We have written much on how the wine choices have continued to expand here in North Idaho. The options continue to grow on varietals and appellations. In just the 11 years since we opened the dinner party, we continue to see robust growth in offerings. These choices go beyond just the kind of wine or where it comes from, but also include more options at price points.
As we approach the holidays many of us will be entertaining; some will be large gatherings and others more intimate. It is a time to show real forethought to all of your guests and one of the best ways to do that is with the wine you choose to serve with your holiday feasts. It is easier than ever to really put on a nice wine “show” for your guests given the expanding choices at lower price points.
So, while you could continue to buy the same old grocery store brands in every category from sparkling to red and white, why would you? As my friend Doug at Tire Rama in Coeur d’Alene says, “Why would you have your family riding around on the cheapest tires when just a bit more money gives you safety and peace of mind.” It’s no different with wine.
In no category of wine is this more evident than sparkling. So many folks will continue to buy Cooks and other bargain-basement priced bubbly, when for just a bit more or even the same dollars you can make a big uptick in quality. The wines from Veuve de Vernay from France are lovely sparkling wines with nice small bubbles and a dry palate. Both the Brut and Brut Rosé are $15 ($13.50 if you are in our wine club) and will convince you to spend just a bit more. So many wine consumers say they either don’t like sparkling or that it gives them a headache. The rub is that they haven’t tried the really good sparkling wines, instead opting for those tired grocery store names that indeed are not very good and can deliver a wicked headache.
During nearly every trip to the grocery store, I will see carts loaded with the big bottles of Yellow Tail and Barefoot. While it is so easy to find competitively priced bubbly versus the cheap stuff, the same is true in red and white wine. With a bit of experimentation and the guidance of your favorite wine professional, you will find many choices in red and white which, dollar for dollar, are not only superior wines but will be better for you. They will contain fewer additives, will be made with better quality grapes from more sustainable farming sources and if you are allergic to sulfites, may treat your allergies more gently too.
Whether you like Cabernet and Merlot or Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc- if you are willing to experiment with some of the same grape varietals from places like Europe or South America and entertain smaller lesser known producers, you will likely find a better wine that has the added bonus of treating you better.
Consider the Anterra Merlot from Italy, only $12 or the Altano red blend from the great Portuguese producer Symington, also $12 or the 10 Span Cabernet from California for only $10. I challenge any Yellow Tail drinker to not notice how much better these wines are.
Here is the challenge though. You have to make an extra stop. Really good wines from small producers that represent amazing values aren’t available at the grocery store or other big box operations. They are in the small independent locally owned shops where you can develop a relationship with the wine professional and owner to really find the great well-priced wines you crave and deserve. In short order, you will find the extra stop to be worth it, and there is no better time to get started and make that effort than at the holidays. Treat your guests to the good stuff and do it for the same dollar invested in your wine.
You could keep buying the same old grocery store big brands but why would you?
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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 facebook.com/#!/dinnerpartyshop