I studied just a half page on the wines of Idaho when I was preparing to be tested (and pass) my American Wine Specialist® Certification course last year. Frankly, I was pretty intrigued by all of the U.S. states that found a way to make wine that fit their location, climate and soil conditions.
But I didn’t expect to receive an entire case of wine from Idaho to taste and review. To do that, in a timely manner, I called in the “Big Guns” to help me: The Wine-y Women Unwind meet-up group led by Kathy Lockhart. Within three hours of her announcement, of a guided tasting and lesson for free (the wine was free, so it wouldn’t be right to charge for the tasting) our class was booked. The only thing we asked the 20 ladies in attendance to do was to bring a dish to share, and be prepared to take notes on aroma and flavor, with some help from me, so I could write up this article as a “collective tasting.”
Idaho Tasting Notes
(The first three or so descriptors in both aroma and flavor are mine, additional descriptors are notes from the Winey Women, overall favorites also noted.)
1. Cinder Small Lot Series Sauvignon Blanc, 2014
Aromas: Dried pineapple, honeydew melon, apricot, peach, Meyer lemon, green Granny Smith apple, grapefruit, pear, pepper, stone.
Flavors: The same flavors we found in the aromas also presented in the palate as well as black and white pepper and oak.
2. Fujishin Family Cellars Reserve Viognier, 2015
Aromas: Fruit cocktail, pear, tangerine, apple, floral, vanilla, strawberry, kiwi, passion fruit, almond, eucalyptus and lychee.
Flavors: Lavender, same fruit again as we found on the nose, as well as lavender, lemon, and cloves, with a back palate that was slightly bitter and earthy.
3. Hat Ranch Winery Dry Moscato, 2015
Aromas: Honeysuckle, Meyer lemon, kiwi, orange, tropical fruit, melon, lavender soap, grapefruit, cinnamon, yeast.
Flavors: Lemon twist, limeade, grapefruit, shorter finish.
4. Clearwater Canyon Cellars Estate Syrah, 2014 (Favorite #1)
Aromas: Blue to black fruit, raspberry, milk and dark chocolate, black pepper, dark cherry, prune, cigar, oak.
Flavors: Spicy, jam on toast, cherry, plum, coffee, raisins, chocolate, cedar, black pepper, juniper, ginger.
5. Crossings Winery Cabernet Franc, 2012
Aromas: Pinot Noir like, with tart cherry, teriyaki beef jerky, smoke, marshmallow, prune.
Flavors: Tart bright cherries, strawberry, spice, meaty, slightly sweet, leather, pepper, oak.
6. Sawtooth Estate Winery Trout Trilogy Carmenere, 2013
Aromas: Luxardo cherry, mint, plum, vanilla, white pepper, blackberry, black cherry, raisin, cinnamon, artichoke, leather, earth.
Flavors: Big, spicy, red fruit, plum, blackberry, spice, vanilla, pepper, cedar, earthy, dry.
7. Bitner Vineyards Tempranillo, 2013 (Favorite #2)
Aromas: Chocolate covered cherries, blackberry, raisin, rose petals, perfumy, oak.
Flavors: Bright to dusty fruit, spice, cherry, cloves, cardamom, dried fruit, long finish.
8. Huston Vineyards Malbec, 2014
Aromas: Tobacco, black licorice, dried blueberry, blackberry, fig, suede, mushroom, wet earth.
Flavors: Lingering blueberry, blackberry, black pepper, jam, chocolate, leather, wet earth, woody, licorice, tannic.
9. Ste. Chapelle Panoramic Series Petit Verdot, 2012
Aromas: Dusty chocolate, blueberry, black cherry, white pepper, plum, prune, toasted marshmallow, black currant, spice, cream, oak, violet, mint.
Flavors: Dry fruit, raspberry, raisin, plum, black currant, cinnamon, vanilla, chocolate, vanilla, pepper, almond, marshmallow, tannic.
10. Williamson Orchards & Vineyards Sangiovese, 2012
Aromas: Raspberry, cherry, fig, vanilla, tobacco leaves, cinnamon, caramel, rosemary, fig, sweet.
Flavors: Dried fruit, red currant, spicy, pepper, musty, earthy, sweet tobacco, nutmeg cinnamon, perfumy, nuts, mint, dry.
11. Indian Creek White Riesling, 2015
Aromas: Pears in syrup, pineapple, orange blossom, tropical fruit, peach, apricot, lime, ginger, hibiscus, white pepper, honey, rose petals, steely and wet stones.
Flavors: Lemon hard candy, kiwi, pineapple, pear, honey, syrup, sweet strawberry, orange, almond.
12. Koenig Vineyards Botrytis Single Berry Select Late Harvest Riesling, 2014 (Favorite #3)
Aromas: Apricot, sweet pink grapefruit, pear, mango, passion fruit, honey, floral, vanilla.
Flavors: Viscous, peach, pear, apricot, orange, marmalade, caramel, jam, freshly cut hay.
From The Idaho Wine Commission
Rich, fertile volcanic soils. Abundant sun and water. High-elevation vineyards. An ideal climate, with winter dormancy and a warm growing season. Idaho wineries benefit from all of these natural advantages and more. Simply put, Idaho is a great place to make wine.
Oregon and Washington welcomed Idaho to the Northwest wine party in 2007, when the Snake River Valley became Idaho’s first American Viticultural Area. Idaho winemakers have a blank slate, in an absolutely gorgeous corner of the Northwest, that’s more affordable than other territories. Idaho is like Oregon was 20 years ago: as-yet undiscovered and finding its way. The market isn’t crowded, and it’s delightfully unrestrained by convention.
This leaves Idaho winemakers free to focus on their own private journey and simply make the best wine they can without worrying about it having to meet a particular flavor profile. They can make obscure varieties of wine that people will take to fast if done well.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, a "certification in first globally-recognized course" as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com