Wine Discoveries in Idaho's Snake River Valley

This Monday I had the pleasure of judging the 2011 Idaho Wine Competition, which is run by Wine Press NW and hosted by the Idaho Wine Commission.  I truly enjoyed experiencing these new wine regions and discovering some gems. 

Idaho has grown from approximately 11 wineries just a decade ago to over 40.  The commission seems to have improved its marketing significantly, and I'll be following them to monitor developments and growth.  For those thinking of visiting, the greetings are friendly and Boise is a well-maintained college town that is easy to navigate. 

As is typical with me, I offer some of my favorite "gold" wines below -- these are not necessarily competition gold medal winners.

Williamson 2010 Riesling, $9 - This wine ultimately received a silver, but was nearly a gold in my opinion.  Tangerine, lemon cream, floral and basil notes filled the nose, which was confirmed on the palate that offered good balance and a clean finish.  For $9 it's a great buy!

Cinder 2010 Chardonnay, $18 - Lime, pear, green apple aromas were quite pretty, with noticeably nice oak integration on the palate. This is a polished Chardonnay that showed best in its class.  It could stand up against competitors from known Chard regions and with the quality:price ratio, knock them right out of the running.

Williamson 2010 Blossom Rose of Sangiovese, $12 - Another winner from this winery, the rose features pretty pear, floral, lavender and cherry aromas.  There is a nice acid balance on the palate which leads to a clean finish.  Great "summer sipper" all year long (we shouldn't give up rose just because the sun is hiding).

Snake River 2009 Arena Valley Vineyard Syrah, $17 - I gave this wine a gold, as did my colleague panelists, so it was rated a double gold medal.  I loved its smoky cherry, blackberry fruit aromas and notes of bacon fat and pepper.  The palate is filled with rich fruit and it brings a long finish.  (The website is beautifully done -- can't help the marketing note.)

Wood River 2008 Cabernet Franc, $28 - An impressive showing and gold for this variety, which tends not to be made on its own.  The nose has cedar, black fruit, raspberry and bell pepper.  The palate features great balance with good acid:tannin: fruit ratio for structure.  Delicious.  It won best red of show.

Koenig 2009 Riesling Ice Wine, $20 - Wow this was a fun wine to taste -- I may have even swallowed a sip :)  Aromas of apple, pear and lemon zest were complimented by slight graham cracker and herbal notes, which added complexity.  The palate featured very ripe peach and apricot notes and a very long finish.  In short, this is downright delicious.

If you haven't ever tried a wine from Idaho, I encourage you to look for these gems and explore -- afterall, one of the reasons that wine is so engaging is because it offers a way to discover the world.

PS - a special thank you to my colleague, Janel, who participated in research for this post