breaking news

NEW: One flown to hospital after bus, vehicle crash in Wellington

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

South Florida dining stars bring back Boca’s Prezzo
South Florida dining stars bring back Boca’s Prezzo

We can call this bit of restaurant news a blast from the past, Boca-style. And we mean it in the most promising of ways: Rock star chef Mark Militello will join restaurateurs Burt Rapoport and Dennis Max when they reopen their 90s-era trattoria Prezzo.   The restaurant’s expected November opening will mark the coming together of three...
Post readers: This is the best Cuban sandwich in Palm Beach County
Post readers: This is the best Cuban sandwich in Palm Beach County

Today we celebrate the Cuban sandwich for National Cuban Sandwich Day! A few months ago we polled Post readers to find out which restaurant has the best Cuban sandwich in Palm Beach County.  The winner, Havana Restaurant in West Palm Beach, was also picked as having one of the top Cuban in Florida by USA Today in 2016. Havana Restaurant won ...
Dining review: Tasty tacos, streetfood are a hit at Lilo’s in Lake Worth
Dining review: Tasty tacos, streetfood are a hit at Lilo’s in Lake Worth

Located on a prime corner of downtown Lake Worth, Lilo’s Streetfood and Bar is the sister restaurant to Lilo’s All American Cafe in Delray Beach. There is an inviting beachy vibe as you enter the eatery with walls painted ocean blue and tables with accents of white. It has that neighborhood feel with it’s bar located...
Chef on the rise: He plans modern Indian restaurant in Gardens – but first, he heads to Miami hot spot 
Chef on the rise: He plans modern Indian restaurant in Gardens – but first, he heads to Miami hot spot 

One of Miami’s hot-spot restaurants has snagged a top Palm Beach chef – for now.  Pushkar Marathe, chef de cuisine at Meat Market Palm Beach, will head south to help expand Ghee Indian Kitchen, the four-month-old hotspot brought to life by his longtime friend, chef Niven Patel.  “It’s a dream come true for me,&rdquo...
Opening: Hey Jupiter, Subculture Coffee is moving in this fall
Opening: Hey Jupiter, Subculture Coffee is moving in this fall

There was a vacant space at Harbourside Place in Jupiter. But not anymore. Subculture Coffee, the hipster hangout that recently expanded to a quaint, 1300 square ft space in Delray Beach in July and is already a staple in West Palm Beach,  is now expanding to North County.  According to Harbourside Place’s management...
More Stories