Traditionally, Idaho has not gained much attention for its wine production, despite its numerous award-winning wineries. Often overshadowed by its more productive neighboring states Washington and Oregon, Idaho is nevertheless catching up. Indeed, the state now boasts 52 wineries, several of which are located in the Snake River Valley, an American Viticultural Area.
Located in southwest Idaho and eastern Oregon, the Snake River Valley was covered by ancient Lake Idaho several million years ago. The lake eventually drained, resulting in fertile, volcanic sediment-enriched soil. The combination of excellent soil, changes in daytime temperatures, and high altitude gives winemakers here an advantage in growing grapes that become award-winning wines.
Read on for a list of three outstanding wineries in the Snake River Valley.
The largest winery in Idaho, Ste. Chapelle is located in the town of Caldwell. The winery boasts a crush capacity of 3,000 tons and a total production capability of 150,000 cases. Ste. Chapelle also has 60 fermentation tanks ranging in size from 1,000 to 27,000 gallons.
With its state-of-the-art facilities, Ste. Chapelle makes a number of wine varieties, from reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to whites like Chardonnay and Riesling. Over the years, the winery has garnered a number of accolades. The 2010 Chateau Series Soft Red earned a Gold Medal at the Idaho Wine Competition, while the 2012 Snake River Valley Special Harvest Riesling earned 88 points from The Tasting Panel.
Ste. Chapelle also stands out as the producer of several canned spritz beverages, including Blood Orange Spritz and Wild Huckleberry Spritz. The winery even makes a unique ice wine called Panoramic Idaho Riesling Ice Wine, which is packed with unique flavors and aromas such as peaches, honey, apricots, and orange peel.
Guests can sample these and other wines in Ste. Chapelle’s beautiful tasting room, which is designed after the Sainte-Chapelle royal chapel in France.
Telaya Wine Co.
Founded just 10 years ago, Telaya Wine Co. has already developed a reputation as a producer of outstanding wines. Named the 2016 Idaho Winery of the Year, this Garden City-based winery sources its fruit from Sawtooth, Skyline, and other Idaho vineyards, as well as several vineyards in southeastern Washington.
The winery’s current releases include the 2016 Turas, which won both the Gold Medal and the Best Red award at the 2018 Idaho Wine Competition. The 2016 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, another Gold Medal winner at this competition, features a rich texture and aromas of allspice and graphite. Also producing white wines, Telaya Wine Co. has released a 2017 Chardonnay aged in French oak and featuring flavors of sandalwood, caramel, and grapefruit.
Telaya Wine Co. features a tasting room with beautiful views of the Boise River. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own snacks to enjoy with Telaya’s wines on the patio or at the above-ground fire pit.
Split Rail Winery
Dedicated to innovation, Split Rail Winery strives to never make the same wine twice. It continues to do new things with its grape varietals to surprise local wine lovers. As with Telaya Wine Co., Split Rail gets its grapes from Sawtooth and Skyline vineyards, as well as Williamson Orchards & Vineyards in Caldwell.
Split Rail Winery’s current wines include the 2014 Bearded Quixote Tempranillo, which features 90 percent Tempranillo and 10 percent Grenache. Other wines include the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, which is blended with 10 percent Petit Verdot, and the 2017 Daft Pink Brut Rosé, which features aromas of strawberry and lemon curd. Another unique Brut is the 2017 Bruce Lee’s Brut Nature. Made from Riesling, Roussanne, Gewürztraminer, and Chardonnay, this Brut features flavors of melon, grapefruit, and Meyer lemon.
Also committed to sustainable practices, Split Rail Winery has begun to sell some of its wines in aluminum cans, which are light, crushable, and more easily recyclable than glass. By canning its wines, Split Rail also seeks to end the “pompous mantra of wine” and introduce a new generation to excellent wines.
Split Rail also sells kegs of wine to local food and beverage businesses. This strategy keeps wine from oxidizing, which happens when wine is left in an open bottle for too long. Customers can also purchase a growler at the winery that they can bring back for refills at one of eight kegged wines on tap.