Friday, August 21, 2015

GOT GRAPES? Why we live here.

Wine is more than a liquid libation. Most locapours (lovers of local wine) will claim Washington wine has meaning, depth and even truth in every glass. Wine is an experience, sometimes even a ritual that’s meant to be shared and from there the truth often flows. Vino Veritas is a Latin phrase that translates “in wine [there is the] truth.”

Wine, wine, and more wine. Lucky for residents and visitors alike, Washington has numerous opportunities to partake in the fermented juice. The local wine scene exploded in the mid 90s making Washington the second largest wine region in the United States. Compared to 1981, when there were only 19 official wineries, Washington State is now drenched in wine boasting more than 850 official wineries. To put this into perceptive, there are currently 559 (35% less) Starbucks sprinkled throughout Washington.

Wine has a story. With the onslaught of wine production comes the stories behind the wine that are ultimately expressed in your glass. From the people who work the vineyards to the winemakers, even seemingly little decisions all have an impact on the direction, outcome and personality that consumers taste. The range of possible combinations of these factors can result in vast differences among wines and influence the fermentation, finishing, and aging processes. Though winemaking sounds très romantique, if you venture in you’d better be more than just passionate about it. Most winemakers will tell you that being in the wine business requires hard work and even more money. Not to burst the view from your rosé colored glasses but we have it on good authority that winemaking involves a massive amount of cleaning.

Wine can convey history. Wine has a rich history dating back thousands of years and each vintage tells a tale about that specific year. You may have heard wine enthusiasts refer to terroir [ter-wahr], the French word for land. Terroir can be loosely translated as “a sense of place,” which is embodied in certain characteristic qualities. This combination of factors including soil, climate, and environment give wine its distinctive character. In a vertical tasting, different vintages of the same wine type from the same vineyard are tasted. This emphasizes differences between various vintages. Explore what makes a “good year,” and you can learn a lot about a particular wine. The specific conditions under which the grapes were grown and harvested also impact how the finished product tastes. Temperature fluctuations and the amount of rain or sunshine affect grape varieties differently. When it’s decided that harvest commences and extraordinary occurrences like extreme weather or insect swarms also leave their mark. Craig Leuthold, owner of Maryhill Winery says weather isn’t as much of a factor, especially in Eastern Washington, but rather his concern is the composition of the soil and who is tending to the vineyard. Washington State has been recognized as having ideal geography and conditions for growing premium vinifera wine grapes. The state claims on average 16 hours per day of sunshine and annual rainfall of eight inches (20.32 cm) in Eastern Washington (the major grape growing region) and 48 inches (121.92 cm) in Western Washington. The 350+ grape growers in Washington focus on Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, but the region officially produces over 30 varieties of white and red wines.

Wine tasting includes ambience. Where you are and whom you’re with can enhance the experience and bring greater enjoyment from the wine. Let’s be honest, wine tastes better at picturesque places, with people you adore or while listening to great music or indulging in delicious food. These wine moments often happen at the wineries. Taking in an outdoor amphitheater-style concert at Maryhill Winery in Goldendale or at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville creates a memorable evening that pairs well with the host’s wine. But putting down a picnic blanket on the grass at Arbor Crest Cliff house perched above the Spokane Valley while listening to the best local musicians or participating in open-mic night at Sapolil Cellars in Walla Walla is just as special. Even hearing Classic Rock vinyl spun at Sleight of Hand’s tasting room in Walla Walla while you taste through the line up can enhance wine’s flavor. Washington wineries are plentiful but as unique and diverse as the wine itself. Lavish and over the top to intimate and even quirky, there’s a favorite Washington winery for everyone.  Food, of course is the natural pairing for wine. Cave B Estate Winery in Quincy invites you to their on-winery restaurant, Tendrils, which has seasonal fare perfectly paired with the estate’s wines and complimented by a commanding view of the Columbia River Gorge. Sorrento’s Ristorante at Tsillian Winery in Lake Chelan offers authentic Italian cuisine precisely paired with the estate’s wine in a Tuscan style setting with arguably the grandest view of Lake Chelan. At Tsillian Cellars you can dine al fresco with sound of a piano player tickling the ivories at a backdrop. Diverse, yes, but despite the rapid growth, Washington wineries are still very intimate and often provide the opportunity to taste with the winemaker. If they’re not pouring they are usually close by and eager to answer any questions about their liquid art. Washington State has truly become a destination for wine. Visit a winery and taste why.

Wine is the answer. What was the question? According once again to locapours, its always the right time for wine. Wine is the perfect gift; one size fits all and duplicates welcome. With the wine being, well, everywhere, Washingtonians have adapted a casual approach to wine. It’s become for many, a daily indulgence. The benefit of so much quality wine being produced is that one doesn’t need to break the bank to enjoy a great glass of wine. Wine attempts to reclaim the lost ritual of gathering, conversing and lingering. Whether it’s a significant celebration and time to break out the 1995 Leonetti Merlot or a daily indulgence of 2011 Maryhill Winemaker’s Red blend, wine is designed to be pleasurable and easily incorporated into one’s life. It’s true; the bottled magic can even turn around a less than stellar day. Vino Veritas.

Published in WA magazine. Article written by Laurie L. Ross 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

What's in a name?

Some of my early articles were published under the pen name, Coco Irving. I pretended it was highly creative and mysterious to have an alias. The truth was I was insecure about my writing. After many years and countless published works, I still am. 

When I inquired about using a pen name, my editor quickly agreed and asked what it was. I had no idea. In response to the blank look on my face, she asked what my stripper name was. What? Stripper name? Why would I have a Stripper name? She explained it was my dog's name followed by my mother's maiden name. Too funny!

So Coco Irving it was. After a year of being published under my dog's name, I bravely applied my real name to the byline.

Breaking the Rules. New Classic Cocktails

by Laurie L. Ross
More often than not, one learns the rules in order to break them. This is true with bartenders who master the tried and true basics before taking liberties, proving a libation doesn’t have to be to be old to be a classic. Contributing to our region’s cocktail culture are some innovative mixologists who are shaking, muddling and mixing things up at locally owned restaurants, bars and lounges.
Volstead Act, nestled in downtown Spokane’s Davenport Arts District takes a postmodern twist on a pre-prohibition era watering hole. This newer bar boasts craft cocktails made with precision in an attractive space that collides retro and modern influences. The space has a vintage feel but with cutting edge nuances, such as the option of ordering, paying and tipping with Bitcoin (BTC) digital currency. To sip on a budget, there are two happy hours (one early, one late) daily, and on Sundays from 5 p.m. to close, all craft cocktail are a throwback to $5. The bar menu is drenched with familiar libations with unique twists. It’s obvious that barkeeps such as Ash Hayden aren’t afraid to stray off the written plan. Try the El Guapo, citrus tequila cocktail with a kick. This choice is carefully created with Blanco tequila, Cholula hot sauce, muddled cucumber and lime with house made simple syrup. If that packs too much heat, try the Lilac City Collins,which may go down a little too easily. This refresher includes tea infused gin, fresh lemon juice, lightly muddled mint, house-made simple syrup topped with soda water. This is definitely a bar worth discovering and though it may sound minor, the cool metal straws are a nice touch.
Chaps Diner & Bakery is housed in a relocated farmhouse in the Latah Valley, just off I-95. This rustically elegant eatery is best known for their crazy busy weekend breakfasts. But if you don’t venture to Chaps in the evening for dinner and drinks, you’re missing out. It’s still delightful in the evenings, but has a different feel than the morning rush. Weather permitting, weekly live music takes place in the quaint courtyard. Tenured bartender Jessica Strange concocted the signature Chapsgirl Martini made with Bacardi Dragon Berry, a splash of sweet and sour and an exclusive raspberry sorbet from Brainfreeze, a local small batch ice-cream purveyor. The innovative Strange creates her own infused vodkas and seasonal drinks for the Chap’s experience at a more leisurely pace.
Bistango Martini Lounge is an urban escape in downtown Spokane. This upscale yet intimate bar has a big city vibe within walking distance from River Park Square. The starry night ceiling, modern decor and occasional ice sculptures contribute to an ambience usually found in bigger metropolitan cities. Expect solo acts of live music or a fully clothed Go-Go dancer swaying on the petite performance stage. Despite all the distractions, this usually packed lounge is best known for their handcrafted cocktails. Bar Manager, Ryan Crow, may have started a trend with his take on a White Cosmopolitan. The Bistango version of the classic Stolichnaya vodka and white cranberry juice is realized by adding your choice of grapefruit, strawberry, raspberry, cucumber or vanilla. Arrive early to take advantage of Happy Hour from 4-6 p.m. and to secure a coveted seat.
Lindaman’s Gourmet-To-Go is just north of Manito Park on the lower south hill is a neighborhood gathering place serving up tasty food to consume in the welcoming dining space or for pick up. Celebrating its 30th year in business, owner Merilee Lindaman continues to evolve her first and only restaurant while still keeping true to what’s been working so well. In addition to the creative cuisine this friendly space pours great coffee to start your day and mixes some seriously good cocktails to wrap it up. A spiked coffee is good at any time and the dedicated staff did some after hours collaborating to create their perfect version of Coffee Corretto, a traditional Italian drink comprised of espresso, grappa and Sambuca and three different coffee beans, which represent health, wealth and wisdom. The key to this Lindaman’s favorite was finding balance with the right proportions of flavors to complement the intensity of the rich espresso. If you are looking for a classic cocktail to enjoy on Lindaman’s oasis of a patio, try their Basil Lime Gimlet prepared by popular mixologist Alex Golly. The cocktail, which tastes like sunny weather, is artfully made with Ketel One Vodka, fresh squeezed lime juice, simple syrup and muddled basil leaves. Pair it with dinner and live music on the patio for a blissful escape.
Laurie L. Ross is a frequent contributor, and is the author of the popular local blog, Sip of Spokane. You can keep up with her at

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Contemplating RAIN

While you were sleeping, countless drops of water fell from the sky and nourished the parched earth. It was an answer to prayer for many and still we were all blessed by the peaceful morning symphony. Find joy in the seemingly ordinary as rain is nothing less than a familiar miracle. LLR

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Davenport Hotel Flower Shop

The historic hotel is like a time machine that transports visitors back to a more elegant era where attention to detail was paramount and traditions are started. We're sure Louis Davenport would be pleased to know that after 100 years the hotel is still the best of the best and the fragrant flower shop is still blooming with possibilities. 

The Davenport Hotel is located in downtown Spokane, WA. 
Photo Credit: Bayside 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

House Crush : Vintage Farmhouse

I believe you spend the first 25 years of your life trying to get away from home and then the next 25 years trying to get back again. 

I grew up in a quaint but fragile farmhouse on acreage. It was  nestled in the woods along with two large barns, an apple orchard and horse corral in which we boarded horses in exchange for riding lessons. My father built a simple treehouse which provided forbidden but frequented access to the roof for stargazing. This home is glamorous in comparison but my childhood home was my paradise, my playground and still has a place in my heart. It's the house that built me. I fancy myself a city girl but then a property like this completely captures my attention. I believe HOME is the nicest word there is. Check out this week's house crush. If you'd like to meet it in person and make it yours, contact me to arrange a tour. A totally different lifestyle awaits you that's still only 25 minutes from downtown Spokane.

Photo Credit: S Wolford C21

Meeting Lou Holtz

Meeting Lou Holtz was inspiring to say the least. The legendary football coach has a an acronym for life, W.I.N. - What's Important Now. It's designed to help you focus on what you need to do now to get what you want in the future. That means clearly deciding what you want in life and then focusing on the steps to get there. Thanks Lou, years later I'm still hanging onto your words.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Return of the Drive In Movie

Spokane Outdoor & Drive-In Movies, led by Charity Bagatsing, a longtime Spokane resident, local magazine publisher, and all over creative force, is set to recapture the nostalgic outdoor movie experience. Like a new twist on a classic, today’s outdoor movies are portable, inflatable and come in a variety of sizes. Brought to you by the Family Guide and FunFlicks Outdoor Movie Events, the largest outdoor (and indoor) movie event provider in the nation is proud to bring back to you all of the fun and nostalgia of the classic drive-in experience with modern day technology. The movies are simulcast over FM radio and broadcast through state of the art speakers and are shown on a 55 foot screen.

Movies will be shown in two locations this summer. Going on now until August 20th, on every other Tuesday in north Spokane and every other Wednesday at Spokane County Raceway, you can catch a flick under the stars! Gates open to the general public for first come, first serve parking at 7:00 p.m. Of course, you need it to be dark to start the show. Movies start at dusk, which is around 9:30 p.m., and becoming earlier as the summer goes on and the days get shorter. VIP parking is available for an extra fee. In addition, both locations will offer vendor booths, pre-movie entertainment, games and contests. At the North Spokane location, there’s concession food and snacks provided by food trucks and other local businesses. Sounds like a good time to us.

Here’s the line up by location:


North Spokane: 4307 E. Mt Spokane Park Dr., Mead, WA 99021 (behind Yokes):

July 7th- Man of Steel

July 21st- Top Gun

August 4th- The Sandlot

August 18th- Dirty Dancing


Spokane Raceway, 750 N. Hayford Rd. Airway Heights, WA 99001

This location has a liquor license and serves beer and wine in the separated beer and wine garden. In addition the concession area will be open for snacks, sandwiches and drinks.

July 8th- Fast & Furious

July 22nd- Monsters University

August 5th- Grease

August 19th- American Graffiti

Admission Price:

  • Adults – $5.00 per adult for outdoor sitting (without a car)
  • Children 6 and Under FREE! (with an adult for outdoor sitting)
  • $20.00 per carload 4+ people
  • $5.00 per person for 1-3 people in a carload (all ages)
  • $25.00 for VIP row parking must be pre-purchased via paypal
  • CASH ONLY at the door! No credit cards accepted
  • Group Rate: Special discount for non-profits and youth groups at $2.50 per attendee. Minimum of 12 attendees to qualify. Restrictions apply – please contact for details.

For additional information, contact:,or 509.928.9664. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit their Facebook page: OR visit

What about bringing the movie to you? From private backyard parties to major corporate events and everything in-between, we’re hard pressed to think of an event this wouldn’t work for. To a gamers delight, you can play video games on the huge screen as top gaming systems such as Wii, Xbox (Kinect) and PS3 (Move) are all available to create the ultimate gaming experience. They even take the complication out of technology as a technician will set-up and oversee the equipment, so you can enjoy the fun without hassle. Rental includes set up of the inflatable screen, a superior sound system, and HD projection system. Complete the movie with popcorn from an old fashioned style popcorn popper. What’s a movie without popcorn? Birthdays are a given but how about end of season youth sports parties, live sporting events, reunion photo/video slide shows and even a pool party. For movie screen event rental, go to or call (509) 477-9747.

If you’re looking for a preview, you’ll find Spokane Outdoor & Drive-In Movies’ 20-foot screen with speakers playing 1930s classic jazz music at Hot Summer Nights, the Last Speakeasy at Arbor Crest Winery on Friday July 24th. Tickets for the event are available at Theme attire encouraged, ages 21 and up.

As published in Spokane Coeur d'Alene Living magazine July 2015 

Monday, June 8, 2015

PEGGED! What Your Signature Drink Says About You.

Article starts on page 175 FRESH INK!

While you may order many different drinks over the course of your life, there will always be that one to fall back on. Your signature drink. Just like your car or your go-to karaoke song, it says something about you. To help you identify your perfect signature drink, we have paired a number of libations and the characteristics they may portray.
Domestic Beer: Boring can be viewed as dependable. It’s all about the way you look at it. If this is your signature drink, you’re loyal and not trying to impress anyone. You like rock or country, but alternative music is foreign to you and you’d like to keep it that way. Domestic beer is safe and predictable, just like you; however, you may risk missing out on adventure.
Imported Beer: Sadly, you think you’re better than the domestic beer drinker. Essentially you’re not, but you pay more for your beer. You fancy yourself interesting and worldly even if you haven’t ventured out of the Pacific Northwest. Often the imported beer drinker doesn’t really think it’s better, especially after a few, but they don’t want to be perceived as boring. So they pay a little more.
Microbrew: You think outside the box and don’t adhere to the status quo (at least that’s how you perceive yourself). Maybe that’s true. Your dream is to own your own microbrewery. You like indie music and bands that don’t get airplay. You see yourself as really interesting and throw out beer terms to prove you really should own a brewery. You’re comfortable with your income status and look for those who appreciate strong or hoppy beer like you do. They’ll be your future business partners. But, you’ll spend more time researching/drinking than actually writing a business plan. That’s okay— at least it makes you feel productive while drinking beer.
Blended Strawberry Margarita: If this is your signature drink, you’re most likely a girl. Let’s be honest, you don’t really like the taste of alcohol but you like to fit in and look like you know how to have a good time. They go down like a Slurpee and before you know it, your dance moves are as loose as your lips. You quickly call your friends the next morning to recap and quite possibly apologize.
Scotch: Young scotch drinkers are attempting to make a statement even if they have to drink something they are still trying to acquire a taste for. Older scotch drinkers are charming, refined and know their limits, but aren’t above drinking games. As scotch is not a spirit that most people start out liking, you are most likely persistent. Because of this, bartenders respect you.
Wine: It really depends on the wine, but many wine drinkers are okay with being known as the classier-than-others wine snobs. They enjoy name-dropping labels, throwing out weird wine lingo and therefore feel rather fancy. White Zinfandel means you’re new to wine. You don’t know what to order but like the idea of drinking wine, even if you don’t find most wines drinkable. Many wine drinkers often start exclusively with white and then graduate to exclusively red. But the sophisticated palate then rediscovers interesting whites as well and switches it up depending on the region or pairing. The true wine lover may break out the Platinum Amex for a good bottle, but could also get excited to find affordable, quality wine that may be indulged daily. They also like the thrill of discovering an up and coming winemaker that no one knows about….yet. Wine drinkers are thinkers with depth, and though they have a casual approach to wine, they are still pretty serious about it.
Vodka Cranberry: Again you don’t really like alcohol, but don’t want to be left out. You lack imagination and possibly have a fake ID on you.
Martini: You may truly be classy, but there’s a good chance you’re a fake and want to be perceived as a VIP of some kind. You can tell the difference by the way a martini is ordered. The true giveaway that you’re a poser is the James Bond line of ordering a martini: “shaken, not stirred” as well as being disappointed if it doesn’t come in the v-shaped glass so everyone knows what your drinking as you hold the glass high for all to see. The refined martini drinker doesn’t drink it for show and truly cares about the details, from the particular spirit to the garnish.
Rum & Coke: You are basically the hard liquor version of the domestic beer drinker. You’re traditional and again, that can be a good thing. It may have been your first mixed drink and darn it, you’re sticking with it.
Gin & Tonic: You’re clean, crisp and straightforward. An older relative most likely drank this in front of you when you were a child and you decided it was still refreshing, but grown up. Either that, or you fancy yourself with a place at the lake and it’s a drink you can slowly sip all day.
Old- Fashioned: You’re a throwback to a simpler, rustic time. But you’re also modern, yet sensible. You really like the taste of bourbon any which way it’s poured. You may like a twang in your country music or go for jazz and blues.
Mint Julep: You’re a Southerner…or at least you want to be one. You’re fancy and maybe over-accessorized right down to the greenery in your glass. You love the Kentucky Derby and seek smooth comfort in your glass. You don’t slur when you order, but have been known to adopt a Southern drawl.
Long Island Ice Tea: You like variety and have a taste bud for every type of liquor. You’re a risk taker because if you have more than one you are likely to make a poor decision. You’re really okay with that. You long for a tropical vacation and an umbrella in your drink.
Jack Daniels: Well, you definitely like to have a good time no matter what. You like classic rock, some country and don’t care what others think. You’re honest to a rebellious fault and may be looking for trouble. Whiskey girls are party girls that can drink with the boys. When Sweet Home Alabama is played in the bar you act like it’s your anthem— even if you’ve never been south of Colorado. Oh, and Sundays are about NASCAR.
Tequila: There are two types of tequila drinkers. The first one is throwing back shots. The goal? To get drunk. Let’s face it— this drinker just wants to be reckless and then blame it on the alcohol. Do you not know your friends are getting tired of taking care of you? The second tequila drinker is a true connoisseur of the Mexican spirit and can slowly sip it without showing any of its potent effects. To this drinker, the brand matters. It’s pretty easy to discern these two tequila drinkers from each other.
If you’re still in search of a go-to drink, consult a good bartender who can, over several visits, take you through the classics, as well as introduce you to some new concoctions.
And if you don’t like what your signature drink “says about you,” speak up and prove your libation companions wrong!
Laurie L. Ross is the author of Sip of Spokane, the popular local wine blog,
As published in Spokane Coeur d'Alene Living magazine June 2015

Monday, May 25, 2015

By request...the best Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies EV-ER.

Few can deny that peanut butter and chocolate are a blissfully delicious match. In fact, they just may be dynamic duo of a baking world. This recipe is simple yet brilliant as when these iconic flavors are combined and baked, the result is simply irresistible.

The peanut butter cookie recipe was inherited from my sweet Grannie who never bought a bakery item in her life. She made everything from scratch but always welcomed an eager grandchild to assist her in the kitchen.  I can recall the smell of her baked goods engulfing her small home and practically luring us there for frequent visits.  Fast forward to my grown-up kitchen where there are many a shortcut made except when it comes to cookies. My boys were raised to pass on store boxed cookies and often initiated that we bake together.  One day, we strayed from the recipe and tossed in chocolate chips and a new twist on a classic cookie became our family tradition. It doesn't have to be complicated to be divinely delicious. But be warned, this recipe is highly addictive. 

: These irresistible cookies go so well with Spokane blissful blends.

Townshend's T3 and Vortex

Latah Creek's Vinosity and Monarch Red
Barrister's Rough Justice
Arbor Crest's Dionysus
Grande Ronde's Cellar Red
Nodland's Private Reserve
Whitestone's Pieces of Red 
Robert Karl Claret

How do I know this? Research. Lots of research.


Warning: These cookies are highly addictive.


• 3/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter 
• 1/2 cup Shortening
• 1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
• 3 Tablespoons milk
• 1 Tablespoon vanilla
• 1 egg
• 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 3/4 cup chocolate chips


• Preheat oven to 375ºF.
• Place sheets of foil on countertop for cooling cookies or use a cooling rack.
• Combine peanut butter, shortening, light brown sugar, milk and    vanilla in large bowl.
• Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended.
• Add egg. Beat just until blended.
• Combine flour, salt and baking soda.
• Add to creamed mixture at low speed. Mix just until blended.
• Stir in chocolate chips
• Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.
• Flatten slightly in crisscross pattern with tines of fork.
• Bake at 375ºF for 7 to 8 minutes or until set and just beginning to brown.
• Makes 3 dozen cookies


Repeat if necessary.