Idaho


Idaho Wine Overview

Adjacent to the wine hotbeds of Washington and Oregon, Idaho is steadily raising its profile in the wine industry, both in terms of overall winery growth and quality of Idaho wines.

In the early 2000s, there were only about 10 wineries in Idaho, the most prominent of which was Ste. Chapelle, which still produces the lion’s share of Idaho wines. Now, Idaho’s winery count is more than 40 and growing.

Like most states, Idaho has a long history with grape-growing and wine-making. Idaho’s first vineyards were planted in the 1860s, and wine-making was at one time big business in the state until being stopped in its tracks by Prohibition. Largely dormant until the early 1980s, Idaho wines are now being praised by national wine publications, and the state actively promotes its wine destinations in hopes of attracting wine lovers and other agri-tourism travelers.

In recent years, the Idaho Wine Commission has organized an annual event designed to showcase Idaho wines and other flavors of the Gem State. Called Sippin in the City, the event draws thousands of visitors to Boise who come to discover Idaho’s many vintages. This event is just part of several efforts to raise Idaho’s wine profile, including a project intended to receive a second AVA in the northern part of the state. The first, Snake River Valley AVA, was approved in 2007.

Southern Idaho in particular has proven a productive area to grow wine grapes. While one might think the colder Idaho climate might prohibit agriculture, the opposite actually is true. The winter season allows grapevines to go dormant and conserve energy for the subsequent year, and abundant sunshine levels helps the grapes burst with flavor. Unlike neighboring Oregon and Washington, rain can be somewhat scarce in southern Idaho, which has proven beneficial for preventing vine rot and other pesky problems. While Idaho’s wine industry is dwarfed by Washington, Oregon and certainly California, the state is now 22nd in United States wine production.

Even more beneficial for Idaho is the economic impact of the burgeoning wine industry. Tourism dollars are being pumped into the state economy and almost 1,000 jobs have been created. It is expected the Idaho wine industry will continue to grow, particularly as demand for Idaho wines continues to increase.

Idaho’s first vineyards were planted in the 1860s, and wine making was at one time big business in the state until being stopped in its tracks by Prohibition.

Idaho Wine Trails

The wine profile in Idaho has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years, led by not only the state’s wineries but agritourism agencies like IdahoWines.org. Recently, we exchanged some correspondence with Sara Fink, Marketing Coordinator of the Idaho Wine Commission, to help clarify the existence of wine trails in the state.

As sometimes occurss with wine bloggers, certain authors of these sites and blogs have gone ahead and unilaterally stated the existence of wine trails. In fact, Idaho separates the state into wine-producing areas versus actual wine trails.

Here at WineTrailsUSA, we’ve always followed the policy of noting wine trails (or combination trails like wine and beer trails) only if they actually exist as an organization, or if they are designated by their state. In today’s wine world, a good way to determine the existence or validity of a wine trail is whether or not they have a website, promotional materials, etc.

For wine travelers, a wine trail specifically means there is a trail of some sort to actually follow — such as a route, a sequenced order and possibly signage. For our purposes, a wine trail isn’t something that’s simply made up in the mind of a wine blogger.

Specific to Idaho, the Idaho Wine Commission tells us it remains one of their “wish list” projects to get definitive wine trails mapped out and officially designated. For now, maps of Idaho’s wine-producing areas are designed to educate wine travelers about where wineries exist and provide a general overview of each area.

With all that said, Idaho has three distinct wine-producing areas. These are noted by the Idaho Wine Commission as the Southwest Region, the Southeast Region and the Northern Region.

The Southwest Region, also known as the Snake River Valley, is the most prominent wine-producing area in the state, and boasts its own American Viticultural Area (AVA), the Snake River Valley AVA. Located near Boise, Idaho’s state capital, this is what most people refer to when they use the term Idaho Wine Country. Two dozen wineries are located here, including Ste. Chapelle Winery, Idaho’s largest wine producer. Most of the wineries are north and west of Boise — in or near the towns of Caldwell and Garden City. The Snake River Valley AVA actually extends to the Southeast Region along the Snake River.

The Southeast Region, home to five wineries, can be accessed from Interstate 84 west of Twin Falls. Wineries are spread out, in the towns of Ketchum to the north near Sun Valley to Buhl and Hammett, both west of Twin Falls. The Northern Region is also far-reaching, extending from Lewiston to the south up to Sandpoint in the north. This area, not far from the Washington border, offers five wineries as well. One of the wineries, Coeur d’Alene Cellars, is only about 30 minutes east of the thriving wine scene in Spokane, Washington.

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