Exploring Wine Tasting in Spokane, Washington
Featuring Latah Creek and Terra Blanca Wineries and Travel Tips
Spokane, Washington is a fascinating town…a mix of old and new. Spokane is a city with a fascinating combination of wine, cuisine, industry, and academics. There seems to be a new outdoor event every evening in and around Riverfront Park. Now that most of the venues have lifted many of the Pandemic restrictions, it is a great place for a mini-vacation. Following a visit to Arbor Crest Wine Cellars at the Cliff House in last week’s Wine Wanderings newsletter, I traveled to two of the other most well-known Spokane-area winery tasting rooms: Latah Creek Wine Cellars and Terra Blanca’s Spokane tasting room.
Latah Creek Wine Cellars: Father/Daughter Winemakers
In 1982 Mike and Ellena Conway established their winery, Latah Creek Wine Cellars, when there were only 18 wineries in the State of Washington. Mike had a storied background as a microbiologist at Gallo Wines. His daughter, Natalie Conway Barnes, later joined Mike in the winery as one of the first father/daughter teams in Washington. This year the winery is celebrating its 39th anniversary since its founding. Natalie now is the President of the Spokane Winery Association. Ellena has concentrated on the Tasting Room accessories and gift business to complete a welcoming setting for a morning or afternoon Spokane wine tasting.
Natalie notes: “We source our grapes from some of the best vineyards in the Ancient Lakes and Yakima Valley AVA’s.*”
At my June 2021 tasting, I sat down with Natalie Conway Barnes to discuss and sample their portfolio. I found some favorites and some unusual wines, too.
Best of Tasting: Latah Creek Wines
This fruit-forward and almost blush-colored wine was my favorite. The lower alcohol (13%) and crisp vibrancy are perfect for a summer patio wine. Awarded Double Gold WinePress Northwest Platinum Awards 2020.
This wine shows big blue fruit, deep purple color, some violets, smoke, and spice. My favorite red of the tasting. A 2020 Gold Medal Savor NW Wine Award. Perfect with Ellena’s Cracked Pepper Steak recipe.
Latah is known for producing this local favorite made from huckleberries and Riesling and Muscat Canelli wine grapes. It’s so popular it has been dubbed “Spokane’s #1 wine.” Many area residents think it makes the best pairing for a Thanksgiving turkey. Slightly sweet, yet this wine has flavors of spun sugar, pear, and a hint of ginger.
Terra Blanca: Spokane Tasting Room and Stunning Tuscan-Inspired Benton City Estate Winery
Terra Blanca Motto: White Earth. Blue Skies. Red Mountain.
Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyard’s Spokane tasting room sits in the historic Chronicle Building in downtown Spokane, a wonderful setting for a mid-day wine tasting. The downtown Spokane tasting room is convenient as the winery’s Tuscan-Inspired estate sits on a hill 154 miles away in the middle of 300 acres with 175 acres estate vineyards nestled in the midst of the Red Mountain AVA*…. a spectacular site for wine tasting, weddings, and corporate events.
The Terra Blanca vineyard is planted in Red Mountain AVA* soil which is permeated with a white-colored compound called Calcium Carbonate (Limestone & Chalk), thus the Terra Blanca name. This type of soil is found in some of the world’s great wine growing regions.
The Missoula floods, a series of massive floods that occurred at the end of the last Ice Age, profoundly affected the soils of Washington’s Red Mountain AVA in Benton County, Washington. The sediment and wind-blown loess soil was deposited at that time, creating truly unique soils suitable for wonderful grape-growing conditions, and producing some of the most sought-after grapes in Washington State.
Terra Blanca was founded in 1992, by Keith Pilgrim, a University of California, Davis-trained viticulturist, geologist, and enologist, who grew up in Napa Valley and discovered this valuable vineyard land.
Best of Tasting: Terra Blanca Wines
At my June 2021 tasting, my “best of tasting” choices included:
I hand-carried home two of these Merlots, as I found them to be the best I had tasted in Washington State. Aging: 25 months in French oak. The concentrated black cherry, clove, and chocolate aromas make this my “best of tasting” red for the entire Washington tasting trip.
Aromas of graphite, blackberry, and violets stand out in this wine. A deep plum core of flavors of spice, toffee, and plum along with the well-managed tannins give a smooth structure to this fine wine.
This is a rosé of 62% Sangiovese, and 38% Cabernet Franc. It is a medium pink with a fresh acidity and aromas of strawberry, peach, spice, and rose petals….a terrific patio wine.
2018 Signature Series Terra Blanca VRM – Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne Blend, $30
My favorite Terra Blanca white wine is the VRM consisting of a blend of Viognier, Rousanne, and Marsanne. This Rhone-style white has aromas of white flowers, apricot, pear, and herbal tea with the fuller body of a Viognier and the freshness driven by the Roussanne. Pair this wine with seafood and grilled white meats.
If You Go to Spokane:
Latah Creek Wine Cellars, 508-926-0164, 13030 E. Indiana Ave.
Terra Blanca Spokane Tasting Room, 509-340-9140, 926 W. Sprague Ave, #100
Stay: Davenport Grand, Autograph Collection: 509-484-3330, 333 West Spokane Falls Blvd.
This is a modern Marriott hotel located in downtown Spokane near the scenic Riverfront Park.
Eat: Wild Sage Bistro, 509-456-7575, 916 W. 2nd Ave.
Wile Sage Bistro is locally owned and serves seasonally-inspired, locally-sourced ingredients.… A stunning setting for a special occasion like my milestone birthday. Try the seared Alaskan Halibut or the Duck Leg confit, but the BLB – Bucket List Burger – made of Wagyu beef was the standout. A 2020 Trip Advisor’s Travelers’ Choice
Basketball Geeks Must See: Visit Gonzaga University campus, nestled in a University hub setting with University of Washington School of Medicine, Eastern Washington State University, and Whitworth University.
*AVA – American Viticultural Area – When a U.S. winery wants to tell you the geographic pedigree of its wine, it uses a tag on its label called an Appellation of Origin. The AVA is a designated wine grape-growing region in the U. S., a federally-recognized region. Federal law required that 75% or more of grapes used to make the wine be from that appellation. Some states required tighter laws than federal. For instance, a wine bearing “California” as an Appellation of Origin must, under state law, be made with 100% grapes grown and finished in the Golden State. If a label states “Washington,” 95% of the grapes used in the production of the wine must have been grown in Washington.
Wine Wanderings Editorial Calendar- July
The Wines of Washington Series:
Exploring Wine Tasting in Spokane, WA: Latah Creek and Terra Blanca Wineries July 2021
Left Bank vs. Right Bank Bordeaux: Taste the Difference
Wine Castles of Sonoma County
Smashing Summer Cocktails: The Best of Gin and Bourbon
Napa Valley Series: Summer Adventures Post-Pandemic
Interview: Jean Charles Boisset: Napa, Sonoma, and Burgundy’s Flamboyant Wine Ambassador
Hall Wines: Best of Portfolio Tasting, Napa Valley
An Interview with Dominic Chappellet, Pritchard Hill, Napa Valley
Let’s Celebrate Summer at Summit Lake Vineyards, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley
Interview: Winemaker at Alpha Omega Winery, Napa Valley
Healdsburg and the Wines of Russian River Valley: Revisiting Gary Farrell Winery
America’s Exceptional Wine Country Adventures
The True Cost of a Cocktail.
Tour Tuscany Like a Pro