CI: SBUX RRTR | Zomato Seattle

Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog.

by. L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

Culinary Interventions: Starbucks Reserve® Roastery & Tasting Room |  Zomato Seattle

Follow binNotes: | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook  |  Instagram

“As long as there was coffee in the world, how bad could things be?” –Cassandra Clare, City of Ashes.

Urbanspoon Loses the Spoon…and adds a Fork!

Greetings, dear readers! Did you know that India’s powerhouse Zomato recently acquired Urbanspoon?

As a food blogger for Urbanspoon, binNotes attended the exclusive Zomato Seattle Meetup  at Starbucks Reserve® Roastery & Tasting Room on Capitol Hill to celebrate this union.

Good News:  

Starbucks Reserve® Roastery & Tasting Room stole the show, and for good reason:

1. Vision: What were you thinking, Howard Schulz?! Turning a former urban auto garage into a world-class Roastery & Tasting Room?? Guess what? It works.

Not only does it work, it brings full-circle a thirty-year friendship between Schultz and Serious Pie owner Tom Douglas. Both began their careers down the block from one another in Pike Place Market, Schultz at the first Starbucks, Douglas at Cafe Sport. Each have gone on to immense success in their respective fields – yet maintain the friendship, and their dedication to providing superior food and beverage experiences. Starbucks Reserve® Roastery & Tasting Room showcases two maestros collaborating at the height of their innovative powers. Good stuff.

2. Artistry: Howard Schultz creates this sacred space from the heart, and it shows. The site riffs like a great jazz piece. Part Bauhaus, part Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory, and a whole lotta urban chic, it’s a great place to get lost in sensory bliss amidst discrete luxury.

The Roastery boasts over 90% repurposed materials throughout, including a stunning carved staircase, leather-bound railings, and stylish burlap curtains. The jaw-dropper? A colossal Alaskan copper roaster, hand-crafted with devotion by a long-time Starbucks partner.

Settle in at the top Tasting Bar for a front row seat to the swoosh overhead of five (5) different blends of coffee destined from roaster to back bar via an elaborate pneumatic copper tubing system. Get lost in gadgetry at the lower Tasting Bar, home to five (5) different coffee brewers sure to amaze those hankering for more than the usual pour-over.

All Roastery baristas undergo rigorous training in the alchemy and operation of various brewing methods, from Starbucks Clover® to elaborate glass vessels heated over gas flames. The showmanship and technique on display rivals that of the Serious Pie mixologists strutting their stuff topside.

3. Flavor:  Belly up for a rare opportunity to taste quality-driven, sustainably-produced brews bound for China and Europe exclusively. You can’t get these pours at any other Starbucks in the United States. Period.

Starbucks Reserve® Roastery & Tasting Room uses only single-source, immaculately-maintained estates throughout the world. Just like fine wine, terroir influences fine coffee. And like fine wine, it takes time to age roasted coffee – typically seven (7) days from initial roasting. Risk less aromatics and more astringency should you opt to drink early. Luckily, knowledgable staff will assist with proper pour times at purchase.

Don’t forget the food! Serious Pie pastries and savories tap dance across coffee-infused palates with impunity. Again, it’s the only Starbucks anywhere to offer Tom Douglas fare. Period.

Enjoy a variety of flatbreads, charcuterie, roasted vegies, tasty salads, and superb wine, beer, and cocktails. Dessert? Double down on cream pie bites, paired with a delicate, I-can’t-believe-this-is-decaf Decaf Costa Rica Bella Vista F.W. Tres Rios. Unlike the coffees, no aging time required on the food pairings.

Bad News:

Only one Starbucks Reserve®  Roastery & Tasting Room. In the universe. But so worth a visit.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room on Urbanspoon


Care to share? Leave your comments below…thanks for stopping by.

Follow binNotes: | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook  |  Instagram

Thank you:

Team Zomato Seattle: Siri, Laura, Leeanne.

Team Starbucks Reserve® Roastery & Tasting Room | Serious Pie

Copyrighted binNotes 2015. All Rights Reserved. 

TGLF | Saint Vincent Tournante Wine Festival

Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog.

by. L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

 binNotes latest feature in The Good Life France is out!

Follow binNotes: | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook  |  Instagram

Greeting, dear readers! You can read my latest feature on Burgundy’s St. Vincent Tournant in The Good Life France here.

Care to share? Feel free to leave your comments below…Santé!

Follow binNotes: | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook  |  Instagram

Copyrighted 2012-2015. All Rights Reserved. |  Images: Courtesy St. Vincente Tournante

SVT | Burgundy’s OTHER Famous Wine Festival

Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog.

by. L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

“Jamais en vain, toujours en vin.” (“Never in vain, always in wine.’)
-Motto of Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin

Follow binNotes: | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook  |  Instagram

You may know about Burgundy’s annual Hospices de Beaune Wine Auction held each November. Maybe even about the entire Trois Glorieuses, of which the auction is a part. But did you know about Burgundy’s OTHER famous wine festival – the St. Vincent Tournante?

Celebrated in late January each year, the festival honors the January 22nd feast day of St. Vincent, patron saint of wine.

Originally organized by medieval wine guilds under the Church’s aegis, the event eventually fell into obscurity. However, during the 1930’s, the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, or Brotherhood of the Knights of the Tastevin, revived the festival as a means of attracting attention to Burgundy and its wines.

It worked. Today, the event draws thousands of visitors to a carefully choreographed collaboration between the Confrérie, the Church, and local winemaking mutual aid societies. These brotherhoods offer assistance to local vignerons in times of need.

St. Vincent Tournante ‘revolves’ from village to village each year. While the hosting town varies, the ritual remains fixed: a sunrise procession led by the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, each brotherhood carrying banners and carved effigies to the Graves of the Fallen (originally honoring those fallen in World War I), then on to Mass, followed by a roast pig dinner and ceremony.

In 2015, Gilly-les-Citeaux | Vouget hosts ‘The Way of the Monks’ St. Vincent Tournante, marking 900 years of Cistercian wine making tradition in Burgundy with a walk from the castle of Gilly-les-Citeaux to the Cistercian Abbey of Clos de Vougeot.

Burgundy owes much to these industrious holy men. The monks considered wine making a spiritual endeavor, seeking to reveal God’s voice through soil, fruit, and wine – deeming pinot noir the most expressive conduit.

The Cistercians not only cleared the lands of Clos de Vougeot and other areas in Burgundy, but also tended the vineyards, erected stone fences (clos), and maintained meticulous records. Their records proved the bedrock to Burgundy’s codification of lieu dits and climats, as well as the inspiration for the more intangible concept of  terroir.

It’s no miracle that the monks of Clos de Vougeot turned Burgundy’s limestone into sublime wines. Passion, hard work, and a desire to give voice to the land – these traditions continue today.  St. Vincent Tournante offers a rare opportunity to share in this unique spirit of Burgundy.


Follow binNotes: | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook  |  Instagram

Copyrighted 2012-2015. All Rights Reserved. |  Images: Courtesy St. Vincente Tournante

Happy Holidays | Feliz Navidad | Joyeux Noel |

Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog.

by. L.M. Archer,  FWS | Bourgogne ML

Happy Holidays!

Follow binNotes: | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook  |  Instagram

Holiday Greetings, dear readers worldwide!

A heartfelt thanks to all of the incredible wine makers and industry professionals who shared their stories with binNotes© | Red Thread™ in 2014:

binNotes takes a break to spend time with family through the holidays.

Join me back here after January 5, 2015 for more of The Red Thread™.


Care to share? Please leave your comment(s) below.

Follow binNotes: | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook  |  Instagram

Copyrighted ©2014. All Rights Reserved. 

Restaurant Intervention: epulo, Edmonds, WA.

Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog.  

By L. M. Archer, FWS

Follow binNotes | a wine blog:    Facebook    |   Twitter    |   Pinterest

“He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise.” ~ Henry David Thoreau



e-pu-lo:  sumptuous food, banquet or feast.

I finally know what the sin of gluttony feels like. Or, rather – what it tastes like.

It tastes like e-pu-lo bistro’s Manila clams with Parsley, ​Chervil, Chives, Garlic & Pinot Gris, plus a side of toasted bread to sop up the sauce. Oh, and a side order of sautéed green beans with garlic. lemon and chili to add to the flavor-fest. So simple. So delicious. So sumptuous. A true banquet of the senses  – and stomach.

Meat eaters – my  partner-in-crime swears by the Braised Beef Short Rib with Garlic​ Mashed Potato, Arugula & Demi Glace. Not one succulent morsel left on his plate, either.

Wines by the glass or bottle include some reasonably priced Old World selections, as well as familiar top-shelf New world pours with prices to match.

Warm, attentive staff, soft lighting and cozy bistro seating help set the stage for ongoing crime of self-indulgence. And, like any self-respecting bistro, this venue accommodates families, foodies and francophiles alike. Proprietary parking on the side ensures a seamless, hassle-free dining experience. Sinning never tasted so good.


Epulo Bistro on Urbanspoon

Link here for more  binNotes Urbanspoon Restaurant  Interventions.


Follow binNotes | a wine blog:    Facebook    |   Twitter    |   Pinterest  | Instagram

Copyrighted 2012-2014. All images courtesy the author. All Rights Reserved.

Napa for Normal People

Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog

 Napa for Normal People©

by. L.M. Archer, FWS

Follow binNotes: | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook  |  Instagram

Is Napa for normal people? Or for just the rarified – those willing to dole out $20+ tasting fees to sample $100+ bottles of wine in multi-million dollar facilities owned by multi-billion dollar corporations and family empires?


binNotes recently travelled to Napa to find out.

I first pondered the question of a ‘Napa for Normal People’ while listening to an International Guild of Sommelier’s podcast about Napa’s history. The podcast, a frank, free-wheeling discussion with Tim Mondavi of Continuum Estates, John Williams of Frog’s Leap, and Press Restaurant sommelier Kelli White, centered around Napa from the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 to the 1990’s.

This roundtable recalled a Napa of collaboration, curiosity, and collegiality among mostly family owned wineries – wineries dedicated to quality and innovation. I wondered – what about Napa today?  Does a Napa for ‘normal’ people exist, a wine region not unlike the Willamette Valley or Walla Walla, where you’re more apt to meet the wine maker in jeans and fleece swearing at a tractor than airbrushed in glossy wine magazine ads?  The answer surprised me. Hopefully it will you, too.


 Bellying up to the bar at  JoLe Restaurant in downtown Calistoga, my partner in crime and I sensed we’d happened upon something special.

Subdued conversations thrummed through the scrums of tightly packed tables arranged French bistro style – the clientele a mix of locals and visitors – always a good sign. We took a place at the prep bar overlooking the place.

An upbeat, impeccably attired server brought the wine list and menu. Perusing them, I found myself uttering an uncharacteristic expletive:

“Holy @#$%.”

  Forget the usual big name Napa Cabernet makers we’d driven by en route to dinner. This place featured gems from off-the-radar wine makers like Shypoke, Shafer, Jericho, Larkmead, and Laura Michel.

And the food matched the same innovative vibe, featuring well-paired fare like locally sourced grilled asparagus with strawberries and lamb tongue with watermelon.

By the end of the evening, I realized I’d stumbled down the rabbit hole into another Napa – where wines reflect terroir, not Wine Advocate tout sheets, and food reflects local flavors, not Food Network soundbites.

 And then it hit me.  ‘Napa for normal people’ does exist – a quiet revolution burgeoning within Napa today, similar to its post-Prohibition Renaissance.

Intrigued, we chatted with the person behind the prep bar – owner Matt Spector. I learned about his journey from Pittsburg to Napa with his wife and pastry chef, Sonjia – a tale laced with passion, peril, and perhaps a bit of profanity. A story built upon hard work, humility, humor – and a commitment to quality.

A story worth sharing here.


b/N: Who or what brought you to the Napa region?
“I joke that my wife Sonjia brought us here – she is from Northern CA., and had worked in Napa before moving to Philly, where we met. When we would visit her parents, we would always stop here first for a few days. The same things that bring so many tourists here are the same things that brought us: Lifestyle, landscape and of course the food and wine. We always thought we would settle here, and when we had a chance to sell our restaurant in Philadelphia we figured it’s now or never. ”

b/N: Tell readers a bit about the history of JoLe Restaurant – what makes it unique?
“JoLe actually begins in Philly where Sonjia and I met. After working for other people, we opened our own restaurant called Matyson ( Matt & Sonjia). Fast forward 5 years – now we’re in Napa looking to open our second place, and we need a name. We have to boys Joseph, who was 4 at the time, and Jacob Levi, who was 6 months. Put their names together you get JoLe, so from Matyson – JoLe was born. At our restaurant in Philly we did themed tasting menus every week;  they became the biggest part of our business. Those menus inspired our menu here, where you can design your own experience by choosing from the a la carte menu to make your own tasting -with or without wine pairings. Our feeling was you have limited time in the Valley  – why not be able to try as many things as possible –  especially with the wine, two 5 course dinners offers the diner a chance to try 10 different wines?”

b/N: You have an incredible wine list, featuring many of Napa’s under-the-radar rock stars and burgeoning artisans. Tell readers a little bit about the process that goes into creating JoLe’s eclectic wine list.

(Answered by James Cerda our wine buyer and GM):

“Our wine list really begins with our open tastings that we hold each week. Each Wednesday and Thursday between 3-4:30 p.m. we hold open tastings where any distributer, sale representative or even winemaker can stop by and pour whatever wine they have with them.  In any given session, we will taste between five and twenty-five wines, usually from all over the world. About 90% of the wine we purchase come from these open tasting. What I’m really looking for during these tastings  are distinctive wines.  Something has to jump out at me, but I’m not looking for one thing specifically, but if I’m still thinking about a wine a day or two later, I either purchase it that week, or add it to my list of wines to be purchased in the future. With each week that passes, the list of wines to purchase in the future grows longer and longer.

When it comes to what wines make the list at any given time, I try to shape the menu around a multitude of different palates. We usually have around 60 different wines by the glass, and I like to think that no matter who walks through the door, I will have a wine by the glass that will fit their palate.  This means that  with the most popular varietals like Pinot, Cab and Chardonnay, I usually have two to three different offerings of each, all in different styles, and usually from different areas of the globe. Other popular varietals such as Merlot, Zin Grenache, and Syrah are also almost always represented on our list as well. After that, I get to fill out the list with quirky wines that I like, like a Gruner Veltliner from the Von Strosser winery, possibly a Mueller Thurgau from Alto Adige, or Charbono from right here in Calistoga. Price point is important as well. Our by the glass price ranges from $7-$35 per glass, and  I think that one can find some great values at whatever price point they are looking at.

My favorite aspect about our wine list are the small local projects that we get to highlight.  Many come from wine makers who have cut their teeth at other wineries, and are now just starting their own projects. These are sometimes the most interesting wines on our list and often times they are some of our best sellers. It’s really great that we get to offer these phenomenal wine makers a platform to showcase their wines.

With so many wines from all over the world and so many producers right here in our back yard, there is no possible way to showcase every great wine at one time, so we have taken on and embrace change when it comes to our wine list. The wine list is constantly evolving. This means that each time a guest returns to JoLe, they are likely to discover at least a couple of new wines since their last visit, and sometimes a completely new menu. Our goal is to create  an exciting and ambitious by-the-glass program that is ever-changing, and focuses on smaller producers who have something to say. Often guests will come in twice in one trip and be able to have a different menu then the night before.”

b/N: JoLe’s inventive, farm-to-table fare pair perfectly with the wines offered. Tell us about how you and your wife Sonjia collaborate on the menu – do you have specific flavor profiles you each/both favor, or is it more improvisational?

“Improvisational would be the best way to describe our menus. I always tell people we do American food that way we can take from the melting pot that is our country. Aside from myself and Sonjia, there are only 6 other cooks in the kitchen, and we ask all of them for input. As things come into season, we will get them on. We change pieces of the menu at different times, usually within 5 weeks the whole menu will have change.”

b/N: JoLe offers a taste of first-rate food, wines and staff without the hype or high prices typically associated with Napa. Did you deliberately set out to offer a ‘normal side of Napa?’

“…We just do our thing cook the food we like and by the wines we enjoy. We work at a high level on both sides of the line but we implore a Mom & Pop attitude. Someone wrote about us in Philly and deemed our place “casually sophisticated,” that still our goal.”

b/N: You have great staff – they really add to the dining experience at JoLe. How are you able to attract and retain such great people? 

“Of course as business grew, we were able to attract more quality employees. While we want people to bring their own personalities to the table, we ask that they check their egos. I think people who work with us understand that they are part of a dream that is being realized by us. It is a special thing to be a part of.”
b/N: What is/are your greatest challenge(s) running a restaurant in the Napa region? 

“Our greatest challenge is being a seasonal business. After six years we have learned to manage it, but I will never get used to slowing down in the winter. ”

What are your thoughts about ‘Napa for Normal People’? Leave your comments below.


For more information about JoLe Restaurant: | 1457 Lincoln Ave, Calistoga, CA 94515  | (707) 942-5938

Follow binNotes: | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook  |  Instagram

 Thank you:

Matt & Sonjia Spector, JoLe Restaurant – Calistoga, CA

Copyrighted 2012-2014. All Rights Reserved.

Guest Blog Redux: International Food and Wine Pairing Round Up

 Welcome to binNotes | a wine blog

by L.M. Archer, FWS

Follow    binNotes | a wine blog: |   Facebook    |     Twitter    |    Pinterest

International Food and Wine Pairing Roundup

Here’s the newly migrated link to my recent guest blogger contribution ito the 2014 International Food and Wine Pairing Blogger Roundup, hosted by London wine merchant Roberson Wine.


Roberson Wine Featured Blog


 Have a happy 4th of July!

Follow    binNotes | a wine blog: |   Facebook    |     Twitter    |    Pinterest

Thank you:

Carlo – TUG

Copyrighted 2012-2014. All rights reserved.