Idaho is growing a lot more than potatoes. With three official American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), 55 wineries and over 1,600 acres of grapes planted, Idaho’s growth in the world of fine wines is booming…making it the perfect weekend wine country destination to sip in. Here’s a short guide of things to see, where to stay and sip, as well as things to do beyond the vines.
What makes Idaho wine so amazing? Read on to learn more about the wine region in Boise and why it is one region wine loving travelers MUST sip in.
Idaho is now home to three official AVAs – Eagle Foothills, Lewis-Clark and the Snake River Valley. With more than 50 wineries in the state and 30 of them within 35 miles from Boise in the Snake River Valley, Boise is the best place to visit to get a taste of the Idaho wine country.
The elevations within the Snake River Valley ranges from 1,500 – 3,000 feet, which has been compared to the high mountain desert of the famed Rioja region in Spain. In comparison to wine regions in the U.S., the Snake River Valley AVA is home to to some of the highest elevation vineyards in the United States. (Colorado is home to the highest elevation vineyards in the U.S. as well as the world.)
In terms of climate, the Snake River Valley AVA sees intense summer growing seasons with 16 hours of sunlight; temperatures reach well over the 90s with nighttime temps dropping to the 50s. This climate is a result of its raised elevation. The combination of the intense sun, and cool, dry nights serve to balance the acid and sugars in the grapes. Think fruit-forward wine (due to the heat) that’s balanced and structured (thanks to the coolness).
Boise, Idaho is located in the Snake River Valley AVA, one of the the state’s three American Viticultural Areas (AVA).
According to the Idaho Wine Commission, the first grape-bearing vines in Idaho were planted in the 1860’s. Two Frenchmen, Louis Desol and Robert Schleicher and one German, Jacob Schaefer were winning awards around the country before Prohibition killed the industry and brought production to an absolute halt. State Prohibition in Idaho began in 1916, followed by National Prohibition in 1920; it wasn’t repealed until 1933.
In the 1970’s California sparked the revival of the American wine industry, which was felt throughout the rest of the country, including Idaho. The opening of the first Idaho winery after Prohibition was Ste. Chapelle Winery in 1976. Today Ste. Chapelle Winery is the largest winery in Idaho with an output of 125,000 cases.
Did you know Sun Valley is just outside of Boise? If you're traveling in the winter or spring, head up to the hills to hit the slopes.
Idaho does not have a signature varietal…yet. Being a young wine region, producers are still exploring the types of grape varietals that will survive and thrive in the state’s three AVAs. So far, there have been a few key ones that have taken root.
The problem with getting Idaho wines is that you actually have to be in Idaho to buy them. Nearly 90 percent of Idaho wines stay within the state border. However, you can always order Idaho wines directly from the wineries. Check out Carpe Travel’s favorites below.
Read on to find Carpe Travel’s first-hand travel tips and recommendations to help make your stay in the Boise Wine Country a memorable one.
The spring season is filled with bud break, beautiful flowers and cooler temperatures, yet it can be warm enough to picnic outside and enjoy many of the outdoor activities Boise offers beyond the vines.
With school out and countless outdoor activities, the Boise wine region is a great summer destination. the Snake River Valley AVA sees intense summer growing seasons with 16 hours of sunlight; temperatures reach well over the 90s with nighttime temps dropping to the 50s.
Fall is harvest. There really isn’t any better time to be in the wine country than when everything is happening! Temperatures are still warm, yet not boiling during the day making patios and picnics the perfect pairing with a glass of local wine. This is peak season though, so prices may be higher than other times of the year.
It’s cold in Idaho during the winter – really cold. While the vines are dormant people aren’t. With Sun Valley not far from Boise, you can easily pair a wine country and ski trip. In all honesty thought, you may find yourself visiting more of the urban wineries than sipping among the vines.
The Snake River Valley became Idaho’s first AVA in 2007.
Forget Idaho wine and potatoes for a minute, there is a new up and coming crop – BLACK TRUFFLES! (One pound of black truffles goes for about $1,000!!!!) According to the Capital Press, “about 10,000 truffle-inoculated trees have been planted in the Snake River Valley and the area may have the largest concentration of truffle orchards in the country.”
Start off at Telaya Wine then a few blocks away hit Coiled Wines Garden City tasting rooms. Next head over to Cinder Wines, Spilt Rail Winery and Syringa (you will have to drive to these but once there all three are walking distance to one another). If you need a palate cleanser walk over to Bella Brewing or drive up to Meriwether Cider Company for some Hard Cider and popcorn.
One of our favorite Idaho Wineries is 3Horseranch Vineyards. However, it's not in the Snake River Valley but rather the Eagle Foothills AVA and is about a 45-minute drive from downtown Boise. It's currently the ONLY winery in this AVA…the wines are worth the trip. If you go try the Pinot Grigo, Dry Rose, Estate Syrah, Vivaciouse, and Sangiovese. The total production of wines at 3Horseranch is 14-15,000 cases; they sell out quickly so buy as many as you can…they’re awesome! Pack a picnic lunch or order some delicious appetizers from the tasting room’s cafe and stay for a few hours. You might just catch some live music on the weekends.
Boise is a pretty easy place to fly into given its central location. Plan to fly directly into the Boise airport (BOI) and then it’s just a short drive into the downtown area.
For sipping through the wine country, you will need a car unless you plan to just sip in the downtown tasting rooms. Even then, you will need to grab an Uber or Lyft since they’re not all walk able to one another. It’s always my personal recommendation to hire a driver. See our recommendations on Idaho wine tours…
Be sure to check out these Idaho Wine Festivals and Events that are not to be missed!
The Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers Commission hosts the annual Savor Idaho, which has become Idaho’s Premier Wine and Food Event. The event features a vast array of Idaho wineries and restaurants giving consumers a unique opportunity to savor the best Idaho has to offer in wine and food while enjoying live music.