I recently had the opportunity to attend a weekend wine event in the Snake River Valley AVA of southwestern Idaho, which was hosted by the Idaho Wine Commission. Most wine drinkers are not very familiar with wines coming out of Idaho, but wine making first started in Idaho in the early 1860′s. Wine production in Idaho came to a halt during prohibition, and did not start up again in full force until the 1970′s. Today there are nearly 50 wineries throughout southwest Idaho, and while the quality of Idaho wines does not compare to the great wine regions in California, Oregon or Washington, the wines are continuing to improve in their quality.
During the wine event I was given a bottle of the 2010 Ste. Chapelle Special Harvest Riesling. It had sat in my wine refrigerator for several weeks, and I finally pulled it out when we were having Indian curry chicken for dinner. I decided to pair it with this meal because this is a sweet Riesling, and it would balance out the spice of the curry well. Upon opening the bottle it had aromas of stone fruit, with a hint of honey as well. The flavors followed the nose and were of yellow peaches, apricots, and finished with honey, but it also had a tart, metallic aftertaste that did not sit well with me. Having sampled Ste. Chapelle wines in the past, I pretty much had an idea of what this wine would offer in the glass, and I was correct. While it was not a terrible wine, it was only average at best, and not one that I would personally purchase in a store.
The Pend d’Oreille Winery is located in western Idaho, and uses grapes that are grown in Eastern Washington. The term “claret” is a semi-generic term that is used for a red wine produced in the Bordeaux style. The grape varieties used to produce the 2007 Pend d’Oreille Bistro Rogue red blend are Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. In the glass this wine has a deep garnet red color, with aromas of blackberries, cherries, dried black fruit, chocolate, and spice. The flavors associated with this wine are blackberries, dark cherries, black currants, wood, chocolate, cloves, and a hint of nutmeg. The 2007 Bistro Rogue is an easy drinking red blend, is medium bodied, and has medium tannins. For a retail price of between $12-15, this is a nice drinking red blend.
The 2005 Zhoo Zhoo Claret is a wine that is produced by the Hells Canyon Winery in western Idaho, which is part of the Snake River AVA. This red table wine is a blend of 40% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Cabernet Franc. The label on this bottle is provocative, and I wish the wine could have lived up to that billing as well. On the nose the aromas were enticing, but in the mouth this wine fell flat. The aromas and flavors associated with the 2005 Zhoo Zhoo Claret were of red berries, blueberries, cherries, anise, and a hint of herbs. I was expecting a bigger wine than this proved to be, as it tasted like it was watered down. Not one that I would recommend.
As a resident of the Pacific Northwest I have the opportunity to sample many of the wines coming from this region. When most think of wineries in the Pacific Northwest they think of Oregon and Washington, and rightly so with many great wines coming from these states. However, I do have the chance to sample wines from Idaho, which for many have never been exposed to wines from this state. In my opinion, wines from Idaho cannot come close to the quality coming from Oregon and Washington, but I still have the opportunity to give these wines a sample.
I recently sampled the 2006 Cold Springs Syrah. The Cold Springs Winery is located in south central Idaho along the Snake River basin, and is part of the Snake River AVA. This Syrah had a ruby red color to it in the glass, and the aroma and flavor profile was of cherries, red berries, a slight hint of raisins, licorice, earthiness, oak, and spice. This wine was not as big and full-bodied as I would like for a Syrah, and it left me desiring something more. This was a decent, everyday drinking wine, but nothing special.