George Balling: The Top 10 Wines of 2017

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We don’t have the room to do a top 100 like the Wine Spectator so we will settle for naming our top 10 wines of 2017. Our study is clearly less than scientific, but it is based on a combination of what Mary and I have thought of the wines, and which wines have been the most popular with our customers. When it comes to the more expensive bottles though our rating and how much we liked the wines gets more emphasis. So here they are!

10. 2015 Drumheller Merlot. This gem from our friends at Chateau Ste. Michele Wine Estates snuck into the top 10 late. When we tried the wine we were quickly enamored with its dense rich fruit and lovely aromatics, but when we featured it in our holiday tasting this last Saturday our customers confirmed it selling the wine out albeit temporarily. $14, wine club price $12.60.

9. 2013 Querciabella Mongrana. This great super Tuscan blend of Sangiovese Cabernet and Merlot continues to amaze. For all of the 10 years we have had the shop it is the one wine we have kept on the shelf every vintage. We still love it as much as the first time we had it in Rome and our customers agree. $27, wine club price $24.30.

8. 2015 Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc. We poured this wine at our benefit for the wine country fire victims and folks are still coming back to get it. We have known about this tasty classic California style SB since we lived in the town of Kenwood prior to opening our store. It is a lovely combination of pink grapefruit and steely minerality. $14, wine club price $12.60.

7. 2014 Failla Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. Failla is another winery we have been fans of since we lived in wine country. How we ended up with the wine on the shelf in our shop frankly though was a mistake! The distributor was supposed to send the Pinot Noir which is also delicious but sent the “Chard” instead. We introduced the wine to one of our Chardonnay loving customers and the rest is history, it is now a fixture in the collection. $40, wine club price $36.

6. 2016 Bonny Doon Clos de Gilroy Grenache. We hadn’t tried the wines from Bonny Doon in decades and then they showed up in the market. The Grenache is a wonderful fruit driven wine loaded with ripe cherry flavors and mild earthiness. $20, wine club price $18.

5. 2014 Secret Squirrel Columbia Valley Red. “The Squirrel” as we affectionately call it has taken our shop by storm. Its brilliant packaging, entertaining back label story and excellently crafted wine by Corliss Cellars in Walla Walla have caused nonstop demand. We agree with all who come back for it over and over again, the wine is fabulous. $30, wine club price $27.

4. 2015 La Bracesca Sabizio Rosso di Montepulciano. From the Antinori “mother ship” this great red wine combines a world class producer and an unparalleled vintage for Europe in 2015. Lush fruit, firm tannin and perfect acid create a delicious food wine that should not be missed. It comes back into the shop this week. $15, wine club price $13.50.

3. 2014 Saintsbury Stanley Ranch Pinot Noir. This wine is an amazing value in Pinot Noir. It is quite simply the best we have in the shop right now. Classic Carneros grown fruit is perfectly displayed in this lovely wine. Crushed cherries and morel mushrooms dominate the aromatics leading to a rich and cherry laden palate. It could go “toe to toe” with Pinots costing 4 times as much. $35, wine club price $31.50.

2. 2014 Amavi Syrah. From Pepper Bridge Winery and winemaker Jean Francois Pellet this wine returned to the shop and soared to the top of our ranking. It is simply the best example of how well Syrah grows in Walla Walla and the extraordinary talent of Jean Francois. It is impossible to overstate the caliber of this wine. $30, wine club price $27.

1. NV Bollinger Rosè Champagne. This wine landed atop our survey after we retried it in the fall. We have not had a “bubbly” like this in a very long time. The bubbles are so light and tight the wine takes on an ethereal quality that is transcendent. I can’t think of a finer Champagne or wine of any type to highlight as our wine of the year. $95, wine club price $85.50.

Happy New Year to all of our readers and customers, we have enjoyed the year in wine and hope you have as well! Come see us in the shop.

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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