Barili Cellars owners share the belief that wine is meant to bring people together.
Russell and Marlene Feist founded Barili Cellars in 2007, along with Steve and Dana Trabun. "Steve and I had been sharing winemaking equipment and tips with each other, and eventually we decided to do our own winery," Russell Feist says. Although the Trabuns eventually sold their ownership in the winery to Gary and Sue Hustad in 2011, Feist says the couple still help out occasionally with bottling and other tasks. "We're a very high-touch, family-style operation," he says. "So we always appreciate help and input from family, friends and wine club members."
As self-taught winemakers, Russell says evolving from a hobby into a business was a natural progression. "For people like us who have a passion for it, once you realize you can make a decent bottle, you just naturally start to challenge yourself to do more."
Barili Cellars now produces about 600 cases of wine annually at their tasting room and cellar at 608 W. Second Ave. in downtown Spokane. The winery sources grapes from several American Viticultural Areas in the state of Washington, including Red Mountain, Rattlesnake Hills, Ancient Lakes and the Columbia Valley. "Our process is kind of unique," Feist says. "We bring the grapes in on a flatbed, crush them outside on the sidewalk and then pump the juice downstairs into vats where it's fermented and barreled."
The tight quarters offer guests a distinct advantage. "Being a smaller winery enables us to provide customers with samples directly from the barrel, which isn't really done at larger wineries," Feist says.
As wineries began to reopen after closure during the pandemic, Barili Cellars found its tasting room wasn't large enough to accommodate social distancing, so tables and chairs were moved downstairs into the cellar. "It's actually been better having everything down there, where people enjoy the atmosphere, hanging out among the barrels, and watching our whole process," Hustad says, noting, "Here, there's also usually always at least one owner and winemaker working that you can interact with."
With no connections to distributors, Barili Cellars relies primarily on sales through the tasting room, with its wines also available at several other Spokane locations including Mama Mia's Italian Restaurant, LeftBank Wine Bar, Steelhead Bar and Grille, Black Label Brewing Company, and the Hi Neighbor Tavern.
Both Feist and Hustad describe Barili wines, which have won several Seattle Wine Awards, as having bold, fruit-forward flavors. "Our wines are probably a bit less tannin-heavy than others, but still chewy, and enjoyable," Feist says. Customer favorites include the Double Barrel Red and the Sauvignon Blanc. "The Double Barrel Red is a blend we created in the beginning by mixing a barrel of our syrah with a barrel of our cabernet, and it became one of our flagship varieties," he says, noting a new cabernet franc will debut this year. "Ultimately, winemaking is a business, but that's not why we do it," he says. "We do it because we love making, drinking and sharing wine."