State Profile: Idaho Wine Country

With a rich history, ideal wine growing conditions, and a recent surge in wineries, Idaho has been emerging from the shadows of its larger neighbors, Oregon and Washington, to claim a place of its own on the world’s wine map.

Actually, grapes were planted there (1864, in Lewiston) before either of the other Pacific Northwest states, but the real growth has occurred since the 1970s with creation of the Snake River Valley AVA where most Idaho wineries are located. Diverse soils, warm days, and cool nights, with elevations from 600 to 3,000 feet, combine to support a diverse array of premium grapes on the state’s 1,300 acres, which produced 3,100 tons and 423,500 gallons in 2022. The Eagle Foothills and Lewis-Clark Valley AVA’s also produce superb wines.

The industry’s growth is supported by the Idaho Wine Commission, led by Executive Director Moyal Shatz Dolsby, who was recently recognized as a “Wine Industry Champion” by Wine Industry Advisor for her efforts. She is also the current Chair of WineAmerica’s State and Regional Associations Advisory Council (SRAAC).

Several Idaho wineries are also active in WineAmerica, including:

Cinder Wines, founded in 2001 and named after the volcanic residue underlying much of the Snake River Valley, has been named one of  the “West’s Best Urban Wineries”. Owner-Winemaker Melanie Krause brought a wealth of experience from Chateau Ste. Michelle among other stops along the way, and specializes in Viognier, Tempranillo and Syrah

Clearwater Canyon Cellars in Lewiston, where Idaho’s first grapes were planted, is in the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA. A Lewiston native, Owner-Winemaker Coco Vydra and Owner-Vineyard Manager Karl Vydra, combine their education and experience to produce Albarino, Chardonnay, and Merlot that regularly win top awards in competitions.

Coeur d’Alene Cellars is a small, 3,000 case winery owned by Kimber Gates, the Founder and Owner who drew on her wine industry experience in Burgundy and Walla Walla to match an MBA from Washington State University; and Sarah Gates, an artist who designs all the labels and oversees marketing.

Colter’s Creek Winery, established in 2007 in Moscow, is in the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA bordering the Potlatch and Clearwater Rivers. They offer a broad selection of fine wines in the tasting room, and right above is the elegant, eco-friendly Hattabaugh Hotel.

Huston Vineyards is on Chicken Dinner Road in Caldwell, the entrance to the Sunnyslope Wine Trail in the Snake River Valley AVA. Gregg and Mary Algers describe themselves as “farmers, winemakers, owners, parents”, and they won “Idaho Winery of the Year” in 2023 from Great Northwest Wine magazine.

Lindsay Creek Vineyards is the creation of fourth generation Idaho farmers Art and Doug McIntosh and their wives Michelle and Brenda. The two brothers went to Washington State University to study enology (Art) and viticulture (Doug), with official opening in 2007. Their tasting room includes a small bites menu, and they’re part of the Harvest Hosts program which welcomes RV’s.

Rolling Hills Vineyard & Winery, with a vineyard in Eagle and urban tasting room in Garden City, is a true family operation created in 2016 by Mark and Lori Pasculli, joined in the venture by daughter Savannah plus sons Daniel and Zach handling various aspects of the operation. They have also won numerous awards in major competitions.

Great Grapes: Riesling

“Best White Wine on Earth” is the title of Stuart Pigott’s superb book, basing his assessment on the Queen of Grapes’ reflection of terroir, range of aromas and tastes, versatility of styles from dry to sweet, food friendliness, and other assets. Idaho’s viticultural variability is a perfect fit for the cool climate grape that has so many expressions based on the locale where it is grown as well as the winemaker’s creative decisions.