Bottleology – Nodland Cellars with Tim and Tracy Nodland
December 18, 2009 by Dave Bender
Please pay attention—I have a discovery to announce. Immersed in the wine business as a Sommelier and Wine Writer, I’m always on the hunt for inspiring greatness. In particular, I look for those that are genuine, and I seek wines that are unique and apart from the main stream. My intention is to also be the first to discover that special something. On this day, I’d like to make it official that Tim and Tracy Nodland of Nodland Cellars in Spokane, Washington offer me just that. Here’s the Bottleology look-behind-the-bottle.
T-N-T: On an immediate “cool note,” Tim is a musician who put himself through college as a guitarist touring nightclubs throughout the western United States. Later, he got a job booking bands with a talent agency.
“I worked with ‘hair’ bands in the late 1980s and at one time had eighteen metal bands on the road all over the country. I still play guitar, but now I usually play jazz and my performances are a little more laid back than what I was doing with music in my early career,” Tim said.
Tracy–a stunning woman with Sicilian looks and charm–loves to oil paint. Her murals can be found on the winery walls, with titles like, “I Love My Job” and “Submerged In My Work.” Tim says, “She can also take anything and arrange it to make it look beautiful.”
Together they collaborate and channel their creativity into making wine.
Bottle Feeding: Both Tim and Tracy come from families that made wine when they were young.
Tracy has fond memories of trampling grapes and lugging little barrels around in her grandfather’s home each fall, and the smell of fermenting wine. Tim’s family used to make wine using grape concentrate, bread yeast and old bottles. They used balloons over the bottle necks to help control fermentation. As a kid, Tim would “get into the wine,” as he put it, and refill what he had taken out with water—his Dad was always frustrated and wondered why his wine would spoil.
Private Blend, Goes Public: In 1999 Tim and Tracy started with one barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2005 the winery was bonded and the highly anticipated first commercial release of “Bebop” and “Private Blend” came in 2007.
Less Is More: The two are not motivated by money. Their goal is to try and make the very best wine possible. They produce only two wines: a Bordeaux blend using all six grapes of Bordeaux, “Private Blend” and a dry Riesling, “Bebop.” Only about 400 cases in all are produced each year, which allows them to put everything they have into each vintage. Tim calls it, “an almost unhealthy obsession. It’s all we think about and dream about at night. We love everything about it…the art, the beauty, the vineyards, the barrels, all of it.”
Cellar, Masters: “Everything about winemaking is fun, but both Tracy and I enjoy the process of blending the most. We keep all the different varietals and vineyards in separate barrels and then when the wine is ready, we take samples from all the various lots and blind taste and start coming up with ideas for that year’s blend. Each vintage has different strengths and we come up with something slightly different every year, which speaks to the point at which we’re at as winemakers…or artists perhaps…but something that also brings out the best attributes of that particular vintage,” Tim explained.
Wicked Smaht: “We had watched the movie Good Will Hunting and were moved by the line Matt Damon’s character said to the snobby college student who was making fun of him. He said, ‘You spent $100,000 on tuition to have someone tell you what books to buy and what chapter to read. I went to the library and checked them out for free. How do you like those apples!?’ Ha, ha! So we bought some equipment and a barrel, and bought the books on winemaking. We looked through them and threw away the books on chemistry and science. We kept the books that treated wine as an art form.
We created our own little wine education laboratory (or library?) in our home until every room was stacked high with bottles, barrels, little stainless tanks, crushers and presses. Our furnace room in the basement was the barrel room. At first we used the family room to ferment with plastic over the carpet so we could control the temperature and then we converted the garage over and decided to use the driveway as the crushpad. We would pump wine from the family room to the basement and one time the hose came loose and red wine went everywhere. We have new carpet in the family room now and the winery is in a separate building! We still have a few bottles of those old wines made at home and they are coming around quite nicely.”
Art Officials: Tim and Tracy are both inspired by art of all kinds–music, paintings, food and of course, wine to name a few. Tracy loves how colors and strokes on a canvas come together to create textures, depth and complexity. Tim loves how with jazz, a few simple chords and a basic melody can start weaving in and out and make music that is “beautiful, complex and pure.” And they’re both inspired by wines where the winemaker has approached the process as an art form.
Collect Call: Tim ended with, “I have a collection of a few good bottles of wine, a couple fine guitars, and three children and a St. Bernard Dog named Barolo. Oh, and my wife who is my best friend and winemaking partner, Tracy. She has the best nose in the business, and we have a great time together at the winery. That is quite a diverse collection for one person in one lifetime.”
A Mouth Full: Nodland Cellars, Private Blend 2005, Columbia Valley $35 401 cs.
43% Merlot, Seven Hills Vineyard, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, Pepperbridge Vineyard, 9% Cabernet Franc, Dineen Vineyard, 5% Malbec, Gamache Vineyard 3% Carmenere, Davis Vineyard, 1% Petit Verdot, Jessica Vineyard
Please be prepared for me to publicly lose my mind. I have only one winery to compare the style of Nodland’s 2005 Private Blend to and will tell you, that winery has a cult-like following. This six grape Bordeaux blend is the ultimate in brown bag taste testing. Refinement is found on the nose of integrated 100% new French oak, mild anise, toast and little signs of alcohol. All-inclusive darkened red fruits such as cherries and wild red currant, along with earth notes of the forest and sweetened tobacco—eluding to classic old world aspects. On the palate this wine is unexpectedly lighter and less aggressive than most of its competition, however far more charismatic. It has complex flavors like perfectly aged right bank Bordeaux–tomato, tobacco, red clay, pepper, iron, cherry and nuanced toasted oak. Its texture reminds me of how some biodynamic wines drink—glyceral, soft edged, smooth and natural. The finish is pleasant, no bite or harshness. This is truly a wine of value: ready to drink, for thinking, FAR from main stream, and certainly a work of art. Following the success of this first release, I expect big things to come from Nodland Cellars.
11616 East Mongomery Drive
Spokane Valley, WA 99206
For an interview or to offer feedback, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org