We write frequently about the number of wines we taste; it is about 50 to 60 per week. We almost never turn down a chance to taste with any of our distributors, importers, winemakers or brokers. We consider it the most important part of our job and view it as the only way to bring the best selection of wines to you, our customers. Ultimately that is the key, finding wines that you all want to drink while providing variety in your choices.
This isn’t all that hard to accomplish. All of the great wine professionals we deal with come to us. The very best are diligent in arriving at their scheduled time each week, toting a sample bag with what they think are the best selections they have to offer across price points and spanning all the possible appellations. We appreciate all the work they do that allows us to bring to you the best we can offer.
This is part of the reason it is such a mystery to me that restaurants across the board here in North Idaho don’t do a better job with their wine lists. Far too often, restaurant owners still employ the practice of calling a single distributor and turning over their entire list to that distributor to “write” for them. It strikes me that, not only does this limit their wine sales, it is in fact just flat out lazy! For consumers, it results in seeing the same old, tired names on list after list as they dine out around town. For those owners and managers tasked with putting together a wine list though: it is your job, so do it.
Is it time-consuming? Sure it is! Are you going to find a wine that you want to add every time you taste? Of course not. You will, over time though, find wines that allow you to stand out from the crowd and really make your restaurant a destination, time and time again.
We find that frequently, a restaurant will keep the same old, over-exposed names on their list for years. I can name a handful that hasn’t changed a single thing in the 12 years that we have been here and owned the shop. This is even more startling to think about as our area continues to grow and more folks arriving seek out fresh and innovative wine options.
We encourage all wine consumers to support the places that do the work of keeping their lists fresh and innovative. Beyond supporting them, the other option we all have when we are dining out is to ask the establishment to carry things that we would all like to see. As we head into spring and summer, suggest they carry a dry rose as one of their by-the-glass choices. If you crave something international or even if you want to see some of the new names from Walla Walla or California, suggest to the restaurant that they try some of your favorites.
Idaho liquor law allows all of us as retailers or restaurants to buy the same wine, so if one of us can get a particular wine, then we all can. Certainly, at times we all should.
While as a group, wine consumers continue to work to improve our choices at local restaurants, we encourage you to support those who are doing the work of putting together really great wine lists that change frequently and feature original choices. While we all know the names (and this may miss a few that do that work), I would include in my list the properties of the Coeur d’Alene resort led by Beverly’s, Bluebird and Syringa, Vine and Olive, our great partner for our winemaker dinners, Fleur de Sel, Seasons and Fire.
The choice of wines to consume here in North Idaho is robust, ever-changing and includes virtually every appellation and price point that we should all look to have access to when dining out.
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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.