Potatoes and meat have always been Idaho’s agricultural meat and potatoes, but the 2007 introduction of the 8,000-square-mile Snake River Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) set the stage for wine to shine. To the north, the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA was another exciting addition in 2016.
The state’s vast potential “reminds me of Washington when the Columbia Valley appellation was set,” says Kathryn House, founder of House of Wine, a Boise-based education center, lab and consulting company.
• AVAs: Eagle Foothills, Lewis-Clark Valley, Snake River Valley
• Idaho has 52 wineries
• About 1,300 acres planted
Idaho is as ripe for vineyard diversity as its Pacific Northwest neighbors. Low rainfall, high elevation, nightly temperature swings of up to 40°F and plenty of microclimates allow everything from Tempranillo and Malbec to Syrah, Riesling and Viognier to thrive.
“The wines are just as good as our neighbors, at a better price,” says Melanie Krause, a former assistant winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle who returned to her hometown of Boise with her husband to found Cinder Wines in 2006. “It’s not due to our climate that the industry is smaller than in Oregon and Washington, it’s due to our small population.”
Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec
Merlot, Riesling, Syrah, Tempranillo, Viognier
Wineries to Know
Clearwater Canyon Cellars, Cinder Wines
Colter’s Creek, Huston Vineyards, Par Terre Winery
Sawtooth Winery, Split Rail Winery, Ste. Chapelle Winery
But that’s changing. Boise topped the Forbes 2018 list of fastest-growing cities in the country. With its low costs, it is welcoming young professionals and retirees.
Cinder, Ste. Chapelle Winery and Sawtooth Winery are among the few available outside Idaho. Ste. Chapelle, in Caldwell, is the state’s largest and oldest winery, founded in 1975. Its wines are highly approachable, like the Chateau Series Soft Red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah.
Sawtooth is a little more adventurous. Its Trout Trilogy Syrah shows off the savory character the grape displays when grown in the Snake River Valley.
“In 10 years, I would love there to be a million cases, 10,000 acres, 100 wineries,” says Moya Shatz Dolsby, executive director of the Idaho Wine Commission. “I think it’s going to happen.”