Engaging Sips from Idaho

Tasting Notes

Exploring wine regions in Idaho continues to be enlightening. There are noteworthy wines produced in all three AVA’s in Idaho–Snake River Valley, Eagle Foothills, and Lewis-Clark Valley. Passionate grapegrowers, winemakers, and vintners have made great strides over the past ten years in farming, vineyard management and winemaking practices, and the quality of wines produced there today deserves recognition on the global stage.

To whet your appetite, here are a few I highly recommend:

Ste. Chapelle Winery Gewurztraminer ($20), Snake River Valley: The engaging fragrance of a delicate floral bouquet is heavenly. Decorating the palate are classic layers of lychee, juicy guava, hints of spice, and fresh squeezed orange juice. Precisely balanced with a vivid personality that stays bright and focused as it heads to a lingering close.

Ste. Chapelle Winery 2019 Open Air Muscat Blanc ($20), Snake River Valley: This exhilarating Muscat Blanc from Skyline Vineyard shines brightly with its white fruit and floral aroma. A sunny burst of lemon-splashed white peaches interlaces with honeysuckle, mandarin orange, and delicate herbs stimulating the taste buds. Graceful and mouthfilling, and the brisk level of balancing acidity persists through the zesty finish.

Huston Vineyards 2019 Private Reserve Chardonnay ($29), Snake River Valley: Here’s a melding of new-world and old-world style Chardonnay with its forward fruit harmonizing with underlying earthy elements. Aromas and flavors of crunchy apples, Bosc pears, tropical fruit, vanilla bean, earthiness and minerality entwine. Spicy oak elements from 30% new French and American oak aging add depth and dimension.

Huston Vineyards 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon/Petite Sirah ($45), Snake River Valley: Intense and firmly structured, these two powerhouse varieties interlace exquisitely on the palate with precise balance and gracefulness. Firm tannins frame Bing cherries, black currants, spiced plum preserves, leather and shades of oak flowing seamlessly across the palate. It is approachable now, while promising years of life ahead.

Fujishin Family Cellars 2018 Tempranillo ($25.95), Snake River Valley: This bold and well-defined Tempranillo offers up deep, dark fruit and a touch of earth on the nose. Flavors of boysenberries, black plums, earthiness, licorice and a dusting of herbs interlace in harmony. It is complex and full bodied, while also displaying elegance and freshness. There is an ethereal quality through the long-lasting finish.

Fujishin Family Cellars 2017 Petit Verdot ($25.95), Snake River Valley: The gorgeous, perfumed aroma of violets and forest berries sends you into the glass. On the palate it is rich and complex with dark plums, wild blackberries, black currants, crushed herbs, and fresh turned earth, supported by a firm backbone of tannins. The finish is intense, smooth and persistent. It is among the best single variety Petit Verdot bottlings I have tasted.

Hat Ranch Winery 2020 Dry Moscato ($20), Snake River Valley: Here is a striking, floral-fragranced wine crafted of fruit from Hat Ranch Winery’s estate Muscat Ottonel vineyard. Brimming with juicy pineapple, dried mango, mandarin orange fruit, and a touch of savoriness, it boasts an expansive mouthfeel, impressive depth, and immaculate balance. This stylish bone-dry white wine delivers a hint of sage flowers extending through the long finish.

Kerry Hill Winery 2018 Private Reserve Wild Poppy Malbec ($34), Snake River Valley: This enlivening Malbec opens with an aroma of fresh summer black and red berries. Dense and concentrated in the mouth, it unveils blackberries, marionberries, huckleberries, and earthiness linking with accents of subtle oak and a sprinkling of spice. This deeply flavored and well-balanced wine delivers a finish that extends beyond the final sip.

3 Horse Ranch Vineyards 2016 Single Vineyard Syrah ($40); Eagle Foothills: This treasure unleashes an alluring dark fruit aroma; a theme that carries all the way through the dramatic finish. Layers of blackberries, black cherries, savory herbs, cassis, saddle leather, purple plums, and spice-encrusted roast beef coat the palate. It is elegant and well balanced with velvety tannins, and the finale is long and memorable.

Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2017 Coco’s Reserve Selway ($45): The winery and estate vineyard are within Idaho’s Lewis-Clark Valley AVA. Fruit is also sourced from nearby Washington, as is the case with this delectable blend (45% Carmenere, 28% Petite Sirah,16% Malbec, 6% Cab Sauv, 4% Petit Verdot, and 1% Merlot). Complex and multilayered with ripe blackberries, black currants, and juicy plum fruit accented by savory spice and sweet oak nuances. Impressively balanced with well-integrated tannins, and the lingering finish seems endless.

Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2018 Umiker Vineyard Merlot ($28), Lewis-Clark Valley: This extraordinary estate Merlot showcases an expressive nose of forest berries and spice. Well defined and pure with blueberries, Satsuma plums, boysenberry jam, vanilla bean, red currants, pipe tobacco, and well-integrated oak flowing across the palate. Smooth, lush and well-structured, it maintains pristine balance through the engaging, persistent finish.

Now is the time to venture out to the gem state of Idaho, and uncover your favorite liquid gems.