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Barrel of excitement

Wed., Nov. 14, 2007, midnight

Tim and Tracy Nodland made their first barrel of wine in 1999.

Then they made another, and another, and another until the self-taught winemakers had 63 batches of wines to show for their passion. They conceded two years ago that the avocation was perhaps something a bit more and started Nodland Cellars. They’ll release their first commercial wines on Friday during Holiday Wine Fest.

To call the wine they’ve been making all these years “homemade” is something of a misnomer. In a way, they’re the ultimate in handmade, in that either Tracy or Tim’s hand has touched every grape cluster, every barrel and every bottle, but it also implies a bit of carelessness the Nodlands would never abide.

They’re particularly attuned to process and cleanliness. Although neither one has an enology degree, they bought all the books required in the UC Davis program and studied them at home, building their own classroom and winery along the way with the smallest commercial equipment they could find.

With the formalities of science and tradition behind them, they’ve always approached the wine-making through the eyes of an artist. Tim Nodland is a guitar player and former talent agent who now practices law by day, and Tracy Nodland paints. They have three children.

“It’s an art for us that we share. I can’t play a note,” Tracy says.

“And I can’t paint,” Tim adds.

“But wine is something we do together,” Tracy finishes.

The Nodlands are students of the traditional Bordeaux style of wines. They’ve sought the best of the varietals from the Bordeaux region of France grown here in Washington – cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot – and receive fruit from the acclaimed Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills vineyards.

Along the way they stumbled across a nearly forgotten grape called carmenère. It was widely planted in Bordeaux but was nearly wiped out by an 1870s blight and was never replanted in Europe, Tim Nodland says. It was later found in Chile posing as merlot and in Italy pretending to be cabernet franc, according to the Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia.

The Nodlands, who fell in love with the flavor and the complexity it added to their blended wines, found an acre of the vines in Walla Walla and added it to their blending palatte.

They’re releasing only one red wine, which they blended together over the course of three days of tasting. “That’s the best part of all because that’s when you’re really putting the details into that painting,” Tracy Nodland says of the winemaking process.

Here’s how Tim Nodland describes the 2005 Private Blend ($35):

“Cabernet sauvignon from Pepper Bridge vineyard in Walla Walla provides the structure and spice. Merlot from Seven Hills in Walla Walla provides the upfront dark fruit flavors. Cabernet franc from Dineen vineyards in Yakima provides that European-style mineral and earthy character. The malbec from Gamache vineyard in Basin City adds blueberry and a deep color. The petit verdot adds a floral nose and additional spice.

The carmenère adds an exotic fruit flavor and exotic spice note that is the icing on the cake.”

Nodland Cellars offers only one other wine: a dry Reisling that features fruit blended from two different vineyards. The result is a bone-dry, food friendly wine called 2005 BeBop ($25).

Although they’ve had offers from distributors to buy all of their wines, the Nodlands declined. They want to keep the winery small – Tim Nodland describes it as a microwinery – and sell the wines to their family, friends and to the general public twice a year during seasonal wine festivals or by allocation.

They’ll be making only one red and one white wine each year. This year, they’ll sell about 400 cases of the Private Blend and about 30 cases of Reisling.

“Wine was meant to be art, not a commodity like corn,” he says.

He says they won’t try to produce a range of different wines and try to please every palate. “The smaller you are the higher quality (wine) you can produce. We’ll always stay this small.”

Nodland Cellars, 11616 E. Montgomery Drive, Suite 69, opens its doors to the public for the first time from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The wines are expected to sell out quickly. The 2005 Private Blend will be on sale during the weekend for $29.95.

Nodland Cellars can be reached at (509) 927-7770 or

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