ADVERTISING: Advertorial — GEROGE BALLING: All a ‘grape’ can do

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This past week we held one of our back-to-back events, a winemaker dinner on Thursday then a tasting here at the shop on Friday evening. Our guest for these events was Javier Bayona, from Bodegas Chavarri, located in the Rioja Region of Spain. We had scheduled these events many months ago when Javier was in the shop so that we could taste his portfolio of wines. We are always so honored when a winemaker or winery owner makes the trip from Europe just for events here in our “small-ish” wine community of North Idaho! It was a fabulous pair of events and we can’t thank Javier enough for making the journey, especially since it was complete with a 4-hour delay in Denver due to snow. As always, the wine dinner at Fleur de Sel was exceptional. Not only was the food and service all we have come to expect from Laurent and Patricia and their team at “FDS,” we are always amazed at how Laurent embraces the origin and adapts his classical French training to other cuisines, in this case Spanish fare.

Over the last 12 years we have held many events, and Javier made this one truly special. Mary and I have said many times in the ensuing days that he was among the best we have ever hosted. His knowledge is unrivaled, and his presentation was delivered with a European charm and warmth that was special. He made time to speak to every one of our customers personally for as long as the customer wanted.

While Javier was key in making these back-to-back events special, they were also fascinating as four of the five wines we featured were all 100% tempranillo. The fifth wine was albariño, the most widely harvested white grape in Spain, and was the best seller of both events. After the albariño though, we ventured into the multi-faceted world of tempranillo, the most widely harvested red grape in the country. This is when we were able to see all a grape can do.

First in the lineup was a dry rosé of tempranillo. It was fabulous wine and surprising how such a light and crisp wine could be made from the normally full bodied and robust tempranillo varietal.

Part of what makes Bodegas Chavarri such a compelling story and a great partner for our events is that, while they are located in Rioja, they produce wines from some of the major regions of Spain: Rioja, Rias Baixas, and the Riberra del Duero. This is also what makes tasting their three non-rosé tempranillos so much fun. It provided our customers the chance to see just how much the region where the grapes are grown and the vintage they are harvested in influences the end product wine. The contrasts were striking.

The tempranillo from the Ribera del Duero is the most fruit driven of the three. “The Ribera” is a very warm and dry appellation, allowing the tempranillo to get very ripe, driving sugars higher and resulting in a juicy and jammy presentation. In addition, the wine is from the 2015 vintage, a consistently warm growing year across Europe. This combination resulted in a wine dominated by lush, ripe fruit, with just enough tannin balance to frame the fruit.

We then moved to a 2009 from Rioja. Soil drives much of the nuance derived from the various areas of Rioja and this wine from the Northern part of the appellation where rocky soils predominate showed a more substantial tannin-driven structure. The additional age of being from 2009 has mellowed the wine and allowed it to show character of an old Bordeaux bottling. The wine was delicious and appealed to those who prefer that structure and high-toned aromatics.

The final wine of the evenings was a 2012 grand reserve, also from Rioja, but from a vineyard further to the south. 2012 is not known as a great year in much of Europe, with the exception of Tuscany. The time in the bottle has clearly brought this wine into its own. While the tannic structure is still robust and pronounced, the fruit at the mid palate is densely concentrated, no doubt from the southernmost location and additional ripeness from the heat. Of all the wines, this is the most age-worthy, which Javier attributed to the unique terroir of the area and the uniqueness of the vintage.

Of all our events, this was the most fascinating “journey” around Spain’s grape growing regions, guided by a world-class winemaker. He was warmly welcomed into our shop’s community and he will be welcomed back again for another set of events hopefully soon.

If you would like to be included on the invite list for our tastings and wine dinners stop by the shop to sign up, or send us an email at info@thedinnerpartyshop.com. Members of our wine club do receive invites 48 hours in advance of the general email list.

• • •

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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