founded Townshend Cellar in 1998 after doing an engineering job for Preston Premium Wines and getting hooked on the wine business. Today he makes about twenty different wines and produces about 9,000 cases per year. While we tasted some good wines, the tasting room experience at Townshend was somewhat uncomfortable because the tasting room staff was a bit aloof. Of the nine complimentary wines we tasted, our three favorites were the NV Townshend T3 (Bordeaux blend), the 2001 Townshend Merlot, and the 2001 Townshend Cabernet Sauvignon.

Our final stop of the day was at Lone Canary Winery, a relatively new producer, founded in 2003 by Mike Scott, winemaker/partner. Today they produce about 5,000 cases per year, 3,000 of which is a good unoaked Sauvignon Blanc. Of the seven complimentary wines poured for us by James, the friendly and knowledgeable Aussie tasting room host, our favorite was the 2003 Lone Canary Proprietor’s Reserve (Bordeaux blend). Close behind were the 2004 Lone Canary Merlot and the 2004 Lone Canary DuBrul Vineyard Reserve (Bordeaux blend).

Here’s a breakdown of the Spokane wines that we tasted. Under each Quality heading, the wine name will be listed along with price and QPR rating. Wines in bold type received a QPR rating of 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5).

Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
NV Townshend T3 (Bordeaux blend), $18, QPR: 5
2005 Latah Creek Cabernet-Syrah, $20, QPR: 5
2004 Lone Canary Merlot, $20, QPR: 5
2005 Arbor Crest Syrah, $22, QPR: 5
2001 Townshend Merlot, $23, QPR: 5
2001 Townshend Cabernet Sauvignon, $28, QPR: 5
2003 Lone Canary Proprietor’s Reserve (Bordeaux blend), $30, QPR: 4
2004 Lone Canary DuBrul Vineyard Reserve (Bordeaux blend), $35, QPR: 4
2006 Latah Creek Winemaker’s Reserve Red – Petit Verdot, $30, QPR: 3

Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
NV Townshend Red Table Wine, $11, QPR: 5
2005 Latah Creek Merlot, $15, QPR: 5
2006 Lone Canary Barbera, $15, QPR: 5
2004 Lone Canary Sangiovese, $18, QPR: 5
2005 Arbor Crest Cabernet Sauvignon, $20, QPR: 5
2002 Townshend Late Harvest Merlot, $20, QPR: 5
2004 Lone Canary Cabernet Sauvignon, $20, QPR: 5
2006 Lone Canary Sauvignon Blanc, $10, QPR: 4
2004 Townshend Syrah, $20, QPR: 4
2005 Townshend Viognier, $14, QPR: 3

Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
2005 Arbor Crest Sauvignon Blanc, $11, QPR: 4
2003 Townshend Sangiovese, $20, QPR: 4
2006 Townshend Sauvignon Blanc, $11, QPR: 4
2005 Arbor Crest Merlot, $18, QPR: 3

Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
2006 Latah Creek Semillon, $10, QPR: NR
2005 Latah Creek Natalie’s Nectar, $14, QPR: NR
NV Arbor Crest Cliff House Red, $14, QPR: NR

Quality: 2 stars (out of 5)
2006 Latah Creek Sangiovese, $10, QPR: NR

Filed under: American Wine, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dessert Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Red Wine, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Shiraz/Syrah, Viognier, Washington State Wine, White Wine, Wine Travel, Wines NOT To Buy (1 & 2 Star), Wines Over $25, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

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