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Wineries square off in new North Idaho Fair and Rodeo competition

by George Balling
| June 30, 2010 9:00 PM

Since we opened The Dinner Party two and one half years ago, we have been impressed and a little surprised with the vibrancy of the wine industry here in North Idaho. Whether talking about the caliber of local producers here in Idaho and neighboring Washington, the breadth and quality of the selection available from our great local distributors or the extraordinary palates of the local wine professionals, North Idaho has a great wine scene.

It was this line up of factors that started us thinking about how to bring all together for the wine consumers in the area and focus attention on this great local industry. When we approached the North Idaho Fair and Rodeo about starting a competition for professional wineries, they really embraced the idea. Chelsea Rosenberger and Chris Holloway from the fair came up with the idea to have the competition culminate with a grand tasting on the last Saturday of the Fair prior to the Rodeo. How very exciting for all of us as wine professionals and for those who love wine to be able to taste many of the bottles that were entered in our competition?

The judging panel in addition to me is made up of some of the most respected palates in the area. Eric Cook is the most prominent person in the wine industry here in North Idaho as the sommelier at Beverly's atop the Coeur d'Alene Resort. He presides over one of the best lists I've found anywhere. He is flat out great at picking great wines, and serves them up at Beverly's in a seamless and flawless manner.

Jenniffer Curan from the Club at Black Rock previously worked with Eric as the General Manager at Beverly's. Now at Black Rock, she works with some of the most educated wine consumers in the area and brings to the panel a wealth of wine knowledge coupled with a keen sense of the commercial appeal of the wines we will be judging.

Mark Daanen, owner of Daanen's Deli in Hayden, was here well in advance of the rest of the wine retailers in the area, in many cases paving the way for us. He has one of the most nuanced palates I have ever found. When attending trade tastings I always try to sit near Mark, as he picks up on things many less sophisticated palates miss.

Awards will be determined and presented for best in each varietal category, and then best in show determined from those category winners. Second- and third-place finishes will also be announced and awarded ribbons. I am honored to work with all of the judges, and look forward to learning a great deal as we taste some great wine from the participating wineries.

And wineries there are. We have not restricted the completion to any appellation, so wineries from all over the United States and Europe are welcome and encouraged. While we fully expect a higher level of participation from Washington and Idaho, we have also received very positive responses from Oregon and California. This is great news, as it ensures us entrants in the category of Pinot Noir, and additionally will allow us to see just how good the Northwest wines are as they stand up to those from California.

Vehrs, one of our local distributors, will be donating Riedel stemware for the judging so we are certain all wines will show their best attributes. Lynne Moyer of Hayden Beverage will assist with setting up the panel during judging - no small task. Idaho Wine Merchants, Click, Odom and Bottles of Grapes, three of our other distributors, have already gathered support from the wineries and winemakers they represent guaranteeing us a robust contest and tasting.

The Grand Tasting to be held on the 28th of August was the brainchild of Chelsea and Chris at the Fair. What a great way to spend your Saturday at the Fair and Rodeo with the opportunity to taste many of the competing wines including some of the winners. We love the idea and look forward to it being a great and delicious event. Your ticket will get you a logo wine glass and five 2-ounce tastes of wine that you can select. You will be able to purchase additional tastes at the event.

We hope you all plan to come out to the Fair and Rodeo and our Grand Tasting. Cliff Harris has guaranteed us great weather, and the lineup of wineries all in one spot will be the biggest the

If there is a topic you would like to read about or questions on wine you can email George@thedinnerpartyshop.com or make suggestions by contacting the Healthy Community section at the Coeur d'Alene Press, ldukes@cdapress.com.

George Balling is co-owner with his wife Mary Lancaster of the dinner party a wine and table top decor shop in Coeur d'Alene. George is also the managing judge of The North Idaho Fair and Rodeo wine competition. www.thedinnerpartyshop.com.

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