ADVERTISING: Advertorial — GEORGE BALLING: New favorites and old friends

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As is our normal schedule, we have been tasting a lot of wine. It is our job to taste and to continually find new things to include on our shelves, in our wine club and in our weekly wine special, the ‘Friday Night Flights.’ Our goal is to always bring you, our customers, plenty of new choices. Here are some of our recent favorites — a blend of new and some old friends dating back to our time in wine country.

We recently tried the 2016 Four Vines Naked Chardonnay ($12, $10.80 Wine Club). We were quite impressed, which is enough to bring the wine in and place it on our shelf. It is an even bigger statement that this Chardonnay is unoaked! Domestic Chardonnay is really in a good place right now. Gone are the days when the wines were almost a meal in themselves, with so much butter and so much oak- just too rich. Then the pendulum swung the other direction to the super lean, one noted, stainless fermented Chardonnay. While the Four Vines is all handled in stainless steel, it shows great depth, richness and layering of flavors. It tastes to me like it still went through at least partial malo-lactic fermentation for just a hint of creaminess on the palate, reminiscent of a good Chablis. At this price, it is a steal.

The 2015 Neyers Carneros Chardonnay ($30, Wine Club $27) is truly a show stopper. Bruce Neyers ages his Chard in oak barrels and allows for full malo-lactic fermentation. The resulting Chardonnay is lovely, with opulent fruit notes of apple and citrus and perfectly balanced oak and butter throughout, paired with perfect palate weight. This wine is what continues to make Chardonnay the most requested white varietal. It is delicious!

Hard to believe the dinner party has been here for more than 11 years now! One of the wines we did well with early on was the Delas Saint-Esprit Côtes du Rhône Rouge ($15, Wine Club $13.50). When we tried the 2017 vintage a couple of weeks ago we were thrilled to have the wine back in the mix. The Southern Rhone blend of mostly Grenache shows a combination of lovely cherry and savory aromas. The palate is juicy and ripe for a smooth and easy drinking wine at a crowd-pleasing price.

The 2013 Truchard Zinfandel ($30, $27 Wine Club) is a great example of California Zinfandel, from one of our favorite, small-family producers in Napa. The Truchards have been making wine since the early ’70s and remain one of the iconic families in Northern California. Their full line up of wines are nothing short of spectacular. The Zinfandel is loaded with ripe berry-noted fruit throughout and shows just a hint of pepper on the finish, making for a wine perfect with everything from a Sunday beef stew to a Tuesday night Pizza.

We just recently tried for the first time, the 2016 Domaine du Grand Montmirail Gigondas ($35, $31.50 Wine Club). Gigondas is one of our favorite appellations within the Rhone Valley of France. The wines from Gigondas are Grenache based, and this wine also includes Mourvédre and Syrah. It is a wonderful bottle of wine with classic bacon fat and other savory aromas leading to rich, red fruit notes on the palate. The tannins are firm but not overbearing, instead perfectly framing the fruit and lengthening the finish.

The 2015 Ghiomo Nebbiolo d’Alba ($25, $22.50 Wine Club) is another delicious entry from one of the best vintages ever for Italy. Nebbiolo is such an interesting grape, it presents so light in the glass, almost like a Pinot Noir, but on the palate, it is a big, rich and structured wine that defies its color. This Nebbiolo is all red fruit noted with a juicy mid palate. The wine also shows nice earthiness on the nose and the finish develops the sleek tannins the varietal is known for. This one will not last. There are only a few cases around.

Stop by the shop for other new wines we have found. The collection is always changing.

CORRECTION: In my column last week about the trend of aging wine in used bourbon barrels, I mistakenly cited the Wagner Family and Caymus Winery in Napa, as being one of the wineries making bourbon barrel aged wines. This is not accurate. The brand I was referring to is from Constellation Brands and has no connection or affiliation with the Wagners or Caymus. They do not produce any wine aged in bourbon barrels. I regret the error.

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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.

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