Washington Wines

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.

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