GEORGE BALLING: If there were only one wine

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It is the question we get more frequently than any other… If there was only one wine on the planet you would drink what would it be?” The variations of the question are many, “what is your favorite wine?,” “what is your go to varietal, and “what is the one wine in your shop you always recommend?”

They are all equally unanswerable! The simple thing is there is not only one wine or one varietal or even one place where wine grapes are grown and wine is made. There are quite literally and thankfully thousands, in every category. If not, we would be bored….

We suspect many of you too, our customers and readers of this column would be as well. That is what the “wine journey” is all about, trying new things and finding new favorites. Not that we don’t all have our old favorites, of course we do, and they are great to revisit but to us and what we try to help our customers with is finding the new things.

In an attempt to answer the question posed in emails and at our monthly winemaker dinners and tastings here is a small subset of the things we are really enjoying now.

There is much disagreement on wine favorites even in our wine professional heavy household. I still really enjoy a big rich California style Chardonnay, while Mary prefers lighter and crisper white wine. My choice for this part of “the list” will not be a surprise, about every other week I bring home a bottle of Truchard Chardonnay. The wine is dripping with lush fruit focused on apples and just the right amount of butter and oak, at $35, $31.50 if you are in our wine club, it outshines every “Chard” we carry.

The Piedmont Region of Northern Italy is Mary’s favorite both for white and red. The Bricco dei Guazzi Gavi di Gavi frequently shows up in our home wine cooler. At $16, $14.40 if you are in our wine club, it is a light and clean wine with lovely citrus flavors, light enough to be a great aperitif on its own and with enough acid to handle most any meal.

On to the reds… For some time now, we have been singing the praises of the Saintsbury Stanley Ranch Pinot Noir and we are not about to stop now. At $35, $31.50 if you are in our wine club the wine so over delivers, drinking like a wine that should cost well north of $50! Lush cherry fruit on the nose and palate, mild earthiness and just the right amount of tannin wrapping the lovely core of fruit it remains the best we have had in a very long time.

We just finished up a winemaker dinner with Jean Francois Pellet this past week and I have to say I did find a new wine for my favorites list. The Amavi Syrah at $30, $27 if you are in our wine club, is the latest in a long list of great wines made by Jean Francois and Pepper Bridge Winery. Their sister winery Amavi where “JF” also runs the show produces 3 wines and I have to tell you the Syrah is my favorite from both of the wineries. Our feelings were confirmed as it was far and away the best seller at both the dinner and the tasting the following night. Laurent and Patricia, the team that runs Fleur de Sel where we hold our winemaker dinners also agreed, heaping praise on this great bottle, no small thing given the caliber of their palates!

There you have it our attempt at answering the unanswerable, we can’t narrow it down to just one wine but getting it down to 4 of those which currently and regularly get consumed at our home is a start. Stop by the shop to learn about some of our other favorites!

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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