Barrister Winery Tour and Tasting – A Wonderful Experience Part 2

And finally – Part 2, the tour of Barrister Winery.

Our tour guide was winemaker/owner Greg Lipsker, an excellent guide and teacher.

The Wine Press at Barrister

The Wine Press at Barrister

We started the tour in the area where they press the wine every fall.  Greg explained that Barrister Winery leases rows of grapes from various vineyards in the Columbia Valley.  They decide both the crop-load and when to pick, so around harvest time, he is traveling quite a bit down to the vineyards, tasting the grapes and deciding when to pick.  The grapes are then transported up to the winery to be made into wine.

Barrister Winery takes a hands-on approach to making their wines, which I feel comes through in their wine – it has soul.  For example, when making the red wine, after the grapes have been gently pressed and the yeast has been added, the skins separate from the grapes and form a “cap” on top of the vat.  Instead of using an automated machine to push down the cap, Greg and his partner, Michael White push down the cap by hand.

I did learn that white wine is stored in stainless steel vats until it is ready for bottling and reds are stored in barrels.  I had assumed both were stored in barrels.

We then journeyed down a big freight elevator to the barrel room.  On our way down, Greg told us a little more about the history.  The building was originally attached to the railroad behind the building via a bridge.  Cars would be offloaded from the train over the bridge to their building.  From there, the cars would either be brought down to the main floor for transport, or the elevator was raised to create a bridge for the cars to be moved to the building next store (which is why that building is called the Jefferson Auto Lofts).

The barrel room was pretty unique, an unfinished basement of this old building.  They had recently held a dinner down in the room for

Barrister Winery Barrel Room

Barrister Winery Barrel Room

60 guests, so barrels had been moved around to create an open space for the dinner.

Greg gave us various samples from different barrels so we could compare and contrast, he gave us about 6 comparison’s in all.  I think this was the best part of the tour.  As a novice to wine, I did not realize the difference a barrel, a year or even the location of grapes in the same vineyard could make.  The two comparisons that stood out to me most was French oak vs American oak and old vs. new barrels.

For the French oak vs. American oak comparison, we tasted from a 2009 barrel.  I found the French barrel gave the wine a spicy flavor, while the American barrel gave the wine a mellow, sweet flavor (my preference).  Similar, I found the Old barrel gave the wine a spicy flavor while the new barrel had more earth tones.

Along one wall were various wine bottles stored in pockets along the wall.  Greg told us that they keep a case of each of the wines they produce, so that they can test how long their wine can age.

We went from the barrel room to where their bottled wine was labeled and stored.  I questioned why we were to store our wine bottles sideways, while they stored their wine bottles upright.  Apparently, wine bottles are stored up right at first to allow the cork to expand and keep the wine safely in the bottle.

As we were heading towards the elevator, a train went by the building.  Greg had us feel the barrels, which vibrated with the passing train.  Greg told us that by the time the wine is bottled, it has been vibrated by the train about 200,000 times and they feel their wine is “train-settled”.  Something I felt gave the wine (and winery) personality.

Greg was an excellent tour guide and host.  I left the tour having learned quite a bit about wine and having a whole new perspective and appreciation for the wine making process.

Thank you Greg and Barrister Winery for an excellent tour.


Maison Blueu Granache – a Delicious and Smooth Red Wine

I read a review of Maison Bleue by Paul Gregutt.  Gregutt’s description of the wine  sounded so wonderful, that I had to give it a try:

They are distinctive, immaculate, fragrant, complex, evocative, one might even say definitive wines – and they sell for a fraction of what competitors of comparable quality generally charge.

When I looked at the Winery’s website, I fell in love.  The winery has a vintage European look and feel and something about it, just resonated.  I can’t explain, but it just worked for me.

I purchased the 2010 “La Montagnette” Upland Vineyard Grenache [Snipes Mountain].  The store’s wine clerk was very excited about my purchase and started quizzing me about what I was going to pair it with.  Since I am not quite there yet in my pairing expertise, I admitted that I wasn’t sure – he recommended duck.

The wine was dark, ruby-red in color.  It had a very light nose, there was just a hint of dark fruit.  The palette was sweet, but not sugary, more of a berry versus a plum flavor.

I really enjoyed this wine and plan to buy more.  When it comes to red wine, this is the type I really like – light and refreshing, versus a heavy taste.  Plus, with summer right around the corner, I can imagine myself enjoying a few glasses, while sitting on the porch watching the sunset.  I strongly recommend this wine.

Barrister Winery Tour and Tasting – A Wonderful Experience Part 1

Barrister WineryOver Easter weekend, my brothers, sister-in-law and I went on a tour of Barrister Winery in Spokane, WA.  I was very excited to go tour a winery – the last time I toured a winery, it didn’t mean much to me.  Now, I had a little bit better understanding of the industry and was looking forward to learning more.

Not only has the winery received many rave reviews in both local and national publications, the owners/winemakers for Barrister winery were also former lawyers, which I felt was fitting, since I work with lawyers now.

We did both a tasting and a tour, so I am going to split my experience into two parts.  Part 1 will discuss the tasting portion of our visit, and part 2 will detail the tour.

Barrister winery is located in downtown Spokane, WA on Railroad Ave.  The building is literally next to railroad tracks – very fitting.  The building where the winery is housed is old and rich, but still warm and inviting.  The tasting area included a bar, as well as a big open room filled with cocktail tables and art.  The winery hosts and is used for events and I could see it being the perfect spot for an anniversary dinner (mental note to self).

We were a touch early, so we started our journey with a tasting flight, and the women that helped us were very nice and very informative.  I have an ability to ask a lot of “stupid” questions, and they never hesitated to answer.

Our tasting flight included:Wine tasting at Barrister

  • 2011 Klipsun Vineyard Red Mountain Sauvignon Blanc
  • Rough Justice Columbia Valley Red Wine (a mix of grapes and red wines)
  • 2009 Artz Vineyard Red Mountain Merlot
  • 2009 Columbia Valley Cabernet Franc
  • 2008 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

There were two that stood out to me the most, the Sauvignon Blanc and the Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Sauvignon Blanc was light yellow, almost clear in color.  It had a wonderful, light citrus nose and it had a sweet (but not overly sugary) and refreshing citrus palette.  I could see this wine being wonderful on a hot summer day.

The Cabernet Sauvignon was a lovely dark, ruby-red color.  It had a pleasant, sweet cherry nose and interesting palette – both spicy and dark fruit.  I also felt it was a bit chalky, but not in a bad way.  The wine would go nice with a heavy meal.

Mind you, I have a lot (and I mean a lot) to learn about pairing, but I mean well.

On a side note, this winery is very family friendly.  The open tasting room and friendly staff make for a comfortable experience for both the adults and the children.

After tasting, we were greeted by owner/winemaker Greg Lipsker.  Stay tuned for Part 2…..