I saw an opinion piece recently regarding sports. The gist of the opinion was it is tough to cheer for a team when they decide to employ someone who is far less than likable. I agree. Whether it is sports, a business or the wine you drink we all want to feel good about whom we are supporting with each of our hard earned dollars. The old adage “people do business with people they like” extends to all things including sports and wine.
It would seem that “bad apples” in the sports world are easier to identify. We have all seen the needless show boating and other unsavory behaviors from celebrities in any business but also in sports. The wine world is not all that different; there are after all many “celebrity” winemakers, those with outsized self opinion for the caliber of the wine they make. It is also tough to turn around in the wine aisle these days and not find another new wine being made with a sports or other celebrity’s name attached. And on top of that there are non celebrity folks making wine that are equally unsavory but without the fame.
So how do you as a wine consumer feel good about what wine you buy? We can’t possibly know all the winemakers at a deep enough level to know you are supporting those really good people. It may be easier than you think to identify the best out there, the ones doing right by their industry and customers. The easiest way is to watch for which winemakers support the community the ones that show up at events supporting charitable causes. Watch too for those that are in the public eye and interacting with customers of all backgrounds not just the glitterati that show up at the fancy events, but the novice wine drinker that asks the most basic of questions. Or the winemaker that graciously offers to stay after an event to sign bottles that will become a collector’s item for the purchaser.
Here are a few that have made the journey to North Idaho more than once, for charity or other causes and are always gracious with their time.
Rich Funk owner winemaker at Saviah Cellars in Walla Walla has been to North Idaho countless times. Always gracious with his time he has never once refused to help in any way he can regardless of the cause. He understands too that the wine business is a two way street and is supportive of local businesses here in Coeur d’Alene more than perhaps any other we know.
Marcus Nataro is now the winemaker at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in Napa. He started his wine career here in the Northwest though and demonstrates his love of the area by making the trip here frequently. When Marcus joined us for a weekend of wine events I personally watched as Marcus delayed his departure for home and family while he graciously hung around to autograph bottles for all those who had bought them.
Joe Gore and Kevin Olsonberg of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and the Odom Corporation respectively, have worked diligently to get the wines they represent established in the local market. They don’t lean on others for the hard work though. They show up at every event they sponsor regardless of what is going on in their personal lives. They always find a way too to get their companies to chip in on countless charitable causes. At each and every event we have seen them take on the not so glamorous tasks of pouring wine for guests, helping pack orders and cleaning glasses, staying until the job is complete.
Similarly Gordy Venneri, co-owner and winemaker at Walla Walla Vintners has made the pilgrimage to Coeur d’Alene so many times his car can probably drive itself here. A request for contribution to any cause is never refused. It shows, Gordy is beloved and I feel sometimes that he must know everyone in town by first name.
Joe Schnerr co-owner with his wife and winemaker Melanie of Cinder winery in Boise always answers the call. Cinder does an especially great job in supporting the wine taste put on each February by Hospice of North Idaho.
There are many more just like these folks who do great winemaking work but are just as dedicated and successful in supporting their industry and the communities they serve. We will continue to give them all the credit they so richly deserve so that all of you as consumers can feel good about the wine you purchase and who you buy it from.
If there is a topic you would like to read about or if you have questions on wine, you can email George@thedinnerpartyshop.com, or make suggestions by contacting the Healthy Community section at the Coeur d’Alene Press.
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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 www.thedinnerpartyshop.com. Be sure and check out our weekly blog at www.thedinnerpartyshop.com/home/blog-2. You can get all of these articles as well as other great wine tips by friending us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/#!/dinnerpartyshop.