There's a new place to swirl, sniff and sip in downtown Spokane. Cougar Crest Estate Winery celebrated its new tasting room with a grand opening on Sept. 9. This is the second satellite tasting room for Dave and Deborah Hansen’s Walla Walla winery (the couple opened a Woodinville tasting room in June).
Deborah, Cougar Crest’s winemaker, grew up in Spokane, and both she and husband Dave are WSU grads. Spokane was a natural fit for a new tasting room, she explains, since visitors to their Walla Walla space come from either Spokane or the Seattle area.
The new spot offers eight wines, either by the glass or as part of a flight. Wines by the glass run $6-$12 and flights of four are $12 for regular releases and $18 for reserves. The Grenache Rose is the perfect fruity summertime wine for sipping on the patio, but hearty enough to carry into fall. The viognier, the winery’s signature white, is a refreshing change from chardonnay, with hints of melon and honey.
The wines are exceptionally smooth and noticeably lacking any unpleasant “heat” in the finish, which Deborah says is partly a result of using lower-sugar fruit. (Deborah’s degree in pharmacy may be helpful in the science of grape-growing and the art of blending.)
Pick up a bottle to take home, or join the wine club and get access to reserve and highly rated wines with three-bottle shipments ($85-$90 each) four times during the year.
Cougar Crest offers coffee and various non-alcoholic drinks and an assorted cheese plate featuring Cougar Gold. The bright space feels more suited to serious wine tasting than leisurely lounging, with walls dominated by wine bottles, award certificates and photos from Cougar Crest’s Walla Walla production facility. A collection of oil paintings of the Palouse and other landscapes by local artist Darlene Pucillo make a striking impression and are worth a moment of reflection with a glass of cabernet franc in hand. (Kirsten Harrington)
West-Side Success Story
Even with the handful of sushi places that have sprung up in the last year, there’s still room for more. Mercer Island-based Yuzen Sushi opened its first Spokane location in mid-August in the former Thai Bamboo space on North Division. The sushi bar and counter seating is new, and the Thai art has been swapped for Japanese, but otherwise the bamboo interior remains the same.
The place was packed on a recent lunch visit. It’s hard to tell whether it was the $1 sushi menu that brought diners in or if they were familiar with Yuzen from west-side sushi runs. At any rate, for a dollar a pop, you’ll get two pieces of tuna, salmon, octopus, baked mussel or any of half-dozen other sushi nigiri choices.
Dig a little deeper in your wallet for the Spokane Roll ($14), featuring deep-fried soft-shell crab, shrimp and avocado, or the warm and crunchy shrimp tempura roll ($6.50), garnished with salty-sweet eel sauce. The menu also includes sashimi and dozens of standards, like spicy tuna, salmon and California rolls, and plenty of sake to wash it all down.
If you don’t like fish raw or cooked, there’s always chicken teriyaki, tempura (including tofu), or the house special beef and asparagus roll ($8.50) — thin rib eye wrapped around grilled asparagus. There are plenty of vegetarian dishes and salads, including the artfully presented Ume Soba Salad ($8.50). Pink-colored plum buckwheat noodles, colorful strawberries, blueberries, and papaya are tossed with julienned veggies and tangy mixed greens for a unique sweet-and-savory combination.
Yuzen has a few kinks to work out, like a phone number that works only sporadically and service that could use a little help during busy times. But with 50 percent off on beer and wine at happy hour (2-5 pm and 8 pm-close), $1 sushi, and a menu worth exploring, we’re willing to hang in there. (Kirsten Harrington)