Barrister Winery, on the south side of the railroad tracks that slice through Spokane, is located in an out-of-the-way historic (1906-1910) brick building that was used to house new cars as they came off of the train way back when; the service elevator for the winery is huge, large enough for the cars from bygone eras therefore large enough for barrels of wine. All the open space required to store and move the cars is now barrel storage, winemaking space and an open gallery large enough to host a crowd of over 200.
Our first visit to the winery several years ago we discovered GPS didn’t recognize their location, taking us to an alley just north of the railroad tracks. Thankfully a police officer patrolled the alley at just that moment and we could ask her for directions. With a chuckle she told us to follow her as it was a very common mistake. We drove out of the alley, turned right under the railroad tracks and right again down another alley (this one south of the tracks), the correct road we needed; this trip we knew right where we were going. Rather than rewrite the story of their path to owning a winery, I suggest you read this Washington Wine Report.
This visit we met with Greg, co-owner and winemaker for Barrister, for a behind the scenes peak at the facilities. Greg and I attended an oak seminar in March which provided the basis of our barrel tasting this visit.
I seem to favor Hungarian oak where my partner in wine and Greg favored the French oak – but we agree there is nothing wrong with the other barrels, it is all personal preference.
First off we had 2013 Dwelly Merlot from the Walla Walla AVA in each new French and new Hungarian oak. The oak profiles broke down to Hungarian lending a more smokey, anise flavor where the French was herbal and spice. When we blended the two in the glass the smoke, herbs and anise melded beautifully with the intensely rich ripe italian prune.
2013 Bacchus Merlot followed suit with the smokey rich cherry of the Bacchus fruit being the biggest difference.
We were happy to try the 2012 Dionysus Petit Verdot, Barrister’s first, that will be released next Fall.
Naturally we tasted through the bottles on the bar too:
- 2013 Sauvignon Blanc – from Red Mountain’s Klipsun Vineyard, is silky ripe pear and apricot with a fruit-sweet finish that lingers a little
- Rough Justice – NV, ninth vintage, is a blend of Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot a mouth full of ripe berries and a hint of smoke, very smooth from start to finish
- 2011 Cabernet Franc – 80% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, is an soft, easy drinking with red fruits, a bit of vanilla and spice in the medium finish
- 2012 Bacchus Vineyard Syrah – 85% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, cocoa and cassis on the nose, tobacco and spice with dark fruits smooth and silky with a lovely long finish
- Barrister’s Block Red Blend – select barrels of Columbia Valley’s best grapes, 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 14% Syrah, opens with a vanilla and smoke nose, ripe dark fruits and spice with Barrister’s smooth tannins highlighting the fruit in the lingering finish
- 2013 Summitview Malbec – a second release of Malbec with delicious ripe fruit, smooth body and spicy finish
It was Barrister Winery’s 2007 Cabernet Franc, their flagship wine, that proved the turning point in our lives as my partner in wine became a true ‘believer’ in wine over a barbecue dinner of t-bone steak, grilled potatoes and salad with a dessert of home made brownies. The four of us at dinner really enjoyed the wine, but Hubby was taken by surprise at how the wine and the dinner were equally enhanced by the other. As dessert was served we each had a small amount of wine left; the chocolate and wine didn’t compete, they were a match made in heaven. That meal is still talked about, that wine, especially that vintage, is still a favorite. We came home with the wines we know we can’t pick up in the grocery store.