For one reason or another, and it's usually wine-related, I always seem to end up visiting Spokane at least once or twice a year.
I realize that the time and distance from Bellingham to Spokane might deter some of you locals, but really now, a six-hour drive across the state is virtually nothing. Take off from Bellingham at, say, 8 a.m. and you can arrive in Spokane by 2 p.m. and have a good two to four hours still available to visit tasting rooms on your first day.
Flights on Horizon Airlines from Bellingham via Seattle are also an alternative. On my most recent visit in late August, I departed from Bellingham at 7 a.m. and was on the ground in Spokane at 10 a.m. after a hardly taxing 90-minute layover at Sea-Tac.
Tim Robinson, director of communications for Visit Spokane, states the case for Bellinghamsters to make the trek east.
"Spokane is different than Seattle and Vancouver in that it's much easier to get around," he said. "There's also an amazing 'outdoor' element to Spokane and the city has grown up within that."
Low green-fee golf courses, river rafting trips down the Spokane River, a stroll through the gardens at Manito Park and stops at the city's eclectic culinary and wine-tasting venues are just part of the appeal of this half-million-plus metropolitan area.
The growth in Spokane's wineries over the past few years has also been impressive. Whether it's on the outskirts of town in more rural settings or at its vibrant core, Spokane has you covered with plenty of wine-tasting options.
A great example is Nectar Tasting Room, located downtown just a few blocks from Riverfront Park. Nectar is the brainchild of owner Josh Wade, who has coordinated five wineries under one roof: Skylite Cellars from Walla Walla, Anelare Winery and Terra Blanca Winery from Benton City, Kirkland's Northwest Cellars and Hard Row to Hoe from Chelan.
Wade uses online and social media for virtually all of his marketing, and has created a chic, upbeat venue that's a must for visiting wineophiles.
Nectar offers a small menu if you'd like a nosh, but I'd also suggest a couple of restaurants if you want the full-meal deal. Try Central Food for lunch, with tasty, innovative sandwiches reminiscent of the old Beer Meat(s) Cheese at Whatcom Museum; or try Santé for dinner, where Chef Jeremy Hansen specializes in charcuterie, local ingredients, and a superb, made-from-scratch menu. I dined at both and highly recommend them.
Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at www.danthewineguy.com.
Reach DEAN KAHN at email@example.com or call 715-2291.