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A Taste of Wine: Spokane’s urban wine environment is thriving

By Michael Allen For The Spokesman-Review

The crush is on and this year’s vintages are being made for our future enjoyment. When a lot of us think about winemaking, images of vast vineyards and French estates come to mind, but we have something unique in Spokane: A thriving urban wine environment with award-winning wines being produced in our city’s center.

Most Washington wineries source their grapes from various growers around the state. In fact, there are more than 900 wineries in the state and about 350 growers. This gives winemakers the flexibility to crush, destem, ferment and barrel age anywhere, and downtown Spokane is seeing the benefits of this flexibility.

V du V moved into its location at 12 S. Scott St. 10 years ago. V du V started in the Spokane Valley but wanted a location where it could produce its wine and have a tasting room under one roof close to downtown.

This fall, V du V is making a merlot and a cabernet sauvignon with grapes from the Wahluke Slope AVA. Kirk Phillips of V du V says, “Having everything under one roof allows us to showcase our process and wines in one encompassing location.”

Barrister Winery has been producing wine at 1213 W. Railroad Ave. in downtown Spokane since 2003. Greg Lipsker explains, “We had lost our lease and had outgrown our original location, so we came here, and it was perfect. We like being an urban winery.”

This year, Barrister will process 90 tons of grapes from all over the state to produce eight wines at its location. “We encourage people to come watch us process and even volunteer,” Lipsker says. “Some of our volunteers have done it for years and are like family.”

Barrister also found that being located along the railroad tracks produced an unexpected benefit: Trains settle wines. “We are the only winery in the state that has a barrel room under a train track,” Lipsker says. “Every time a train goes by, our barrels are gently vibrated. Over time, this helps the solids settle out more efficiently and adds to the softness of our wines.”

Bridge Press Cellars has been producing wines downtown since 2012. Winemaker and owner Brian Padrta and his family have converted the turn-of-the-century Foresters of America building at 39 W. Pacific Ave. into one of Spokane’s most unique tasting rooms and production facilities. This year, Bridge Press Cellars will produce five varietals.

One area everyone with whom I talked agreed upon is that this year’s crop of wine grapes is a good one. Padrta says, “The berries are a little smaller this year, but the flavors are more concentrated and have no sign of smoke taint.”

Lipsker put it this way: “Spring started out a little cooler than we would have liked, but as summer progressed into the fall, we had the warm days and cool nights that the grapes need to develop and preserve the delicate aromas, freshness and acidity that our wines are known for.”

Spokane wineries will be processing this year’s vintages for another couple of weeks. Call ahead and you might get a chance to help or watch our urban wineries make some award-winning wines.

Michael Allen is the former director of Spokane’s Cork District.

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