congrats to washington's newest "hot small brand" – barrister winery

Friday, January 20, 2012

Wine Business Monthly releases its influential top 10 lists around Unified Symposium time each January, and Washington wineries have been well represented. I have no personal stake in the choices, but follow them with great interest, and am always pleased to see a (relatively) new, small, perhaps not well known but very deserving winery find its moment in the spotlight.

Today it is Spokane’s Barrister winery drawing the accolades on the Wine Business blog.

The winery, founded by a pair of attorneys in 2001, was singled out in particular for its excellent track record with varietal Cabernet Franc. I have been an admirer of Barrister wines, and in particular the Cab Franc, for many years. The winery earned 4 stars in the second edition of my book, Washington Wines & Wineries – one of just 45 to do so.

Here a sample from that entry:

“The most distinctive expression of Barrister’s signature combination of power, weight, massive fruit and sweet, toasty oak is their Cabernet Franc. Muscular and spicy, the overwhelming impression is of gorgeous fruit, finished with pretty flavors of toasted nuts. Since its 2001 debut, this is the wine that has won the lion’s share of medals for the winery, and deservedly so.

Yet equally good are Barrister’s Merlots, as muscular and authoritative as any in the state, and priced well below most of their peers. Another gem is the Rough Justice red – a tasty, big-boned, chunky wine that is done as a different blend every year, priced a little lower than Barrister’s varietal wines, and emphatically – say the partners – not a second wine. The goal, explain owners Greg Lipsker and Michael White, ‘is to use all four varietals and try to come up with something that meets our style.’”

It is not easy to find, define, and adhere to a distinctive style, without sacrificing vintage variation and without losing subtlety and depth. Barrister succeeds admirably. Though at times I have found the wines terrifyingly high in alcohol, and they certainly do not shy away from heavily-toasted new oak, the wines that emerge, more often than not, are not just big and blocky. They are aromatic, nuanced, and thoroughly delicious. They are priced in the upper $20 to lower $40 range – given the quality, not to mention the thousands of miles of driving to and from distant vineyards every year, the pricing is remarkably low.

I most recently tasted new and upcoming Barrister wines last month. Here are some highlights:

Barrister NV Rough Justice Red; $21
The sixth version of this non-vintage blend is delightfully rough, like an old truck with a failing muffler. Chewy, tannic, earthy and smoky, it lunges ahead with massive barrel flavors, atop sharp, tart red fruits.

Barrister 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon; $31
There is nothing shy about this wine, a pure Cabernet Sauvignon from the Artz and Klipsun vineyards on Red Mountain. The fruit is super ripe, with scents of prune, smoke and chocolate. Blocky and powerful, done very consistently, as are all the Barrister reds, in the full-on house style.

Barrister 2009 Cabernet Franc; $28
Surprisingly, this is the most accessible of the new red wine releases from Barrister. Loaded with creamy caramel and pretty toast notes, it sails like clean silk into a long, smooth, buttery finish.

Barrister 2008 Reserve Tapteil Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; $43
Sourced entirely from old vine Red Mountain fruit, this spent 32 months in French and American oak. It’s loaded with generous, dark and smoky flavors of espresso, smoke and charcoal. But the fruit has the power and depth to handle it well.

For information on purchasing these wines, please visit the Barrister website.

1 comment:

wineisawesome said...

Maybe now they will go to a proper distributor and not the lackluster agent they are using and get some proper market representation. This brand can grow big!

Post a Comment

Your comment is awaiting moderation and will be posted ASAP. Thanks!