Delivering great bottles of wine to our customers is our job. It is our goal now, and has been for the last 11 plus years that the dinner party has been around. It is incredibly rewarding to hear your feedback on the quality of the wine and the service to go with it that we provide. What doesn’t often get noticed though, is the work that goes on behind the scenes by our great crew of local distributors. Everyone that we do business with here in North Idaho, and they literally span the state, are great at what they do — from assembling broad and deep portfolios of wine to choose from, to getting all delivered on time they make the system run. They rarely get the wonderful feedback that we do — knowing we have done a good job for you, the wine consumer.
Next time you are out and about and you run into one of them, say thanks! I know it will mean a lot to them and it is something they probably don’t hear often enough. Writing about the list of those who really do an outstanding job is always a bit risky. It in no way means the others don’t do a great job. If they didn’t, we simply wouldn’t work with them at all. There are a few who really stand out as having done exemplary work, so this list of those who really excel should in no way construe that the others don’t. Like all things in life there are standouts, and here they are!
Kevin Olsonberg, of Odom Southern of Idaho, sits atop the heap and it should be of no surprise to anyone. Kevin has been at it for more than 20 years and is a consummate professional. He is also one of the hardest working folks I know in the wine business. While most everyone was taking it easy during the week between Christmas and New Years, Kevin showed up at the shop with samples ready to taste on Dec. 27. All year long if we run into a supply issue, whether busy or slow, he finds a way to get the product to us himself, showing up with the back of his car dragging and piled high with cases of wine. Kevin works for the largest distributor in the country, which is not always a good thing, but having been there so long he knows exactly which levers to pull and buttons to push to accomplish what we need accomplished.
Cassie Burr has worked with us and our customers for more than five years now. She is a joy to work with; fun, positive and always solutions oriented. She does all she can to provide a great wine experience to us, and by extension, to our customers. Cassie’s employer, Barrique, is a small distributor with tremendous influence due to the spectacular “book” of wines they have assembled. They work hard at finding wine from the most far flung appellations while also securing some very big names from more familiar spots. Cassie presents them all with timely professionalism, and with rare exception, gets them in our hands — problem free. No small feat since she is pretty much a one-woman show here in North Idaho.
This next award is a two part prize. Genevieve Waldman from Hayden Beverage just started working with us this last year and would easily win the award as most improved. She hit the ground running — and running hard and fast — delivering the substantial scope of the Hayden book. It is a team award though, as Monica Rozier, the general manager for Hayden’s operation here in the Northern reaches of the state, is quite a force. Of all we deal with, Monica is the most professional of the lot and is always supremely prepared to present the best that Hayden Beverage has to offer. And she knows how to apply it to what our customers are looking for. Her knowledge and professionalism run throughout the organization she has built, making them wonderful to deal with.
Rob Martin, of Noble Imports, is also new to the team of folks that we work with at the dinner party. Truth be told, Noble has never been a big player for our customers; they just never quite seemed to have the right folks in place. That changed when Rob showed up. He has worked diligently to learn our customers’ tastes and to dig up the gems from the Noble portfolio to satisfy those tastes. Like all that we have discussed, he makes sure the product arrives to fill those needs too.
Next time you run into any of the great distributors at one of our winemaker dinners or at a tasting here at the shop, offer them a thank-you. They are instrumental in getting great bottles of wine into your hands every day, and all of them — the ones we’ve discussed and the many others- take their jobs seriously and are great at it!
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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.