You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myPalmBeachPost.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myPalmBeachPost.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myPalmBeachPost.com.

Not bound by tradition, winemakers living in their own private Idaho


Any Idaho agricultural story, even a story about wine, has to begin with potatoes. The state turns out 13 billion pounds of spuds a year. Go ahead, read it again if you have to: 13 billion pounds. 

Idaho aggies are big on barley, plums, onions, beets and mint too. They don’t call it the Gem State for nothing; the place has good growing soil, and for close to 50 years, a small portion of it has been dedicated to growing commercial wine grapes. Idaho’s climate is well suited for such a crop, and most of it grows at relatively high elevation, somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 feet. The state enjoys long, sunny days (for ripening) and cool high-altitude nights (for retaining acidity). Daily temperature shifts of 40 degrees are not out of the question in some vineyard locations. 

Idaho vineyards date to the 1860s, even before grapes were planted next door in Washington and Oregon. (If you don’t have a map in front of you, Idaho’s western edge forms the entire eastern borders of both of those coastal states.) Prohibition put an end to the first phase of the Idaho wine industry, and it was not until the 1970s that it picked up where it left off. So Idaho has a young and small wine industry, with many miles to go before it achieves the success of its neighbors. But the state known for potatoes is also turning out some good wines these days. 

There are three overall wine regions in Idaho (North, Southwest and Southeast), and in 2007, the state’s first official appellation, the Snake River Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area), was established. It stretches across 8,000 square miles, even crossing the state line and creeping into Oregon, and is home to 1,125 acres of Idaho vineyards. Idaho’s second appellation, Eagle Foothills AVA, was established in 2015, and the third, Lewis-Clark Valley AVA, came into being in May 2016. About three-fourths of that appellation is in Idaho, and the rest lies across the border in eastern Washington. 

Establishing a wine industry takes time. By 2002 there were still only 11 wineries giving it a go in Idaho. One of them was Ste. Chapelle, which opened in the mid-‘70s and remains the state’s largest winery. By 2009 there were more than 40 wineries, and less than a decade later, there are more than 50. It’s a small group of like-minded folk and a small collection of grapevines. Outside of the Snake River Valley, there are only about an additional 150 acres of vines planted. It calls to mind a sort of ground-floor opportunity, doesn’t it? Go west, young winemakers! (Proposals and business plans now being accepted, I’m sure.) 

As in many developing and improving wine regions, experimentation is common. So far the leading white grape varieties, in terms of vines planted, are riesling, chardonnay and pinot gris. The most popular reds are cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, malbec and tempranillo. But Idaho winemakers and grape growers have a pioneering spirit, and they tend to follow their bliss. 

The blessing and curse of more established wine regions known for specific wine styles is that winemakers there are expected (or required by law, in many Old World cases) to produce that kind of wine because it makes sense to do so (or it’s the law). It can be confining. On the other hand, the blessing and curse of an area not well known for wine is you can kind of do whatever you want, and that lack of cohesion can cut both ways. But really, as long as the wines are good, nobody should care, right? 

——— 

RECOMMENDED 

Idaho wine styles are all over the map — from malbec to carmenere, and tempranillo to sangiovese — as you’ll see below in the notes from a recent tasting. The wines are listed in ascending order, according to price: whites followed by reds followed by sweet wine. 

WHITE 

2015 Indian Creek White Riesling. Apple, apricots and pear led to zingy acidity, citrus and a touch of eucalyptus on the finish. $12 

2015 Fujishin Family Cellars Reserve Viognier. Minerality and peach were accompanied by a buttery-toasty oak presence and a soft mouthfeel. $17 

2015 Hat Ranch Winery Dry Moscato. Light, refreshing, floral and nutty, with a blast of clean citrus toward the finish. $18 

2014 Cinder Small Lot Series Sauvignon Blanc. Ripe pear and fennel led to lemon and zippy acidity in this refreshing wine. $25 

RED 

2012 Williamson Vineyards Sangiovese. Dark cherry, incense, leather and other dark fruits characterized this fun and lively wine. $18 

2012 Crossings Winery Cabernet Franc. An expressive wine full of cherry, dill, incense, black licorice and a touch of salinity. $18.50 

2012 Ste. Chapelle Winery Panoramic Idaho Petit Verdot. Rich and decadent, full of blueberry and other dark fruits, plus orange zest and smoke. $25 

2014 Clearwater Canyon Estate Syrah. A luscious wine offering dark fruits, roasted meat, incense, smoke and a spicy finish. $28 

2014 Huston Vineyards Malbec. Plum, blackberry, earth, coffee, leather and spice were all present in this formidable, full-bodied wine. $29 

2013 Bitner Vineyards Erletxe Tempranillo. Earthy, floral and herbal, this one was full of rich, red fruits, toast and a touch of leather. $35 

2013 Sawtooth Winery Trout Trilogy Carmenere. Plum, blackberry, vanilla, black pepper, leather and spice came together in this silky wine. $40 

SWEET 

2014 Koenig Vineyards Botrytis Single Berry Select Late Harvest Riesling. Ripe apple, pear and peach joined by clean, balancing acidity. $30 for a 350-milliliter bottle


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Food

FREE ICE CREAM TODAY: If you don’t take advantage, you’re crazy
FREE ICE CREAM TODAY: If you don’t take advantage, you’re crazy

There are probably thousands of brands of ice cream out there — too many to count — but Carvel was the first. And it’s the most notable. Everyone knows Carvel.  On Thursday, April 27, “America’s Freshest Ice Cream” is celebrating its annual Free Cone Day.  Walk into a participating shop (see our local...
Let’s eat: Chocolate, Salt and Pepper Sables
Let’s eat: Chocolate, Salt and Pepper Sables

These peppery French butter cookies are a grown-up’s version of a milk chocolate bunny. Sandy in texture, with the flavor of chocolate shortbread, they melt in your mouth, with a salty finish that’s a terrific contrast to the sable’s sweetness. You definitely won’t want to share. I suggest doubling or even tripling the recipe...
The little vegan honey company that could now gives back - to bees
The little vegan honey company that could now gives back - to bees

Katie Sanchez never meant to invent a vegan-friendly sweetener that's remarkably akin to honey, or begin a campaign to save honeybees. She just wanted to make apple jelly. It was the fall of 1999. The exhausted young mother of a special-needs baby, Sanchez was excited when her husband showed up at home one day with a bushel of apples and a trusted...
Ask the Test Kitchen: Do you peel bananas before freezing?
Ask the Test Kitchen: Do you peel bananas before freezing?

A: If there is one cool thing about bananas, it’s that they freeze wonderfully. And they keep just fine in the freezer for about three months. Freezing is a way to preserve bananas that have reached their ripeness peak or are close to overripe. Rather than tossing them because you can’t eat them out of hand, freeze them to use in making...
How to make a sushi bowl
How to make a sushi bowl

Deconstruction once ruled academia. The literary theory insisted that the text (pre-texting) be taken apart, like some Lego castle, and left in pieces on the classroom floor. The game kept professor and student busy for years. Now new fads roam campus, and deconstruction has moved on to the menu. The enchilada, for instance, no longer dresses for dinner...
More Stories