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ADVERTISING: Advertorial — GEORGE BALLING: Reports from Wine Country

| August 12, 2020 1:00 AM

Much news from our friends in “Wine Countries” across the west that affects everything from visits to the wineries, to our events here at home to the 2020 vintage. So, let’s get started with news that one way or another will affect most wine consumers.

The 2020 crop looks like a very good to great year across the Western appellations of the U.S. In Northern California they have had near normal and near perfect growing conditions this summer. The annual grape harvest appears to be on time and crop size is normal to above average with one notable exception. I traded emails last week with my old friend John Balletto, President and Founder of Balletto Vineyards. Balletto is in the heart of the Russian River Valley and John runs one of the larger farming operations in the area. John shared with me that the Chardonnay crop looks lighter than normal, although of very good quality. Our conversation went elsewhere prior to learning the reason for the shortfall, but the smaller crop appears to be a slight variation.

In the Northwest both in Idaho and Washington the crop is gradually gaining ground on the late start to the growing year. The cool temperatures and late rains that extended into June in Washington, Idaho and Oregon are a memory now and barring any early fall temperatures and more precipitation the crop looks good but harvest will likely be a bit later than normal.

Late summer temperature swings to either extreme or early rains can certainly play havoc with any farming plan but as of right now it looks like another great vintage, but only time will tell.

The coronavirus continues to affect the tourism aspect of wineries and wine countries across the globe and certainly here at home in the U.S. We have learned that between 60% and 70% of wineries remain shuttered to visitors. In Washington you can only taste if the winery has outdoor facilities, the same is true of California. Many wineries are just not equipped to hold outdoor tastings and either don’t have the physical space or inclination to set them up.

We have received requests from many of our customers both on where to go to taste and to help set appointments, something we are normally happy to do. Currently though we are just not able to. Not only are the wineries that are open more restrictive on how many guests they can accommodate we don’t have good “intel” on which are open and which aren’t. The reason for our limited insights is also affecting our potential schedule of events for this fall. Wineries and wine company up and down the supply chain are not allowing their employees to travel due to the virus outbreak.

Normally at this time of year prior to harvest getting underway we see many winemakers and other winery professionals in the shop to taste us on their latest releases. We have not had one visit this summer! This is a disruption to our normal flow of information on all that is happening around wine country and adds an additional level of uncertainty about whether we will be able to hold our monthly winemaker dinners and tastings this fall. We will do our best to keep all of you posted as soon as the picture becomes more clear.

Finally, we feel the need to offer an update on the various supply chain issues. Sadly, in this case no news is bad news. The logistical constraints of fewer trucks bringing product into North Idaho from wineries around the West and imported wines from ports across the country show no signs of letting up. Just recently one of our wine club wines for the month of August ran straight into these logistical “head winds.” Fortunately, our great local distributor found a work around to allow our club to move forward but it involved some use of airfreight magic.

In another related story we learned that a manufacturer of some canned product that has become very popular in our store was not going to be able to deliver any additional cans for several months. It turns out in news we were not aware of that virus shutdowns have caused a shortage in aluminum cans.

There you have the latest news affecting your wine consumption. Stop by the shop or send us an email with other questions and we will do our best to answer them and keep you updated.

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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!/dinnerpartyshop.