Saturday, November 7, 2015

Move over, potatoes.
It's wine's time to
shine. If you've already acknowledged that the
Northwest corner of our great United States is a hotbed for fine
wine—Willamette Pinots, Walla Walla Cabs, and the like—then how much of a
stretch is it to accept next-door neighbor Idaho as the source for
serious-minded vino? Ok, it's a big stretch.
But breathe.
And say it with
me: Idaho wine.
I say it cautiously, because I have only tasted a dozen of them, but the
state formerly known for its potatoes might be pretty good at growing grapes,
too. The Snake River Valley AVA—that stands for American Viticultural
Appellation, government-speak for official wine zone—is partly in Idaho
(just to the south of Boise), partly in neighboring Oregon (but the other side
of the state from the more famous Willamette).
And it's the most established
wine zone in the Gem State.
You'd never guess the grapes grown there: Viognier (the white Rhone
beauty), Tempranillo (Rioja's mainstay), and Malbec (the great South
American hope) seem to be the ones that are really thriving, even though the
three types are usually not found anywhere near each other.
If they met at a party, there would be an awkward silence.
I found one of each that I really liked.
Koenig Vineyards Snake River Valley
Williamson Vineyard Viognier 2012 ($15) has a fairly high alcohol content for
a white wine, 14.9%, but it uses that big frame to deliver an unctuousness
that is characteristic of this grape.
It has a lovely white peach character,
with a hint of the spicy baby powder nose Viognier often has.
There may be a
touch of residual sugar here, a sweetness used to good effect.
Huston Vineyards Snake River Valley Malbec 2012 ($29) has a very pure, fresh
fruit profile, as opposed to a few other Idaho reds I had, which had been
over-oaked.
Ample raspberry flavor, a lovely weight on the palate, and a
pleasant finish make this a winner—how about serving it alongside a Moroccan
tagine with dried apricots? The soft plum and cherry tastes, and the hint
of coffee, in the Sawtooth Snake River Valley Classic Fly Series Tempranillo
2012 ($25), aren't exactly Rioja-like, but there is plenty to appreciate in
this well-made wine, including a weighty texture.
Are we ready to call Idaho the Next Great Northwest Wine Region? Maybe.
The
highest compliment I can give is that I am ready, willing, and able to taste
more of them.
Ted Loos is the Travel + Leisure's Wine and Spirits Contributor.
Follow
him on Twitter at @looslips.
There's so much more to Idaho than lumpy potatoes.
Now, the
Midwestern state is the proud home of a burgeoning wine region.
Read on for
Ted Loos' recommendations of the best Idaho wines to try.

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