In the beginning
It all began with a bottle of Chateaux Margaux 1982.
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?"
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