Comfortably ensconced in Boise’s Riverside Hotel, following a tasty breakfast, I joined my fellow writers for the short ride to the 44th Street Wineries Cooperative. Earl Sullivan is the owner of Telaya Wine (Tetons + Playa = Telaya) and they released their first vintage in 2009, starting with whites. Winemaker Kat House also runs the House of Wine at the 44th Street location and teaches wine education. Telaya started with Washington fruit, but beginning with the 2012 vintage will be using 100% Idaho fruit in their wines. Joe Schnerr and Melanie Krauss own Cinder Wines. Melanie makes the wines and got her start as an enologist at Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Canoe Ridge Winery. They named the winery Cinder because of the layers of volcanic ash under the vineyards. Daughter Charlie already seems quite comfortable handling a wine glass and never once left dad’s side during our visit.
We took the scenic drive into the Snake River AVA for a picnic lunch at Bitner Vineyards with Ron Bitner and Mary Alger from Huston Vineyards. The sun was shining and it was simply a lovely day. Ron shared stories of the truffle sniffing dogs and Mary told us how Chicken Dinner Rd. got its name. It seems a resident decades ago enticed the governor to fix the roads with a homemade chicken dinner. Huston offers both a Chicken Dinner white and red wine. I soaked in the panoramic view before we said our goodbyes and made our way just down the road to Ste. Chapelle Winery.
Winemaker Maurine Johnson welcomed us warmly and gave us a tour of their beautiful facility. Crush was in full swing, so I savored the smells that come once a year to wine country. She earned her degree from UC Davis and has been with Ste. Chapelle since 1987 and was promoted to head winemaker in 2011. The tasting room is warm and inviting and she allowed us time to explore the many wines on her list, including an Almond Roca Cream! The most expensive wine on the list is $20, so you won’t experience any wallet shock after a visit here.
From its start on a humble 80 acres 1914, Symms Fruit Ranch now encompasses 5,000 acres. It was peach and apple season during our visit and the facility was in full swing. The sheer quantity of fruit processed here is mind-boggling. As you might guess, it smells heavenly. We got a tour most people don’t get the chance to witness. The speed at which things happen here is staggering.
From Symms we made our way along Chicken Dinner Rd. to Koenig Vineyards, where we visited with winemaker Greg Koenig. The interesting thing about Koenig is not only are they a winery, they’re a distillery. Idaho law prohibited us sampling his spirits, like Pear Brandy and Huckleberry Vodka, but we did taste through his fine wines, among them Viognier, Chardonnay, Cabernet, Syrah and Sangiovese. Koenig is a true family operation and well worth a visit. There was one last stop on this magnificent day.
It was dusk when we arrived at Sawtooth Winery for a tour and dinner in the vines. Christopher Zahn of Zee Catering prepared a magnificent feast for us as we enjoyed a wonderful pairing with Sawtooth wines. All locally sourced, we dined on cantaloupe with prosciutto, spring salad, grilled pork loin with huckleberry sauce and grilled peaches with grape sauce and freshly whipped cream. The moonrise as we wound up a spectacular day was stunning.