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ADVERTISING: Advertorial — Winery challenges

| December 9, 2020 1:00 AM

2020 has been quite the year. The effects on many businesses have been severe. Not a day goes by when Mary and I are not grateful to be headquartered in Idaho. We have been able to be open the entire time, and the support from our community has been nothing short of extraordinary. We are grateful beyond words and our Dinner Party “community” has softened even the biggest challenges we have faced.

For wineries though, COVID and the related closings have really put them in the toughest of spots. While their “retail” business of selling to shops like ours and others who carry wine has continued on and even improved in many states, they have been forced to close their tasting rooms, eliminating their direct-to-consumer sales, the most profitable sale for any winery. Restaurant closings have further eliminated an important channel for sales especially of their higher end offerings. Add all that 2020 has served up and there are wineries that are really struggling. As wine industry professionals, this is very tough to watch. We know many of these folks personally, and there are many that never miss a chance to support charities in a big way. When you are out buying wine this holiday season you may want to consider supporting some of these wineries.

Rich Funk, owner-winemaker at Saviah Cellars in Walla Walla, is one of the most supportive and charitable people we know. No matter the request we have made over the dozen years we have known Rich has he ever failed to deliver in a big way, no matter the cause. He is a true gentleman of the wine business and he produces really good wine on top of that. Next time you are looking for some great Washington wine, grab a bottle of Saviah or his related bottlings in the Jack line.

Charlie Gilbert from Gilbert Cellars in Yakima is one of the nicest young men we know in the wine world. I realize that makes me sound old, but from his start at a very young age in this industry he has understood the importance of relationships and does all he can to support so many of us in the wine business. Like Rich, regardless of the cause he always “shows up,” and in his youthful creativity, he is one to support in these tough times. His idea of wrapping his lovely Left Bank Red Blend in a fun Christmas wrap this year is just another example of how he helps us do what we do. Grab a bottle the next time you are in the shop — you will love the wine.

Sure, John Lancaster is family, but never once have we asked John to make a charitable donation of his wine and even sensed the slightest hesitation. He makes the trip to North Idaho frequently in support of his wines and those in the area who carry them. Skylark has been especially hard hit this year, not only due to COVID, but also the fires that burned through Napa and Sonoma. We always have some Skylark on hand and encourage you to show your support to John for all the great things he has done over the years.

This year has not been easy for any of us. It will stick in all our memories for many wrong reasons. While we are all dealing with the backwash from the virus when out shopping for our holiday wine, remember these folks and others who have been affected by the virus and fires when you are selecting the bottles to share with those you are closest to.

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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.