Vintner Tim Nodland approaches blending his wines like arranging a song, which makes sense, because as a professional jazz musician he possesses an astute sense of creativity and balance. He describes his winery as being “more like a musician’s studio” and his wines as “liquid art.” Nodland's musical background inspires the names of wines such as "Bebop" and earned his winery a mention in Wine and Jazz magazine. Nodland Cellars produces only one red wine and one white wine every year, allowing the winery to focus all of its energy on refining each vintage. Nodland's meticulously selected grapes, sourced from quality Columbia Valley vineyards, are each handpicked before enjoying a gentle press in stainless steel. Each vintage, aged in 100% new french oak, uses a blend of six grapes, primarily made up of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, which recalls a classic bordeaux from the late 1700s or early 1800s. Nodland's private blend’s complex Old World flavor comes from rare carmenere grapes, which were wiped out in Europe by a phylloxera blight in the 1800s.
In 1982, Mike Conway walked away from more than a decade of large-scale wine production at E.&J. Gallo, Parducci, and Franzia Brothers to open Latah Creek Wine Cellars with his wife, Ellena. Today, with help from their daughter Natalie, they package more than 17,000 cases each year. The trio devotes much of their winemaking expertise to their most popular bottles, which include a riesling, Huckleberry L'Atah, and a chardonnay that Wine Press Northwest describes as "exotic and hedonistic." They develop each varietal with a minimal amount of processing and handling to keep flavors intact and prevent grapes from having reasons to make tell-all appearances on afternoon talk shows. The team can also swathe bottles in personalized wine labels for special occasions such as weddings and birthdays. The winery welcomes visitors to amble through its tiled walkways and arched courtyard, around the winemaking facilities, and into a gift shop teeming with trinkets and a well-stocked wine-tasting bar.
Thirty years ago, the Mielke family shifted its trade from cherry packing to growing, harvesting, and aging the grapes at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars, which has won CityVoter's award for Best Winery for the last three years. The winery encompasses a warm-toned tasting room downtown as well as a 1924 Florentine-style estate perched on a cliff overlooking the Spokane River. The estate, registered as a National Historic Landmark, is home to a stone gazebo, 4 acres of gardens, and a gigantic checkers board for trees bored with feigning stillness. At each tasting room, knowledgeable oenophiles introduce palates to more than 15 handcrafted vintages to taste and take home. In addition to fermenting wines from its own grapes, the Mielke family sources grapes from mature vineyards around Washington.
Locati Cellars' 2009 sangiovese red infuses Rosebud Vineyard?s sangiovese?from Wahluke Slope?with fruit from Walla Walla?s Mission Hills Vineyards. The hybrid result earned silver medals in the 2012 San Francisco Chronicle wine competition and the 2012 Seattle Wine Awards, with its pomegranate and cranberry scents that complement blueberry, black tea, and chocolate flavors.
The sangiovese is just one of the vintages sommeliers pour for tasting at the Locati Cellars, helmed by the Locati family for the past century. The winery rounds out its selection with the bone-dry Estate ros? and whites, such as the 2012 pinot grigio, rather than the original white wine?fermented grapes mixed with paper. The winemaking team strives to blend Italian winemaking traditions with grapes from the winery?s vineyards, which occupy Walla Walla?s rolling, fertile hills. Locati Cellars has won a number of accolades for their wine, such as gold for their 2009 Locati Innovation from Seattle Wine Awards, and gold for their 2009 Estate Sangiovese from the Great Northwest Wine Competition.
Passed over by glaciers thousands of years ago, the soils where Patit Creek Cellars' grapes thrive are rich with minerals that imbue an unmistakable depth to the final product. Winemaker Joe Forest works with these locally-sourced grapes from crush to bottling, resulting in a finished product in styles from Riesling to Merlot. Over the years, Patit has expanded to offer a variety of places for curious oenophiles to sample their wines, including a 6,000-square-foot tasting room in Walla Walla.
If one word had to describe Coeur d’Alene Cellars’ attitude toward winemaking, it would probably be "meticulous." During each stage of creation, from vineyard selection and harvest to bottling, winemakers carefully supervise and adjust conditions to suit their visions. They hand-harvest fruit from their eastern Washington vineyards only on days that fit specific temperature conditions. Between pickings, the vines are pruned for low yields that concentrate flavor and quality. And their syrah and viognier grapes are both hand-sorted the night of harvest before they’re pressed and fermented.
That process is carefully controlled as well. Syrah blends first ferment in open-top vessels, allowing for closer management of color and tannins. Only later do they age inside French and American oak barrels, like former daredevils bent on reliving their trip over Niagara Falls. Viognier blends, on the other hand, spend both fermentation and aging periods in small oak barrels.
The resulting well-balanced wines can claim myriad accolades from publications such as Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. Their 2004 Sarah’s cuvée viognier, for instance, earned 89 points from Wine Enthusiast, which praised its "good balance" of "peach, apricot, sour lemon candy and even a bit of cinnamon." Current vintages include the 2007 Alder Ridge Vineyard syrah, whose smooth body supports flavors of berries, vanilla, and cinnamon that conclude in a lingering finish.
These and other wines are poured at Coeur d'Alene's onsite wine bar, Barrel Room No. 6. Inside, sleek red walls help create an upscale vibe. Glasses perch beneath pendant lighting on the bar or glitter on top of old wine barrels repurposed as tables. As customers sip, knowledgeable wait staff can suggest ways to bring out the wines' subtle flavors by nibbling aromatic cheese pairings or the hem of a neighbor’s freshly laundered shirt.