Nota Bene Cellars
All of our wines are crafted to be aged for many years, the number of which we will only know with time. Please stock up so you can regularly sample the wines and not miss any intermediate combinations of subtle aromas that may be short lived or transitions to more complex flavor components. We like to say that we appreciate all phases of wine flavor profiles, but that we only release the wine when the symphony is ready to play!
Located in the heart of Seattle, Washington.
- Fine red wines from Washington State.
- Meeting / Conference Facilities:
- Wedding Facilities:
- Picnic Facilities:
- Dog Friendly:
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- Wine Tasting:
- Art or Architecture:
- Organic / Biodynamic:
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- Lodging / Bed & Breakfast:
Average Bottle Price
Tim Narby (the "N" in :Nota Bene Cellars) and his new wife Carol Bryant (the "B" in :Nota Bene Cellars) decided to celebrate an evening at Ashland’s Shakespeare Festival with a gourmet meal. They had discovered good wine a few years before, about the time they discovered a shared interest in fine dining and in each other. Tonight, to celebrate a marvelous performance of The Comedy of Errors, they decided to order something even better – possibly even great – to match the quality of the play.
Tim took one swallow and gazed into the eyes of his bride and said, "This is what I want to make." Carol gazed right back at her new husband and said, "Sounds like a plan. I’ll help."
Carol was the child of missionaries serving in Chiengmai, Thailand. Her previous acquaintance with wine was as Christ’s first miracle at the marriage feast in Cana. Tim knew a little more, growing up among Italian steelmakers 40 miles north of Pittsburgh. He and his friends secretly sampled Guff Geniviva’s wine he made in his cellar from a mix of Zinfandel and Muscat grapes.
They went home and broke out a home winemaking kit they received for their wedding. It featured a can of blackberry syrup but the end product was drinkable. They were elated.
In the fall of 1986, they bought fresh Zinfandel grapes out of the back of Tony Picardo’s 18-wheeler he used to park on a street end near the King County Airport. They enlisted some friends and neighbors to help and had their first pressing. It wasn’t Chateaux Margaux, but ever since they’ve done 10+ fermentations a year in their basement and every one has improved on its predecessor.
Tim, a Boeing systems analyst, joined the Boeing Employee’s Wine and Beermaking Club. For more than 30 years, this coterie of gifted amateurs explored Washington grapes before they were a glimmer in the national oenological eye. As Tim and Carol’s wines won many firsts in the club’s annual Winefest, Tim became Grape Procurement Officer and eventually Vice President of Wine.
The youngsters were incorporated into the burgeoning hobby. Kimberly developed a good eye for the best bunches of grapes in the field and Ryan became Tim’s trusted co-pilot on his excursions to the vineyards of Eastern Washington.
In 2001, Carol said, "Ryan’s out of pre-school. We can start the winery now." For years the wine had carried the name NB, for the footnote of the Latin phrase "nota bene," as well as being a nice combination of Tim’s and Carol’s surnames. As the commercial enterprise was contemplated their designer friend suggested moving from the footnote to the full Latin phrase and a Grey Poupon moment was experienced: "But, of course."
They leased a warehouse, bought racks and racks of French Oak barrels, cases of bottles, and an industrial-strength wine press. It was then that Carol, a state prosecuting attorney for 23 years, made her unique contribution. The stacks and stacks of forms necessary to open a commercial winery in Washington have stopped many an aspiring winemaker cold. But Carol knew how the bureaucratic mind worked and regarded the four-inch stack of paperwork as a challenge.
"What do you suppose they want here?" she would say cheerfully as she worked her way through entry after entry. It takes most wineries from 8 months to a year to never to get these all filled out and processed. Carol got :Nota Bene Cellars through the whole process in 3 months. It may be a record.
And this year came the results: three beautiful Washington reds, each with their distinct virtues, pressed from the 2001 vintage, the best grapes in years. Eighteen years of effort in every sip.
"The Latin root for amateur is amo: to love," says Carol, the company Latinist . "Wine is alive. It must be the product of love."
Tim just says, "Isn’t it delicious?"
Kimberly Narby, apprentice counsel and junior partner
Ryan Narby, apprentice winemaker and junior partner
Beau, corporate dog
Angel, corporate cat
Practices & Techniques
Individual small lot fermentations are the way we make Nota Bene wine stand out from the rest. Managing fermentation is very important to achieving clean fresh fruit in your finished wine. We use 250 Gallon fermenters that provide optimum surface to volume ratios that allow the winemaker to give the yeast the air they need during peak fermentation rates. Lids are removed from the fermenters when fermentation temperatures rise above 75 degrees F. We punch down the cap two or more times daily depending on the rate of the fermentation, with the hotter and cooler fermentations getting the most attention. Nutrient requirements are constantly monitored with our winemaker’s extremely sensitive wine gas analysis tool...his nose...trained to detect minor changes in fermentation chemistry. Our winemaker is religious in his efforts to detect fermentation anomalies. With small lot fermentations, corrections can be made rapidly with precision.
Care in aging and the study of the French history of elevage are equally important for us at :Nota Bene. Our wines are pressed directly to barrel where malolactic fermentation takes place in the presence of oak. We feel that this traditional path to making fine wine is one that should not be interrupted with stainless steel. Lots of new French oak barrels are required to achieve the flavors we like even though this can be painful to our business plan. Nothing takes the place of new oak in aging wines from Washington State.
We are members of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers and attend their annual conference on wine grape growing in Yakima. This group of growers and winemakers comes together once a year to share the latest news in wine growing, winemaking, and wine business trends.
In addition, winemaker Tim Narby is a member of ASEV, American Society for Enology and Viticulture. This is a society of winemakers and winegrowers, and academic and industry leaders from all over the world who meet regularly and publish leading edge information. Please peruse their web site by clicking on the society name above.
Estate Vineyards / AVA
This new vineyard yielded some very fine Cabernet in 2003, one of the warmest growing years in recent history. Located above the drainage for Alder Creek near the town of Alderdale not far from the Columbia River, this vineyard is owned and operated by Dave and Fran Groth. It’s also home to many more red varietals and is located not far from Champoux Vineyard. We like the proximity to a vineyard with such a fine heritage. We look forward to making more Alder Creek wine in the future.
Owner Bruce Zunser takes great care in managing this warm Mattawa location. It is the source for some truly wonderful Merlot, and it’s precious at that because he’s only planted 5 of his 40-acre plot. Not one to jump head first into a venture, Bruce is searching for quality before expanding his site. We are very glad to be a part of his plans. Bruce is an engineer for Boeing’s flight test program during the winter months and is also a pilot who flies his Cessna 172 to his vineyard near the Desert Aire landing strip.
We made some mighty Merlot from this vineyard in 2003 due to a surprise in availability and a shortage at Ciel du Cheval. Fred has been keeping his grapes close at hand for select wineries, but we hope to get more Artz fruit in the future. This vineyard was planted in the mid ‘90’s with many varietals, but vines are heaviest with red fruit that typifies the virtue of the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area, (AVA for short...this is like the French designation of Appellation). He is surely one of the best growers in the state having learned his craft at Klipsun Vineyard, which he planted in 1984. We’d say he is a seasoned veteran who values the knowledge of science and sensitivity to the environment. At harvest you will notice he manages one of the happiest and most stable groups of workers in the state. Loud Latin tunes are a must...note that’s a winemaking term...as the crew winds down after a day of harvesting, but they don’t go home to party, they stay at Klipsun and enjoy the view.
Famed for it’s fine Cab, this is one of the oldest vineyards in Washington State with 30-year-old Cabernet vines in what Paul Champoux calls Block 1. While these vines are now reserved for some of the best wineries in Washington State like Andrew Will and Quilceda Creek, Tim had access in the late ‘80’s and is again hoping for the opportunity to more ferment these rare grapes. This not to make light of the grapes Paul has allocated for Tim. All Champoux Cab is tremendous...the colors and flavors are extremely concentrated and intense. This vineyard has the ability to retain acid late into the growing season and is usually one of the last vineyards in the state to be harvested.
Chandler Reach Vineyard
Construction of the Chandler Reach cave that houses Lenn Parris’s wines is one of the most innovative we’ve seen in Eastern Washington. Ask Lenn to tell you the story of it’s beginning especially if you are at all interested in construction. The winery aside, this is a fantastic site even though it’s planted mostly on a north-facing slope. The Yakima Valley sun is very intense in this warm location just south of the Red Mountain AVA. This may be why we speak of the Chandler Reach wines in the same breath as those from Red Mountain. They have the same deep color and warm climate fruit that we love so much about site.
Ciel du Cheval Vineyard
This place is just plain blessed...year after year owner Jim Holmes grows some of the best grapes in the state on Red Mountain near Benton City. His vineyard manager, Ryan Johnson is also an integral part of the success equation at this site. Many of our grapes come from the ’92 planting, but we combined some ’94 and ’98 Cab for 2003 and are very pleased with the results.
Stone Tree Vineyard
We picked some terrific Syrah, the Espeguette clone, from this vineyard in 2003. The vines were planted in 2001 and Tim was very nervous about getting well-balanced grapes from such young vines even though Tedd Wildman assured him he would be sensitive to all the right variables...with water being the most important. Well, it appears Tedd knows how to grow grapes and pick a vineyard site. He has also planted some new and interesting clones that Tim hopes to explore in the future. Please click on the vineyard title above and peruse Tedd’s web site.
Paul Portteus has been a fixture on the Eastern Washington landscape for many years as he was one of the first to pioneer viticulture in Zillah. His vineyard is located on one of the most beautiful hills in the state with mountain views of Mt. Rainier and Mt Adams peaking above the vines. Tim and his son Ryan enjoy playing baseball on Paul’s spacious lawn...Ryan says it the best place he’s ever played baseball...Did we mention the fine wines coming from this vineyard year after year...Syrah, Cabernet, and Cabernet Franc.