By Kori ~ June 9th, 2009.
Barrister Winery, appropriately named for its two attorney/winemaker founders, is located in a 100 year-old brick building in the historic Davenport Arts District in downtown Spokane, Washington. Greg Lipsker and Michael White founded Barrister in 2001 after getting their feet wet as home winemakers under the name Greg Michael Cellars. Their first release was in 2003, and they moved into their current facility in 2004.
Currently, Barrister produces 3,200 cases per year and is on its way to 4,200 cases. It is almost exclusively a red wine producer, making only 200 cases of white wine, a Sauvignon Blanc. Barrister is known primarily for its excellent Cabernet Franc, although they produce other good reds as well.
Neither Greg nor Michael set out to become winemakers. They were both practicing attorneys. According to Greg, he took one wine class in 1972 when he was attending Gonzaga University. Other than enjoying wine as a consumer, he didn’t seriously consider getting into the wine business until 25 years later. Greg, Michael, and their families were on a trip in British Columbia, Canada, in 1997 when they stopped at a local wine shop to buy some wine and ended up purchasing a winemaking kit on a whim. They took the kit home, started making wine, and as Greg says, their hobby got out of control. They have both left their full-time law careers behind to focus on Barrister. Michael practices law on a part-time basis, and Greg is now full-time at the winery.
We first met Greg and Michael at this year’s Taste Washington. Then over Memorial Day weekend, we took a trip to Spokane and had the pleasure to visit Barrister Winery. Greg is a tireless advocate for the wineries of Spokane and hosted a tasting for us featuring eleven of Spokane’s 14 wineries. He and the other Spokane winemakers realize that it is in each of their best interests for all of them to do well.
Barrister’s facility is a large, three-story, multi-purpose space. The main level includes the tasting room and is a warm, inviting place, but it also has enough open space that tables can be cleared out and it can be used for various winemaking processes during certain times of the year as well as be rented for special events. Local artists’ work is featured on the walls and Barrister participates in the First Friday Art Walk. Barrister is open for tasting Friday 12-6pm and Saturday 12-5pm. Greg and Michael are also more than happy to give personal tours of the winery; you’ll just need to call in advance to set it up.
After our Spokane wineries tasting, we toured Barrister with Greg and tasted some barrel samples in their barrel room in the basement. Greg and Michael are always looking for ways to do things even better and are continually experimenting. It was very interesting to taste the same wine with just one factor being different: French vs. American oak, new vs. used barrels, different yeasts, and different ends of the same row in the vineyard. Based on these samples, look for good things to continue from Barrister Winery.
If you are in Spokane, be sure to stop by Barrister Winery to sample their wines and peruse the local artwork on display. And regardless of whether you are able to visit or not, be sure to try some Barrister wines.
Filed under: American Wine, Cabernet Franc, Spotlight On, Washington State Wine