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ADVERTISING: Advertorial — How we choose our wines

by GEORGE BALLING/the dinner party
| May 11, 2022 1:00 AM

As our shop has grown and the wine collection has expanded, we frequently get asked how we choose what wines we work with? Whether it be for our wine clubs, a placement on our shelves, or a slot in our wine specials we have several criteria we look to so we can make sure we are getting wines in our shop that will please as many of you as we can. We recognize that we are not buying the wine for our preferences only but for yours too, and over the years we have worked with wine consumers here in North Idaho we know your tastes are diverse. Diversity is good and we hope we have something for just about everyone.

The first thing we do is taste a lot of wine. No bottle makes it into any of our programs, or onto our shelves if we haven’t tried it first. We work with every distributor in the state from Ketchum to Boise and all the way to the home of our shop here in CDA, all with the goal of finding the best and most unique selection of wines from all over the globe.

Everyone has their own budgetary sweet spot, and limits on what they will spend for a bottle. Even on the very high end of the budgetary spectrum consumers who might spend over $100 on a bottle may not go over $200. Similarly, for those who look for wines that are more gently priced there are spots we are willing to go to. It is why we work to have wines that fit just about every dollar category from $10, up to prices many of us don’t want to discuss.

A big part too of the money conversation when it comes to wine is finding wines that deliver quality commensurate with the investment. You can always just buy cheap wine but our approach is that its always possible to drink better wine regardless of the price you are comfortable paying. That is the value we work to provide each of you when you come to our shop looking for just the right bottle.

Perhaps the most important criteria we use when selecting wines is varietal correctness. We want the varietal to shine through the winemaking. Two wine grapes illustrate this more than any others, Viognier and Cabernet Franc. Viognier, a white Rhone varietal, is best when it is unoaked allowing all of the vibrant stone fruit flavors to shine through. Winemakers that oak their Viognier seem to be trying too hard to make it into Chardonnay. We prefer and wine consumers seem to as well, to allow Viognier to be Viognier.

Similarly, Cabernet Franc shows a distinctive dusty floral character on the nose. The palate shows different structure than Cabernet Sauvignon and should be allowed to do just that, it is what makes “Franc,” “Franc.” In our opinion about the best Cabernet Franc made on this side of the Atlantic comes from Pride Mountain Vineyards located in the Mayacamas Mountains of Northern California. It shows al the true and unique varietal character of Cabernet Franc with only a touch of Merlot blended in to fill out the back palate of this mid-palate concentrated grape. Beyond these two examples though we always want any wine to stay true to its varietal profile.

Another important aspect of any wine we choose is balance. Wines regardless of their varietal make-up or their appellation of origin should maintain balance. Wine is a product of some science but mostly of art and part of those two components coming together in harmony is not having any “sharp edges” to any wine. All wines have acid, all wines have fruit, all wines have tannin structure to a greater or lesser degree, and so on… There are so many aspects of any wine but the best wines, the ones we include for you don’t have any one quality that inappropriately dominates the others. They have all these parts in balance, in their proper spots if you will.

Our goal with each and every bottle and all consumers is to match the bottle to the consumer’s tastes. It’s why we work diligently to learn as much as we can about your individual tastes and palate preferences and then keep track of all we learn about the bottles you like and dislike so we can make the best recommendation possible. It is always based on what you are looking for. Mary and I may or may not take the same bottles home to enjoy ourselves over the weekend, but the focus will always be on having the right bottles for you. Stop by the shop and let’s see if we can help with your next selection.

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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.

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