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Fresh and Tasty 

by Susan Hamilton & r & New Spaces for Tasting WINE & r & What are the holidays without some cheer? Two newly opened wine tasting rooms in downtown Spokane will help you get in the spirit of the season.

Tucked away in the Davenport Arts District, Barrister Winery has been making waves since it opened four years ago. Now it's adding some polish to the historic brick warehouse it calls home. There's a new entryway off the alley just south of the railroad viaduct. Handsome, large wooden double doors look like they're straight out of Italy. A large "B" surrounded by twining grape leaves in the concrete floor just outside the door lets you know you're at Barrister.

Once inside, the corner tasting room in the production facility invites you to quaff a flight or sip one of Barrister's flavorful wines. Rough stonework facing on the bar complements the brick walls. Dramatic shelving and a vase at the back of the bar are the signature work of designer John Rovtar, who also designed Hotel Lusso's interior.

If you can't decide which of Barrister's reds to taste, try the latest award winners -- a 2003 merlot or 2003 cabernet franc.

Not far from there, Arbor Crest Cellars has opened a new tasting room in River Park Square. "This is the only tasting room in a mall in Washington State," declares general manager Jim van Loben Sels.

Just opened this week, the tasting room features a granite standing bar, warm terra cotta tiles in orange and red, and a huge photo of Arbor Crest's Cliff House in the Spokane Valley gracing the back wall. Customers can buy split or whole bottles from Arbor Crest's many award-winning wines to drink at cozy tables near the front of the store. Openers and glasses are provided, and customers are welcome to bring food from the adjoining food court. Wine by the bottle and case as well as wine-related merchandise is also available.

"This is such a different retail experience," van Loben Sels says. "And it gives people the opportunity to enjoy wine before seeing a movie."

Barrister Winery, 1213 W. Railroad Ave., is open Saturdays 11 am-5 pm. Call 465-3591. Arbor Crest Cellars, at Atrium Cafes at River Park Square, is open daily 11 am-9 pm. Call 927-9463.

Christmas Elegance FESTIVALS & r & This year's Christmas Tree Elegance will put on its holiday best from this Friday evening through the following Saturday at the Davenport Hotel. The 23rd annual benefit for the Spokane Symphony begins with a lighting of 12 theme-decorated trees on the hotel's Mezzanine. Next morning, Santa's Breakfast offers a buffet, visits and photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and activities in a benefit for Mobius Kids (tickets $25 each). Free Family entertainment days Sunday and Monday feature performances by local dance troupes, choirs, bands and musical groups. An Evening with Eckart and Friends on Sunday evening presents symphony director Preu playing a selection of his favorite German coffeehouse and holiday music on piano accompanied by a string trio (tickets $10 each).

The Red Hat high tea on Monday is so popular it's taking up two ballrooms at the Davenport (tickets $18 each). Holiday luncheons and style shows Tuesday through Friday are also quite popular. (Thursday and Friday's luncheons are sold out.) The $40 luncheon features chicken breast, salad and creamsicle cake in the Grand Pennington Ballroom.

Christmas Tree Elegance culminates on Saturday, Dec. 3, with a Gala Dinner Dance. The black-tie-optional event in the Grand Pennington features a champagne reception and gourmet dinner (tickets $125 each). Drawing of the winning raffle tickets for the 12 trees as well as a Dorothy Fowler sculpture highlight the evening, along with dancing to the big band sounds of Tuxedo Junction.

Christmas Tree Elegance, Nov.25-Dec.3, at the Davenport Hotel. Call 458-8733 for reservations.

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