Each year as the year-end approaches various publications will write of the losses their industry endured over the last year. They do it at the Oscars and it is always one of the more touching moments in the broadcast. The Wine Spectator covers the passing of industry giants throughout the year, then following up with a more extensive piece at year-end. This past year we lost two great members of our community, who while they were not involved in the wine industry, they were avid consumers of wine, and wine knowledge. They truly enjoyed it as much as any wine professional. Many of you likely knew them, or at least recognized them from The Dinner Party community as they frequently attended our events. For Mary and I we were proud to call them both friends, and enjoyed more than a couple glasses of wine over the years with both of them.
Sam Jankovich was well known, you could say famous around the country as an athletic director at some Division I universities including Washington State and the University of Miami, and also for a stint as the CEO of the Miami Dolphins. I guess that position today would be called Director of Football Operations. Whatever you would call his rolls in athletics here in North Idaho we simply knew him as a grand gentleman.
Sam was fond of wine, and loved no wine more than a nice California Zinfandel, and on occasion a Chateauneuf du Pape. We would get a call at the shop from time to time asking us to deliver some to his home on the Hayden Lake Country Club grounds. He never wanted to put us out, but as he got on in years it was difficult for him to drive, and later it was even hard for him to get out much. Many times, when we would drop wine off, we would have a glass with Sam and Margaret, and at times we would share dinner together, which was always an occasion to order “a nice Sangiovese” as Sam was fond of saying.
He knew a lot about wine, and new how to savor it, for what it was and where it came from. Mary and I will miss our conversations with Sam about wine and about sports. Mary, an alum of Washington State, had a great time talking Cougar football with Sam as did I. We will miss him dearly.
Todd Sloan was a retired Marine Corps Colonel, a retired attorney, a contemporary of deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and an avid wine enthusiast. Todd was preceded in death by his wife Marcia by several years. Before Marcia passed, we were honored to have shared some epic dinners, with wine of course, on the deck of their home in Hayden Lake. They were both fantastic cooks and loved wine.
Todd was a passionate advocate for the Virginia Wine Industry from his time at the University of Virginia Law School where he earned his law degree, and later taught. Todd also authored the original complaint in the “Billionaire’s Vinegar” case that later became a fabulous book on the inner workings of the vintage wine marketplace. For those of you who attended our monthly wine dinners at Fleur de Sel you most likely had met Todd, or at a minimum would recognize him. He loved those events, and if you were fortunate enough to be seated with him you were in for a healthy dose of wine knowledge. He traveled the world enjoying wine, and especially loved his time in Orvieto.
Todd passed on a Tuesday; he had been in the shop the previous Friday to pick up his most recent wine club. Given his extensive collection, and his failing health we doubt that he needed another bottle but that was the kind of guy Todd was. Generous with his time and support beyond words.
We will miss both these dear souls and grand men more than we can say, and along with it will long for and recall the many great wine conversations we enjoyed with both of them.
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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.