During a trip to Spokane in April I had the opportunity to visit a couple of “boutique” wineries, defined as those that produce about 1,000 or fewer cases per year.
First up is Nodland Cellars, where winemaker Tim Nodland has taken a checkered career path from 1980s big-haired rocker (with the photos to prove it) to still-practicing attorney, to jazz musician, to winemaker.
His tasting room is bit off the beaten path in an industrial park in the city of Spokane Valley, but plans are in the works to keep that space as a production facility and to move the tasting room to downtown Spokane by this fall.
Nodland impressed me with his ability to offer extremely reasonably priced wines while sourcing his fruit from some of the state’s finest vineyards, including Seven Hills, Pepper Bridge, Gamache, and Kiona. His current releases are all drinking nicely and deserve a “must-try” recommendation.
The Bebop Dry Riesling (about $16) is the winery’s only white, and it shines with vibrant green apple and citrus flavors that conclude in a crisp, dry finish.
Two red Bordeaux blends are completely off the charts: the overachieving and underpriced 2012 Bad Attitude (about $15), with white pepper aromatics, red currant and cherry flavors and a twist of pepper and vanilla on the finish; and the 2008 Private Blend (about $28), an explosion of black currant, lardo, and smoky bacon aromas and flavors.
Other notable reds: the 2011 Avant Garde (about $28), a 100 percent carménère with dark fruits, black pepper accents, and a big mouthfeel that demands a steak entrée; and the 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (about $38) with elegant black plum flavors, finely integrated tannins, and hints of toast and black olive on the finish.
East of Spokane you’ll find Liberty Lake Wine Cellars, where husband-and-wife proprietors Doug and Shelly Smith admittedly let their hobby for making red wines get out of control to become a full-fledged winery that opened in 2008. Located in a residential area south of I-90, their tasting room offers spectacular views of Mount Spokane and Liberty Lake, and provides a kitchen, seating area and outdoor deck that beckons visitors to linger over a glass of wine.
My favorite current release is the 2008 Legacy (about $20), a gorgeous blend of merlot, cabernet franc, and syrah from Red Mountain that displays big, round blackberry fruit and a touch of sweet cedar on the finish.
Also notable is the 2009 Syrah (about $25) with spicy persimmon aromas, dark fruit flavors, good tannic structure, and a dusting of cocoa powder; and a lighter-in-body 2011 Tempranillo (about $25), with strong earthy notes and strawberry and raspberry flavors that conclude in a bright, vibrant finish.