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ADVERTISING: Advertorial — GEORGE BALLING: Observations from Las Vegas |

ADVERTISING: Advertorial — GEORGE BALLING: Observations from Las Vegas

Mary and I just returned from one of our semi-annual trips to market for the shop, this time in Las Vegas. We had a really good show and found many new things that will be arriving, shortly in some cases, and in to the fall in others. A great new line of beverage napkins will provide some laughs! We found the perfect man gift for your guy who likes to grill out, and a lovely new line of holiday dinnerware and serving pieces were among the finds! We are excited to get all of them in the shop.

As we typically do when we are away at market, we do research on wine, both in restaurants and at retailers in the area to see what is new and what the trends are. Dining in Las Vegas is an interesting and costly business. Celebrity chefs abound, and to say they are proud of their food and beverages doesnt fully cover it. By any standard, and we have dined in many places, Las Vegas is just plain expensive!

We learned on this trip it is best to avoid the much-hyped, newest and greatest celebrity owned restaurant. They just arent worth it. Our two best meals were at old favorites of ours, Bouchon and Canaletto both in the Venetian. Were they spendy? By any standard certainly. But when you are paying those prices you want to know you are getting a great meal and experience. We did. The rooms are lovely and lively, the food extraordinary, service even better and there are stand out wine lists in both places to select from.

Wine can pose an interesting challenge when you are dining in a high cost area like Vegas. All the bottles on the list and served by the glass have hefty mark-ups; more than we are used to. Here are a couple tips when you find yourself in an expensive place, but still want to enjoy a glass or two of wine with your meal or as a cocktail.

Avoid the big names. Just like celebrity chefs, big name winemakers and wineries are priced even higher than the already expensive general offerings. While Leonetti is still Leonetti in Las Vegas or New York, they do command a premium, so stick to smaller and lesser known producers to stay within your budget. Some of the lesser known growing regions will typically be more affordable too. The Sonoma Coast, the Rhone Valley, Spain and the lesser known regions of Italy will provide some refuge versus Napa, Burgundy, Tuscany and Champagne.

It really pays to know your vintages. For the western U.S., 2012 and 2013 were great years. 2010 also tuned out better than many of us expected, and 2015 through 2017 were actually a really nice string of years here. In Europe the best recent years have been 2010, 2011 and the epic vintage of 2015 is one of the best ever. Whether you depend on this quick synopsis or carry a vintage rating chart with you, here is why it is important. In these reliable years you can shop easily for lesser known producers, varietals and growing regions and still be fairly certain you will end up with a great bottle of wine for not a huge price. A nice Cotes du Rhone, or blend from Puglia, will come in at $50 instead of multiple hundreds for some others, and when you focus on the great years you will be pleased with the outcome.

Skip the bottle and do some sampling from the by the glass list. Winemakers and wineries will typically make a couple of wines and price them a bit cheaper to get them on the glass list. If you stick to this segment of the list, you will get to sample some fun and different things while saving a bit on the bill too.

The price for a nice dinner out will never approach the bargains we find here in North Idaho, but by shopping astutely for wine on the voluminous wine lists you will find in Las Vegas and other pricey areas, you may keep it in the expensive range, without approaching the hideously expensive place.

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 dAlene Press.

George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur dAlene 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 dAlene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at!/dinnerpartyshop.

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