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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane winery pairs reds and whites with jazz

Tim Nodland, owner of Nodland Cellars, poses for a photo last month  at his new location in the ground floor of the old Spokane Chronicle building in downtown Spokane. (TYLER TJOMSLAND

He started out where many bands do. Only the guitarist wasn’t making music this time. He was making wine.

Tim Nodland, a guitarist-turned lawyer and winemaker, made his first vintage in 1999 in his garage, retrofitted with air-conditioning and heating systems, fermenters and storage tanks. He wanted to produce enough wine for his own personal use as well as enter competitions as an amateur winemaker.

Six years later, he opened a production facility in Spokane Valley and was up to 400 cases per year.

Last month, Nodland Cellars – which now produces some 1,200 cases annually – hit a new milestone, opening a tasting room and jazz club in downtown Spokane. The venue is located a block from the historic Davenport Hotel, on the first floor of the Chronicle Building, part of Cowles Co., which publishes The Spokesman-Review.

“We picked this (location) because it’s almost 100 years old, and it’s absolutely gorgeous,” Nodland said. In his estimation, “The center of culture in Spokane is the historic Davenport Hotel.

“The whole area around the Davenport is so cool now,” he said. “It’s the place to hang out.”

Nodland said he’s working on bringing Los Angeles- and New York-based jazz acts to his new establishment. But, between Gonzaga and Eastern Washington universities and other spots in the Inland Northwest, he said, “We have many amazing musicians. We have musicians that are way better than the size of our city.”

He’s hoping to turn the spotlight on them – and fill in himself some nights, along with this band. “We joke we’re the Bad Attitudes,” he said.

Bad Attitude is the name of his best-selling red wine – a blend of merlot, carmenere, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec.

“We release it, and it’s gone,” said Nodland, who makes five red wines and one white wine, the Bebop Dry Riesling.

Rounding out his portfolio are his Private Blend, Reserve Cab, Carmenere WW and, his newest wine, a cabernet-merlot blend called Frassy – a combination of fresh and sassy.

Nodland plans to continue to focus on those six wines.

“I don’t want a big mechanized winery,” he said. “Our whole thing is we’ve done it all by hand. We punch down the grapes by hand. It’s all a labor of love.”

His other labor of love is the law. Nodland, a Spokane native and 1991 Gonzaga law grad, works full time as a lawyer. He has a private practice in Spokane, specializing in personal injury and insurance.

His new tasting room is part of downtown Spokane’s urban Cork District, which includes 15 tasting rooms within walking distance, plus a couple of other clusters of wineries. He likes the idea of customers being able to walk to or from the half-dozen wineries within a two-block radius of his new tasting room.

He also likes the idea of being located across the street from the Knitting Factory and the Fox and Bing theaters in what he calls Spokane’s “music district.”

“I was sold on this area, and I was sold on having a jazz club in Spokane. We’re too big not to have one,” said Nodland, who’s already performed in the new space.

“I’m fusion guitarist,” he said. “I’m probably more rock than jazz.”

Last weekend, he played electric guitars and synthesizers in something called the “Eclectic Electric Fusion Rock Show” with Riley Gray on keyboards.

Nodland plans to host live music four nights per week to start, possibly adding more later. A cover charge – $5 most nights – will begin to be collected about a half hour before the music starts.

Wines by the glass sell for $8 to $10. Appetizers – hummus and assorted meats, cheeses and chocolates – sell for $9 to $16.

Wine tasting is $5; the fee can be applied toward the price of a bottle.

Production will remain in the Spokane Valley, the site of Nodland’s former 500-square-foot tasting room. That area will be converted into production space.

At 1,300 square feet, the downtown tasting room is nearly triple the size of the old location. It has capacity for about 90 people and currently employs three part-time servers.

The new tasting room/jazz club is a dream come true, said Nodland, who settled on the spot about a year and a half ago. The former office space required a full remodel.

“There’s not a square inch in here that’s the same as it was,” he said.

A garage-style door opens onto a newly renovated patio, which will feature seating in summer. A performance area is located near the back of the venue. In front, near large windows overlooking the West Sprague Avenue sidewalk, a 10-foot table bedecked with metallic candlesticks sits opposite the bar under a row of sparkly chandeliers.

Nodland said he helped design the look, including the dangly light fixtures and glitzy candle-holders. “They’re kind of frassy don’t you think?”