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ADVERTISING: Advertorial — GEORGE BALLING: What I did on my summer vacation

| July 22, 2020 1:00 AM

When I got this assignment in elementary school I always dreaded it. But after just returning from a week off, I felt excited to write this column. Mary and I are very grateful to get a week away. We spent our week off at a friend’s lake cabin on Hayden Lake. We had family visit a couple of days and had dinner with dear friends who have a home on the lake. It was a wonderful time, very relaxing and we did enjoy some great wine. Here is the rundown of some of the standouts. Some of the wine we enjoyed were vintage bottlings from our private stash, while others are store favorites. I have omitted prices from this column altogether, since some of these are unlikely to be found. Stop by the shop or send along an email if you would like more details including prices.

When we boated to our friend’s home for dinner, they had pulled out a bottle of the Neyers Chardonnay they had purchased at the shop. While I only tasted the wine to ensure it was free of cork taint, I was blown away at how great this wine is. It has also begun to develop a very serious following among regular customers. While classically California in style the wine shows wonderful restraint and balance like all of Bruce Neyers’ wines. Highlighted by toasty oak, a creamy finish and plenty of apple and citrus notes, the wine is a keeper to be sure.

I only had a sip of the Neyers as we had brought a bottle of the Casina Bric Brut Rose Spumante of Nebbiolo from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy with us to share. We discovered this wine last year during the holidays and like the Neyers, it has developed quite a following at the shop. The wine is barely pink, bone dry and crisp, with fine, tight bubbles and lovely, berry-noted fruit flavors. While it is good at the holidays, it also was delicious on a warm summer evening.

A pair of Sauvignon Blancs both really stood out for us. The Rochiolli and Spottswoode from the Russian River Valley and Napa respectively have traditionally been two of our favorites. They did not disappoint. Both showed abundant notes of ripe, pink grapefruit and citrus rind, and exhibited great texture and minerality, leading to a crisp, clean finish. Both are absolutely lovely wines and we are down to the last few bottles of each at the store.

We dug into our own stash for a couple older vintages of Pinot Noir that we enjoyed on separate nights. The 2006 Soter Vineyards Beacon Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir was just stunning. The wine has aged beautifully, exhibiting a mellow palate and perfect weight, paired with lush, cherry notes and the slightest touch of earth. Given this wine’s age and its stunning development over the years, it is little wonder why Tony Soter’s wines sell out immediately upon release. I would buy them the next time they come into the shop, but they are bottles built to wait, assuming you can pull that off.

Another night we had a bottle of the 2012 Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir, and it was another fabulous Pinot. A bit more youthful exuberance was on display, especially from the cool growing year in Oregon in 2012. The acids were a bit more prominent, but like the Soter, the wine was developing a deep and layered flavor profile that went from earthy mushroom character to ripe, black cherry. It is another great, age-worthy wine to get a few bottles of next time it releases.

To me, summer fare from the grill and dining “al fresco” always calls to stay with lighter-bodied varietals and productions. With that caveat, it is no wonder the 2018 Origine Beaujolais from Pierre and Marie Chermette was such a standout. As 2018 continues to build acclaim across Europe from the winepress, we can see in this bottle how great of a year it is going to be as more wines get released. Beaujolais is one of the first reds to market from every vintage and we thoroughly enjoyed this wine. It showed ample tannins on the finish for Beaujolais, giving the wine more heft than many. The palate was loaded with ripe, cherry fruit flavor. The aromatic profile was nothing short of spectacular, with layers alternating between mild earthiness; ripe, dark stone fruit notes and a steely backbone. It should not be missed.

There is the wrap up of our time off this summer, it was a great trip down memory lane for some of these wines and a fun discovery on others. We look forward to more!

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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.