Spokane North Notes
A weekly bulletin of the Spokane-North Rotary Club
March 21, 2016
Editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink
Photo: Sandy Fink
Program Coordinator: Brad Stark
          Crunch time nearing: The club’s fund-raising drive for projects for needy children at Holmes Elementary and other schools shifts into higher gear as the early June deadline nears, said coordinator Jodi Harland.  Especially important now are corporate donations and getting auction-able items such as trips, time shares and other desirable things.
          Club notes:  Jodi Harland proudly noted that her mom, Judy Grunke, was named “first lady of Weiser, Idaho. Steve Boharski said his Garland Animal Clinic in September will move a few blocks west to the former liquor store on Garland just west of Monroe.  The new site has more space and better parking. For an amazing four times in five weeks, new member Joel San Nicolas won the weekly prize ticket drawing.  This week’s prize was $8.
A vintage tourism idea
            If someone talking about downtown Spokane tells you to “put a Cork in it,” don’t take immediate offense.
            They may be talking about the new marketing program to promote area wine tasting and tourism.                                                         
            Former Spokane City Councilman Mike Allen, now working with the QUINN marketing agency, told the club March 21 about The Cork District, which is forming partnerships to take a bigger sip of the state’s 2.4 million visitors and $1 billion in annual wine tourism.  Right now, Allen said, “Spokane gets almost none of it.”
            After working in banking and at EWU, Allen served six years on the City Council.  In 2007, he was appointed to fill Mary Verner’s position when she won the mayoral race.  Allen lost the District 2 (South Side) seat to Jon Snyder in 2009, but defeated Richard Rush in 2011 for the other District 2 seat.  He chose not to seek re-election last year, telling the club, “like Brad Stark, I’m a reformed politician.”
            Allen traced the “Washington wine trail” from Woodinville to Walla Walla, noting “Spokane isn’t even included.”
            To change that, for the last 20 months Allen has worked with QUINN to market the opportunities of visiting the 18 wine tasting facilities in Spokane.  Most are downtown and easily walkable from downtown hotels, Allen said.
            “Santa Barbara (Calif.) is the only other city with 18 walkable tasting rooms.  That’s a real competitive advantage,” Allen said.
            The strategy of Spokane’s Cork District, he said, is “enhance and advance.  We seek partners, not competitors.”
            The developing partners list includes Alaska Air, Spokane International Airport, Visit Spokane and several hotels.  The hotels can distribute Cork District plastic cards with magnetic strips allow users to “swipe” tasting opportunities at four outlets, then keep the card as a souvenir, said Allen, who added he is “de facto director of the Cork District.
            Entries to the tasting facilities have distinctive metal clusters of grapes and that theme also is carried on the Cork District logos.
            Allen hopes to partner with airlines and tourism agencies to use Spokane as a “launching pad,” combining wine-tasting opportunities with white-water raft trips, tours of Walla Walla’s wineries and other leisure activities.
             The Spokane area, he notes, is too cold to grow most grape varieties because “the elevation is too high. “  He said the Lewiston-Clarkston area likely will be the next formally designated American Viticultural Area (AVA) wine-growing site, which should also help the Spokane-based marketing plan.
            Responding to a question, Allen said wines in bottles with metal caps also are welcome in The Cork District, adding, “It’s what’s inside the bottle that counts.”