ADVERTISING: Advertorial — GEORGE BALLING: Eastern Europe opens up

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As the fall and winter holidays approach, we as wine consumers are all on the prowl for wines, specifically new wine to share with our guests at the many gatherings. It is a good time to share some of our reviews on wines that we have recently added to the collection; we will present a more comprehensive list next week of all the great additions. This week though, we will reserve our reviews for some great new finds originating in Eastern Europe.

Prior to the take over of much of Eastern Europe by the Soviet Union and the introduction of communism, there was a vibrant wine industry and culture in this part of the “old world.” Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the industry there has been working to get up and running again and we are just starting to see some really great wine from the appellations in countries like Macedonia, Slovenia and others make it to North Idaho. Here are some of our favorites.

While Greece is not a part of the former East Bloc, the wine industry there has for some time had few exports to the US., with fewer still of really good wine. Their recent economic struggles have left them little choice but to develop new markets, which is good news for us. The 2017 Savatiano from Papagiannakos ($20, wine club price $18) is one of the best white wines we have had in some time. Savatiano is an indigenous varietal in Greece and is truly unique. The wine is unoaked and not allowed to go through malolactic fermentation. It shows lovely texture and palate weight, with flavors of pear and broiled citrus. The aromatics are mineral focused. It is joy in a glass as an aperitif or with rich creamy cheese.

From Macedonia we recently added to the collection the delicious 2016 Macedon Pinot Noir ($20, wine club price $18). This Pinot is reminiscent to me of the best “village” wines from Burgundy and some from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. Mild earthiness on the nose leads to a palate dripping with sweet cherry and mild spice. For Pinot Noir enthusiasts this will be an interesting bottle for you; introducing a whole new Pinot Noir growing area.

Just this past week I tried the 2015 Jordanov Vranec ($20, wine club price $18). The wine arrives next week. This is a big, dark and rich red wine for all wine consumers to “geek out” on a bit. It is also from Macedonia and Vranec. The varietal translates to “black strong horse” or “black stallion.” The wine is nearly black, it is so dark in the glass. The aromatics show savory and meaty notes, leading to a burst of fruit mid-palate, before very firm tannins kick in at the finish. The wine is complex with layers and shows great heft for those who enjoy full bodied wines. It will go great with the hearty meat dishes of fall and winter.

Currently in our wine club we are featuring the 2015 red Cuvee from Colliano ($21, wine club price $18.90). Colliano is made in Slovenia and for most of our wine club members and for us it is the first wine we have ever had from this area. The vineyards are located in the border region of Slovenia, northeast of Venice, Italy. The wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet and Merlot, but presents much lighter than the blend would predict. The wine also possesses fairly high acid, making it perfect with food, especially a rich meal like Thanksgiving dinner. The nose shows spice, coffee and tart-cherry aromas. The palate is layered and sophisticated; focused on cherry and other stone fruits.

More new wine reviews to come next week, but if you can’t wait, stop by the shop to check out any of these or the others that have recently arrived. See you all soon!

• • •

George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country. After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at!/dinnerpartyshop.

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