In a state famous for starchy tubers, the fruit of the vine is no longer small potatoes.
"Idaho is making a name for itself in the world of wine," says Andy Perdue, editor of Wine Press Northwest. "The wines are gems and their quality borders on stunning."
Winemaking isn't new to Idaho. The first Pacific Northwest wineries were established there in the 1870s, though Prohibition later wiped them out. It wasn't until the 1970s that vineyards were planted again in the Snake River Valley of southwest Idaho, where elevations of up to 3,000 feet and volcanic-ash soil help produce grapes with concentrated flavor.
Nearly all of Idaho's 18 low-key wineries welcome visitors. A tour of the following vineyards west of Boise makes for a leisurely day of tasting and sightseeing. (888) 223-9463, www.idahowines.org.
STE. CHAPELLE WINERY 19348 Lowell Rd., Caldwell.
Idaho's largest wine producer, offering tours year-round and outdoor concerts from June to October; known for terrific whites, but focusing lately on reds and ice wines. (208) 453-7830, www.stechapelle.com.
KOENIG DISTILLERY & WINERY 20928 Grape Ln., Caldwell.
Well-crafted wines as well as unique brandies made from local fruit. (208) 455-8386, www.koenigvineyards.com.
HELLS CANYON WINERY 18835 Symms Rd., Caldwell.
Award-winning syrah, merlot, and other food-friendly wines. (208) 454-3300, (800) 318-7873, www.hellscanyonwinery.com.
SAWTOOTH WINERY 13750 Surrey Ln., Nampa.
Chardonnay, merlot, syrah, and more; panoramic view of the Owyhee Mountains. (208) 467-1200, www.sawtoothwinery.com.
INDIAN CREEK WINERY 1000 N. McDermott Rd., Kuna.
Offerings include a popular white pinot noir and a red blend, Star Garnet. (208) 922-4791, www.indiancreekwinery.com.
Photography by Glenn Oakley
This article was first published in September 2004. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.