GEORGE BALLING: Our current favorites

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I guess it is our current and relentless return to winter that has me thinking about some of the new wines we have discovered over recent months. I admit it, I am looking forward to spring so new wines that impress are just part of that longing for the new and different. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the wines we talk about below have been so enthusiastically received by our customers! So here you go — the current favorites.

The 2016 Cipresseto Rosé ($15, $13.50 if you are in our wine club) from Tuscany is definitely a case of looking forward to spring and warm weather. We first tried this wine last summer, but summer is awash in dry rosé. When we found ourselves lacking in choices for pink wine this winter we turned back to this delightful, delicious and bone dry rosé. Most rosés are released in spring and summer so there just aren’t many around in January and February. For those of you like us who enjoy it year-round this is your wine, with stony minerality on the nose and lovely strawberry palate flavors with a crisp clean finish. Time to turn the heat up to 80 degrees and run around in shorts!

The 2016 Chateau Lestrille Bordeaux Blanc ($13, $11.70 if you are in our wine club) is a unique find for us. I traditionally have liked my Sauvignon Blanc to be all “SB” and fermented in stainless steel vats. The Lestrille is done in stainless but with a healthy dose of Semillon in the mix, not my normal preference. The wine is crisp and zippy with a clean finish and wonderful citrus flavors and minerality throughout. I can’t detect the Semillon except for a nice textural addition. The wine is great.

I recently retried the 2015 Antica Chardonnay ($32, $28.80 if you are in our wine club) and what a treat. This comes from the Antinori’s Napa property and for lovers of California Chardonnay this will be a great addition to your collection. Classic Napa profiles of chalky minerality on the nose with hints of vanilla lead to a palate with citrus and ripe Bartlett pear notes. It is all we want from Chardonnay.

Justin Basel has struck out on his own after many successful years at the winemaking helm of Foundry Vineyard. He has started Solemn Cellars. We just recently tried his first release of Cabernet. The 2014 Pheasant Run Vineyard and 2014 Walla Walla Valley (both $50, $45 if you are in our wine club) are spectacular albeit different wines. The Pheasant Run from the Basel estate vineyard is dense, concentrated and fruit driven, while the Walla Walla Valley shows more heft and tannin for a more traditional Washington State interpretation of Cab. Both should not be missed and will not be around for long as they are produced in tiny quantities.

The 2015 Drumheller Merlot ($15, $13.50 if you are in our wine club) has been an unparalleled success. We loved the wine the first time we tried it, but the confirmation from our customers has been overwhelming, making it tough at times to keep the wine in stock. This is a rich full bodied Merlot, loaded with chocolate covered cherry flavors and aromatics. It is the wine that ends the discussion on Merlot measuring up.

Ehren Jordan at Failla Winery in Napa recently released his Day Zinfandel ($40, $36 if you are in our wine club) and this is another wine that should not be missed. All of our Zinfandel focused customers agree! The grapes come from Sonoma County and based on the “jammy” but not overdone ripe raspberry notes and ample acid. We are thinking it is a cool growing site. Juicy ripe and rich at its core, framed by perfectly balanced tannins. The wine is a stunner.

In 2014 Chateau Ste. Michelle crafted a delicious 90-point-rated Syrah ($12, $10.80 if you are in our wine club) that is worth every point of that rating and could easily garner twice the money. The wine has the classic savory nose of dried herbs and “bacon fat” to go along with dark stone fruit flavors; it is quite simply the most compelling value we have found in some time.

There is our lineup of current favorites. Stop by the shop to check these out and see what else we have discovered to guide you along your wine journey!

If there is a topic you would like to read about or questions on wine you can email or make suggestions by contacting the Healthy Community section at the Coeur d’Alene Press.

• • •

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. 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!/dinnerpartyshop.

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