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Wednesday, October 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington Voices

Volunteers help winery fill bottles

When I was a little girl, my mother frequently read me the story of the Little Red Hen. The tale involves a hen who plants some seeds, grows some wheat, takes it to a mill and eventually bakes a loaf of bread.

Throughout the story she asks for help, but the lazy dog, the sleepy cat and the noisy duck all answer “Not I.” At last the bread is ready and the hen asks, “Who will help me eat the bread?”

“I will!” the animals say.

But the little red hen won’t let them have any of her delicious bread. They didn’t help with the work, so they weren’t allowed to eat the tasty fruit of her efforts.

I thought of that story last month while visiting Barrister Winery to witness the wine bottling process. Every year this small winery enlists the help of volunteers to bottle their wine.

In addition to letting Barrister fans get a behind-the-scenes peek at how their favorite wine goes from barrel to bottle, owners Greg Lipsker and Michael White appreciate the extra hands during this busy time of year.

First up: bottling Barrister’s only white, a sauvignon blanc. “We’re only going to do 340 to 350 cases of it,” Lipsker said.

The winery has a small bottling operation at its Railroad Avenue location. The rattle and clank of bottles echoed as a volunteer dumped boxes of empties on a table. In the shadow of a huge stainless steel tank that housed the sauvignon blanc, White grabbed the bottles, placing them under rotating spigots that filled the bottles and corked them in two smooth steps.

Another volunteered grabbed the filled bottles and wiped them down before placing them in a carton.

I began to see why they appreciate those extra hands! The boxes of wine were then taken downstairs where yet another volunteer affixed labels and capsules (the sleeves that cover the top) one bottle at a time.

Though owners, employees and volunteers worked together like a well-oiled machine, the process is too time-consuming to work for bottling larger batches of wine.

“Come back next week when we have the truck,” Lipsker said. “That’s when we’ll do the reds.”

The truck is a portable wine-bottling operation housed in a semi. When I strolled down Railroad Avenue the following week, Operation Cab Franc was in full swing.

“We bottled just under 2,000 cases of Rough Justice yesterday,” said Lipsker of their most popular wine. “Now we’re doing our cab franc.”

The bottling process for the reds was similar to bottling the white, but the machinery on the truck moves much faster. “It does almost five cases a minute,” Lipsker said.

Volunteers, including a retired doctor, a military officer, a CPA and a social worker, were kept hopping. They manned several stations, hauling the empties to the truck, labeling boxes, checking to make sure the wine was correctly labeled, filling boxes with bottles, and hauling the filled cartons off the conveyor belt and stacking them on pallets.

The old adage, “many hands make light work,” proves true every year at Barrister.

Lipsker smiled and said, “They do all this for lunch and a bottle of wine.” Then he added, “You should come back for fall crush!” Pictures of Lucille Ball stomping grapes immediately sprang to mind, but alas, fall crush doesn’t mean getting barefoot in a tub of grapes. “Volunteers help us sort the grapes delivered by the truckload from the vineyards,” Lipsker said.

“That doesn’t sound like nearly as much fun as stomping,” I replied.

But the laughter that rang out as volunteers stacked boxes of newly bottled cabernet franc showed that fun can be had in the midst of work.

So, this summer when you open a bottle of chilled sauvignon blanc or sip a glass of Rough Justice at a local restaurant, remember the many hands that helped to fill those bottles.

I’m just glad that Lipsker and White aren’t like the little red hen and let us all share in the fruits of their labor, even if we didn’t share in the work.

For more information about Barrister Winery, visit:

Contact Cindy Hval at She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.”

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