By Leslie-Ann Sheppard
I confess. I used to be one of those people who scoffed at Idaho wines. You see, before moving to Teton Valley, I owned a wine shop on the island of Nantucket. For over a decade, I bought and sold wines from what I thought of as “all over the world”—California, Oregon, and Washington wines were “it” for U.S. representation. When I mentioned to friends that I was packing up and moving to Idaho, the responses typically included references to potatoes, wilderness, and fishing, but never to wine.
To my surprise, I found that Idaho borders states with esteemed wine production. Melanie Krause, owner and winemaker at Snake River Valley’s Cinder Winery, explains, “When I was working in Washington with Chateau St. Michelle, I would visit my parents back in Boise [my hometown]. I was always curious about the young wine industry here.” After comparing the temperatures between the Columbia Valley of Washington and the Snake River Valley in Idaho, and meeting with growers, she came to believe that world-class wines could be produced in Idaho. Koenig Vineyards proves Krause right, with their recent honor of the first Idaho wine to receive ninety-one points in Wine Spectator Magazine, for their 2010 Syrah Three Vineyard Cuvee.
Currently, the Snake River Valley is home to only forty wineries and distribution is limited. But you can get your hands on some quality Idaho juice in Jackson at Jackson Whole Grocer, Bin 22, The Alpenhof Bistro, and Nikai; at Forage in Driggs; and at Grand Teton Brewing in Victor.
Who: winemaker Melanie Krause
What: ten different varieties
Where: Garden City, Idaho
Pairing: “I love [pairing] our Syrah with lamb or pork dishes, our Chardonnay with grilled halibut, the Tempranillo with roasted meats. And our Viogniers—we make two different styles—can be paired with salads, heavy soups, and cheese.” -Melanie Krause
Who: winemaker Greg Koenig
What: fourteen different varieties
Where: Caldwell, Idaho
Pairing: “Our all-time favorite pairing has to be Syrah with Idaho lamb. The rich, spicy flavors of Syrah really complement lamb, which needs some spice to offset the gamy flavors and richness. A simple preparation—either a leg or rack—with rosemary, garlic, sea salt, and pepper, with seasonal vegetables and Idaho potato gratin, is a great winter meal.” -Greg Koenig
Who: winemaker Earl Sullivan
What: four different varieties
Where: Garden City, Idaho
Pairing: “We make big bold wines and found that our 2010 Syrah pairs well with buffalo...A medium-rare buffalo strip, seasoned with pepper, plated with some baby potatoes and mushrooms…Our 2010 Cab is very rounded and fruit-forward, with the coffee and nutmeg coming later in the finish. It really lets the chocolate shine…Finally, our Turas has been paired with spicy pasta.” -Earl Sullivan
Leslie-Ann Sheppard is a former web-footer (sea level transplant), adventurer, writer, yoga enthusiast, and a lover of wine and food. She works for Pro Guide Direct in Victor, and lives in Tetonia with her husband and two young daughters.