Idaho IS Wine Country

Food, Things to Do — By njensen on August 31, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Think wine from the western U.S.  and you think Napa Valley in California, Willamette Valley in Oregon, even the latest hot spot, Walla Walla, Washington. Very few people think Idaho. But what they don’t know is that the rich volcanic soil of Idaho and the unique climate and geography make Idaho a spectacular grape growing mecca. Over the last thirty years, the wine business in Idaho has taken root, creating respected wines that even the snobs in the movie “Sideways” could love.

The Idaho Wine Commission’s web site lists no less than 36 wineries and 44 vineyards in Idaho. Some are more well known than others. Some are just starting.

Here is my list of favorites, but feel free to try all of the wineries in our state. It would make a perfect trip. Disclaimer: I am no wine expert, but I am an avid wine drinker. I think my taste in wine is above average, but I have been known to buy a bottle of wine simply because I like the label or the name.  I like to try new things, but I have very specific biases. I prefer pinot gris to chardonnay, and syrah over merlot. In general, I like a hearty red over a white any day, but in the heat of summer, a perfectly chilled pinot gris is so refreshing.

Three Horse Ranch Vineyards near Eagle Idaho grows certified organic grapes and processes by hand. The care and attention to quality show in their wines. My new favorite wine is their Viognier.

Hells Canyon Winery is the oldest vineyard in Idaho. The owner was originally a chef, so the pairing of wine with food is a natural for him. Located along the regal Snake River along the Owhyee mountains, Hells Canyon has one of my favorite syrahs.

Ste. Chapelle Winery along the Sunnyslope region near the Snake River has been one of my longtime favorite wineries. They have great Sunday afternoon concerts throughout the summer that our family just loves. Best known for their original Riesling, Ste. Chapelle has recently begun producing an Ice Wine that is catching everyone’s attention.

Pend d’Oreille Winery is in north Idaho, Sandpoint to be exact. Along the shores of one Lake Pend Oreille, one of my favorite places. With lots of experience in France before opening their own winery, the owners also have a French style bistro café attached to the winery. They make all my favorite wines, plus a dessert wine that make my heart beat faster, in a good way.

Sawtooth Winery, located in Canyon County, where the climate is slightly warmer than other wineries nearby, produces a wide variety of grapes. Perhaps some of their best are made into Cabernet Sauvignon.

A winery I want to try, but haven’t had the pleasure of just yet, is Camas Prairie Winery in Moscow, Idaho. The owner describes his business as a “hobby run amuck,” and the business incorporates many green business practices, which is something I care a lot about. Most importantly, as a big fan of Beaujolais, I want to try their Lemberger, which they describe as a lighter, fruitier alternative to Beaujolais. I’ll let you know how I like it!

Tags: Wine