Italy and North Idaho

We have recently had the privilege to try some great Italian wines that are new to the market here in North Idaho (or at least new to us) that when combined with some of the existing offerings are expanding greatly the list of possibilities from this old world growing region. We started on this journey when a customer of ours began asking about wine from some of the Italian regions we were less familiar with. The customer specifically asked about wines from Orvieto and Costamolino.

Both regions are known for their crisp and mineral noted white wines. Whenever we have a customer order items that are lesser known to us we always like to "jump on the bandwagon" and give the wines a try, after all trying new wines to us is the best part of the job. We found them both to be delightful and interestingly readily available here in North Idaho. It is always interesting too that whether it be the power of suggestion or just the raising of awareness once you try some new things, you start to notice others that were previously untried from the same region or country.

Another great find in the process has been a super Tuscan red blend 6 42 produced by Badiola from the Maremma district in Tuscany. We were just introduced to this gem at local restaurant Fire on Sherman Avenue. If you have not been yet it is a must try as the restaurant turns out the best pizza in the area from their brick oven. The combinations are creative, the pizza is great and the wine list is loaded with tasty Italian wines including the aforementioned 6 42 and one of our consistent favorites Querciabella, which not surprisingly comes from the same area in Maremma as the 6 42.

Part of our re-epiphany of the great wines of Italy too has been the introduction of a new distributor to the area. While at times it seems to be a lot of work, tasting so much wine from so many different folks - OK well not that much work, it is always great to be introduced to an entirely new portfolio of wines like those coming in from Vino Direct. Their all Italian book of wines has many great Barolos, Nebbiolos and Sangiovese which are only the start of a well rounded portfolio of offerings from all over the country.

The wines from Vino Direct are just starting to show up both in the retail market as we have some on the shelf and at local restaurants too as they have begun to gain placement on the lists at Angelo's, Fire, Daanen's and some other spots too.

In addition to the still wines that we can now access there is also an increase in the number of Proseccos that are being imported. At the holidays this is a boon to wine consumers as the sparkling Italians are of great quality, and we find in most cases are more gently priced than their counterparts from France and even those produced in the states, making them the perfect choice for the large gatherings at this time of year.

The Prosecco from Zonin has been the mainstay in this category for a long time and is still quite tasty, but now the introduction of those produced by Valdo, Rebulli and Rive Della Chiesa and others has given us more choices of delicious wines at compelling prices.

For all of us as consumers these choices all still come down to the single most important thing which is whether you like the wine or not; however we are currently being presented with a great opportunity to expand our choices with these wonderful and newly available wines from Italy. This too is our chance to expand our palate knowledge, as some are being poured by the glass at restaurants and soon a tasting will be scheduled to feature many of them.

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

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 by Costco. George is also the managing judge of The North Idaho Wine Rodeo and writes frequently for the online version of Coeur d'Alene Magazine at His articles can also be found on the blog at

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