It is hard for us to believe, but in just a couple of weeks the dinner party will be have been open for 11 years! Mary and I would like to express our sincere thanks to all of our customers, loyal readers and the many friends we have made and keep close since we moved here and opened the shop. The community has truly embraced us and it is a testament to the quality and caliber of folks here in North Idaho; it means the world to us.
We have seen so much change in the wine industry here in our home community over those years. It is interesting to reflect on some of the developments. There are more than we can cover in one column, but these are some that stand out.
Glassware in restaurants has certainly improved. This might not sound like a wine industry trend, but we would sure say it is. When we first moved here, we found many restaurants still using the thick, small glass wine glasses with the clumsy rolled edge. While durable, they are simply horrible to drink wine out of. Eleven years later, it is rare to go into any restaurant where they are not using Riedel or some other crystal wine glass with a cut edge and thin structure. It makes a difference, so we encourage the handful of restaurants who haven’t fully embraced this upgrade to go for it. You will sell more wine.
Rosé sales continue to grow. When we opened the shop, we were familiar with so many great, dry rosés from around the world, and we stocked them. But back then there were not many takers. The sweet and cloying white Zinfandels were still too much in everyone’s memory to find many wine consumers willing to take the leap. Gradually though, wine drinkers have come around, and now sales of these lovely dry, pink wines continue to grow and it is a well-established category. Especially in summer, nearly every restaurant offers at least one dry rosé by the glass. A great trend in our opinion.
International wines continue to grow as a segment, and we couldn’t be happier. The wine industry when we started was largely Northwest centric. The wines were great and represented really compelling values. As prices for wines from Washington have continued to climb, in some cases to unsustainable levels, it has opened the door to more European and some New World imports to find a place in the market here. With a large and robust array of importers willing to represent wines from far away appellations, the choices from abroad are broader than ever.
The flipside of the above trend though, is a steady increase in price for wines from Washington. This is not a good or a sustainable trend. For every increase in the price of Northwest wines it makes those from California and overseas look better and better. Regional pride notwithstanding, there is only so far wine consumers will go on the price scale for Washington wine before they move on to a better perceived value.
The trend in blends is starting to wane. When we first opened the shop the trend was still for most wines to be varietally bottled. After a couple of years, we started to see a big increase in blended wines, especially in reds. Then, as these things often do, it went too far. All of the wines seemed to be blended and predictably they all started to taste the same. We are grateful now that the pendulum has begun to swing back the other way and more and more winemakers are going back to bottling varietal wines, a good trend.
Chardonnay is becoming balanced again. Eleven years ago, Chardonnay (especially from California) seemed to be a meal in itself- too much oak, too much butter, no acid. Then the whole Chardonnay “world” seemed to move to stainless steel fermentation and ageing. We went from opulent to boring and thin. Thankfully, Chardonnay is now finding its “sweet spot.” The butter and oak are there, but in balance.
As the years go on we will continue to report on trends in our industry with an eye to what is most important to readers and wine consumers. Mary and I would like to thank all of you again for the overwhelming support you have shown us and our little shop, it is our pleasure to serve 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.