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Wine Gems in the Gem State

Posted By Ellen Landis , Monday, June 26, 2017
Updated: Thursday, June 15, 2017

 The next time you pop an Idaho potato in your shopping basket, consideradding an Idaho wine to go with it. Alright, you may not see one on your store shelves yet, but there are more than fifty wineries now in Idaho across more than 1,200 acres ofvines. If you're lucky enough to find one, you may discover a beautifully crafted wine that's worth a spot on your table.


 Idaho may beconsidered a newer wine region to some, but wine history buffs will be aware that the first grapes were planted in Idaho in the 1860s.  After prohibition, the first winery to open in Idaho was Ste. Chapelle in 1976, and the states portfolio of wineries has blossomed, expanding considerably since then. As an invitee to the Southern Idaho Media Tour put on by the Idaho Wine Commission, I tasted beautifully crafted wines from the two southern Idaho AVAs, Snake River Valley and Eagle Foothills.



The Snake River Valley AVA (Idahos first) was approved in 2007.   Atop the ancient Lake Idaho bed and residue of volcanic activity, and surrounded by mountains, it boasts diverse soils and elevations reaching 3,000 feet above sea level.  With 1,800 planted acres (across southern Idaho and into Oregon), this AVA features the largest acreage of vines in the state of Idaho. 


The Eagle Foothills AVA (the first sub AVA of the Snake River Valley) was established in 2015.  This AVA often sees more rainfall than the greater Snake River Valley AVA.  Well drained soils of sand, silt and clay, and elevations from 2,490 feet to 3,400 feet, are well suited to wine grape growing.  There are about 70 vineyard acres currently planted in this region. 

The latest area to gain status in Idaho is the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA.  Securing its designation in 2016, this AVA covers 479 square miles across the northwestern part of Idaho and eastern Washington.  There are now 80 acres of vineyards in this AVA.  It became Idahos third AVA (and the fourteenth AVA for Washington State). The area is home to steep canyons and plateaus.  The elevation (<1,960 feet) is lower compared to the other two AVAs, and the soil is primarily decomposing grasses with nutrient rich silt.  I look forward to exploring this region during a future adventure.


 There are more than 25 wineries within 35 miles of downtown Boise.  For further information about these producers and additional wineries in Idaho, visit the Idaho Wine Commission website at www.idahowines.org.





 Along with planning your own winery tour in Idaho, there are other delightful sights to take in and activities to experience around Boise, the states largest city and capital. The historic and recently restored Idaho State Capitol building located in the heart of town is an exquisite domed building created with four types of marble inside and crowned with a towering copper eagle. If youve always wanted to ring the Liberty Bell, something no longer allowed in Philadelphia, youre welcome to ring its replica installed at the front of the Idaho State Capitol building.


 The entire surrounding downtown Boise area has recently been revitalized, and it is hopping with energy. Day and night, youll find a variety of activities from which to choose (www.downtownboise.org). Highlights include cultural events (such as the Historic Downtown Boise Food and Cultural Tour), and sporting events (Albertsons Stadium is home to the Boise State University Football, and Track & Field programs, and at the CenturyLink Arena you can enjoy Steelheads hockey team games, and other events).  There are numerous galleries to investigate (such as the Art Source Gallery, Boise Creative Center, and Freak Alley Gallery), as well as several museums (for example, the Basque Museum, Boise Art Museum, and Idaho Black History Museum), and concerts (check out the downtown Summer Concert Series). Another popular activity is Idahos annual premier food and wine event, Savor Idaho, which takes place this year on June 11th (www.savoridaho.org). 




  Where to stay?  There are several hotel choices in downtown Boise.  I thoroughly enjoyed staying at Hotel 43; offering good service from knowledgeable staff, clean and comfortable rooms, and a central location.  Other hotels nearby include The Modern Hotel & Bar, Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown, Red Lion Boise Downtowner, Grove Hotel, Residence Inn by Marriott Downtown, and Holiday Inn Express Downtown.  For further information about Boises history and culture, places to dine and stay, indoor and outdoor activities and events, go to the Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau website, www.boise.org




 Opportunities to explore great sips and bites are endless.  Seek out A New Vintage Wine Shop (located in the nearby Meridian Crossroads Center), owned by Ilene Dudunake, her husband Harry, and their son Taylor (www.anewvino.com).  Here youll find a terrific selection of wines, beers and gift ideas, and a friendly wine bar.  Pop into lively breweries, wineries, cideries, pubs, cafes, and impressive downtown restaurants including Emilios, Juniper, Fork, and Capitol Cellars, just to name a few. I was quite impressed with the respect paid to the local farmers, ranchers, grapegrowers, winemakers, and brewmasters. Caterers (including Zee Christopher, Wild Root and Grit) and the aforementioned restaurants, among others, are serving high quality cuisine with a focus on fresh locally grown foods and locally crafted wine, cider and beer.


  Farm-to-table dining at its best!  I applaud businesses who recognize, and pay tribute to, the hardworking, dedicated Idahoans who are producing remarkable products to share with locals and visitors alike.


 If you havent been to Idaho recently, or ever, now you have new reasons to head on over and uncover a few gems of your own in this, the Gem State!


A version of this story appeared in the Summer, 2017, edition of the American Wine Society Journal. 


About the Author

Ellen Landis, CS, CSW, is a published wine writer, certified sommelier, wine educator and professional wine judge. She spent four years as a sommelier at the Ritz Carlton and 16 years as Wine Director/Sommelier at the award winning boutique hotel she and her husband built and 

operated in Half Moon Bay, CA.  They recently sold the hotel to devote more time to the world of wine.  Ellen is a moderator for highly acclaimed wine events, judges numerous regional, national and international wine competitions each year, and creates and executes wine seminars for individuals and corporations.  She has traveled extensively to wine regions around the globe. 

Contact Ellen at ellen@ellenonwine.com  

Tags:  Idaho  tourism  travel  Wine 

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