- Winemaker Interviews
- Idaho Wine Experience
When you think of wine in the Pacific Northwest you probably first think of Willamette Valley, Oregon and Walla Walla Valley, Washington, and with good reason. These prime locations have hundreds of wineries including many outstanding producers. But did you know that the first wineries in the Pacific Northwest were in Idaho? The first grapes were planted there in 1864 and award-winning wineries popped up from the late 19th century until the time of Prohibition. This nationwide ban on the production and sale of alcoholic beverages wiped out Idaho’s wine industry, which didn’t begin rebuilding until 1970. As recently as 2002 there were a mere 11 wineries in the state. Its first AVA—Snake River Valley—was established in 2007. Today, Idaho is home to one of the fastest-growing wine regions in the country, with 70 wineries and three AVAs (Eagle Foothills and Lewis-Clark Valley are the others).
One of the keys to Idaho’s success is geography, with wine regions located between the 43rd and 45th parallels north. Other famous regions that share these latitudes are Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence, Tuscany, and Bordeaux. Idaho’s climate and terroir is also conducive to growing high-quality grapes. The continental climate allows for cool winters and warm summers, an ideal growing season. The average vineyard sits at nearly 2,000 feet elevation and has well-drained, volcanic soil. These conditions allow varietals such as Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon to thrive. Idaho also produces quality white grapes like Riesling and Chardonnay.
The rapid ascent of the Idaho wine industry in the 21st-century has resulted in more than 130,000 cases produced annually and an annual economic impact of over $200 million, with no signs of slowing down.
The next time you are considering a wine trip to the Pacific Northwest we encourage you to center your trip around Idaho.