Working with the greats

As we often do during dinner, this past week we had a movie on while we enjoyed a glass or two of wine and our meal. I don’t even remember the name of the movie but I do remember that Paul Newman was in it. The film looked to have been made late in his epic career, he looked old. As most Newman performances were, it was fabulous. There was a young actor in the movie as well. Mary and I have previously said when watching films like this with great performers side by side with young actors, and commented again during this film that it would have to be daunting. As you are learning your craft to be opposite a legend. Scary, intimidating and daunting. But maybe not, what an opportunity to learn!

The time since we opened the dinner party, 9 years now, and time spent working in wineries in California we have been at it for over a decade. We still have much to learn, we discover that virtually every day. We learn from our great group of local distributors, from winemakers who visit us, or who we get to meet when travelling from importers and from our wonderful and loyal customers. There are not many folks in the wine business who don’t have a unique perspective or a previously unknown nugget of “intel” that doesn’t help us get better at our own craft. From all we have worked with we have gained knowledge, an important distinction from information. Information is everywhere and in most cases useless unless it is coupled with true knowledge, which is vital in the wine industry.

During all this time in the wine business we have had the opportunity to work with some of the true greats in the world of wine. As I thought watching a mesmerizing performance by Paul Newman maybe it isn’t so daunting, perhaps it is just an amazing opportunity to gain true knowledge like we have been fortunate enough to do in wine.

We have discovered over this period that most folks on both sides of our counter are genuinely nice people who wish the best for us. We have been flattered by our group of customers that are really pulling for us and that appreciate what we try to do for them. They help us get better at what we do and motivate us to find not only great wine but great wine for them.

Within the industry we have also been fortunate to work with some of the biggest names and most talented winemakers and executives that work daily at wine. Almost to a person they have not been intimidating at all. They have only strived to help us get better, whether it is overtly or with gentle prodding and suggestion they have motivated us to continue to learn and gain knowledge about all the aspects of growing grapes, making wine, selling wine and all that both literally and figuratively goes into every bottle.

All businesses are competitive including wineries and the other segments of the wine business. And while as any good business must do you keep an eye on the competition. With wineries and winemakers though we have always found them willing to help all in their business even their closest rivals. Some of the biggest names and most famous are those most willing to help a business like ours get going, they were some of the first to join us for events to help us figure out a sustainable structure for our wine clubs and to plot the strategy for our collection.

I’m assuming that is how it would be for a young actor appearing next to legend. Much to learn, much help given. Whether it be Paul Newman, or Bruce Aidells, or Bill Phelps, or Allen Shoup or Dan Cederquist working with the greats is of immeasurable value and a chance to learn so much that contributes to success at your craft. We are thankful for it everyday.

If there is a topic you would like to read about or if you have 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 décor shop located by Costco in Coeur d’Alene. George worked as a judge in many wine competitions, and his articles are published around the country. You can learn more about the dinner party at Be sure and check out our weekly blog at You can get all of these articles as well as other great wine tips by friending us on Facebook at!/dinnerpartyshop.

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