The journey of Barrister Winery began as two lawyers, Greg Lipsker and Michael White, were vacationing with their families in British Columbia and they stopped in a local shop to buy wine and walked out with a five gallon Zinfandel wine making kit. When I asked how it was, Greg responded, “We thought it was wonderful.” “But it wasn’t,” Mike quickly joked.
Five gallons turned into 50 gallons, which then turned into crushing 1 ½ tons in their garage in 2000. “Friends and family were so supportive. When they heard we were making wine, they were eager to help.” Trial and error, conversation with local vintners, and a few courses at Walla Walla College led Greg and Mike to the launch of Barrister Winery in 2001.
Validation came when they submitted their wine to an independent wine making competition and walked away with three gold and a silver. In fact, when you look at the history of Barrister, you’ll see award after award and consistent 90+ point scores in wine magazines. Two lawyers with a small hobby are making quality wine that is drawing world-wide attention.
Barrister is located in an historic 100 year old building in Spokane’s downtown core (Railroad Ave, west of Jefferson). The 25,000 square foot facility houses production, a large single stack barrel room (see video), storage, and an expansive tasting room and event facility. Barrister offers a unique space to host your wedding, reception, corporate event, or special family dinner. Barrister is also the best stop on the First Friday Art Walk in Spokane (often times we’ll stop at Barrister and never leave).
In the early years, Barrister made a name with a unique varietal, Cabernet Franc. Traditionally a blending grape, Mike and Greg have been able to coax something special out of each and every vintage. As you taste through the Barrister collection, you’ll notice a consistent style of fruit forward, full bodied, smooth wines that each have a complex flavor profile. Barrister’s current wine line-up includes the Cab Franc, Syrah, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc (their only white), and the incredibly delicious Rough Justice blend (reviewed below).
In addition to their current selection of wine, Barrister is excited to launch their wine club. The wine club offers fans the ability receive three bottles, twice per year. Each delivery is two regular Barrister wines and one small lot production wine specially made for wine club members. Club members also get exclusive privilege to buy additional bottles. I’m excited to try the 2006 Pepper Bridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
“Making wine is much more fun than practicing law,” was Greg’s closing argument. The verdict: Barrister is one of Washington’s premier wine makers and Spokane is lucky to have them.
2007 Cabernet Franc
- The Stuff: 88% Cabernet Franc and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley; 690 cases
- The Swirl: Dark plum, opaque, well filtered and beautiful streaky legs
- The Sniff: Bold spice with dark berry fruit, black currant, and hint of blueberry on the back end.
- The Sip: Strong pepper spice, big berry flavor and huge acidity (but not in a bad way). The wine was amazingly smooth and the finish was long and evolved as it dissipated.
- The Score: At $27 retail, I am happy to score this wine a 4 (out of 5). This is a solid wine that is an impressive purchase for any gift, dinner party, or special dinner!
NV Rough Justice Red Blend
- The Stuff: 35% Merlot, 28% Syrah 26% Cabernet Franc, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Swirl: Beautiful dark jewel tone with translucent clarity.
- The Sniff: A-MA-ZING fruit and spice. Very aromatic blackberry, plum and vanilla on the nose. A moderate dose of leather pokes through as well.
- The Sip: A mouthful of jammy berry. If you like bold fruit that is not overly sweet but balanced out with a nice strong acid and spice, you’ll love this wine. The structure of this wine is impressive. Made in a very new-world style that is very impressive.
- The Score: At $20 I score this wine a 5 (out of 5). The wine is beautiful in aroma, strong and balanced in flavor, and immense in structure. This is one blend that if seen on a restaurant wine list that would instantly get my purchase!