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Wine in Idaho dates back to the 1800s, but prohibition literally squashed the industry, and it didn’t return at all until the 70s. Until recently, Idaho wasn’t noticed for their ability to make exceptional wines, and it doesn’t take an expert to see that the fermented grape scene here is straight up vivacious. Napa step aside, Idaho is creating an abundance of rich, unique wines, and they have the environment to compliment it.
Visiting Boise alone means 28 wineries are at your fingertips—within 35 miles to be exact. The others concentrate in areas around Snake River Valley, the gorgeous grape growing hub. Pubs and local restaurants also show the love by featuring nearby wine variations, so don’t be surprised if you see a local bottle on the menu. Winemakers are on a roll, and may soon make us forget all about the potatoes—there’s a lot more to this place.
If you were wondering, Idaho hosts a total of 55 wineries. Ste. Chapelle was the first to open after prohibition ended, and still serves connoisseurs today. From the sleek and modern, to the classic, establishments are slowly but surely multiplying, meaning lots of choices and awesome wine trails.
Snake River Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) is an officially recognized region for wine-making for many reasons. At an optimal elevation of 1,500 – 3,000 feet, the summer growing season in the valley is prime—lots of sun and the dryer climate create a well balanced, sweet-acidic grape. Rich, volcanic soil can also be attributed to the flavorful, lush grape production in the valley.
Caldwell is nestled in the Snake River Valley and is home to popular stops like Koenig Vineyards, which boasts 14 acres of spanning vines. Something about drinking wine while peering out toward rolling hills of grapes is magical—sip on the Moscato, which won a gold medal from the San Francisco Chronicle. Hells Canyon Winery has Cabernet Franc grapes that are used to make some pretty spectacular wines as well.
Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah—Idaho hasn’t nailed down just one specialty. While time may whittle down the prime selections further, the following remain solid favorites. However, the Tisza Reisling from Coiled might end up being a signature. Also a top contender, the Cabernet Sauvignon from Cinder is sourced from some of the oldest vines in Idaho—around 35 years to be exact. You’re spoiled with choices.
Yes, Idaho is cultivating its wine trail game, and Sunnyslope doesn’t disappoint. There are other trails, but this is the best, and technically the only official one, so far. You can hit 15 wineries along this route, including the breathtaking Sawtooth Winery.
Still kind of considered Boise by some, Garden City is technically separate. Ten urban wineries have made this slice of the Capital city outskirts famous for cool, edgy wine drinking. Coiled Wine defines the modern scene well with upscale wine slushies which consist of a frozen combination of tasty favorites.
The Boise Greenbelt is a special path for foot travelers and bike riders only, and is lined with restaurants and bars—it’s a lot like Atlanta’s Beltline. Telaya Winery stands outs with its cozy patio, awesome Turas Syrah-based wine and highly knowledgeable winemakers who travel to France to master their skills. With the river flowing feet away, boozing on the Greenbelt is fantastic.
Vineyard views in Idaho are nothing short of stunning, as the uniform vines grace the mountainous terrain. Williamson Orchards and Vineyards is set optimally for drinking it all in, and the orchards open up for fruit picking. A combination of wine, fruit, cheese, views equals perfection.
Ste. Chapelle cultivates one of the most unique variations in the valley, a Chateau series pink Reisling with delicious huckleberry—a prominent native fruit in Idaho. Not only crisp and flavorful, it’s fun that the creators are using regional ingredients to develop something innovative.
Idaho wineries are down to earth, with deep veins that run through the community—it all works together to make one incredible culinary scene. Businesses remain small, but healthy and infused with life. Hand crushed, crafted and labeled, the wine in this overlooked state are truly something to behold.