Located in both Oregon and Idaho the Snake River Valley was previously best known by me as the location where Evel Kneivel jumped a canyon with a rocket* (or a strangely conceived steam powered motorcycle). My eight-year old self aside, the appellation was designated in 2007 after the Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers Commission submitted the petition which was granted due to unique qualities of the region.
And what are those qualities? Specifically, it is cooler, drier, at a higher elevation and with a shorter growing season than nearby appellations (Oregon’s Umpqua Valley, Oregon and Washington’s Walla Walla Valley and California’s Napa Valley (which seems to be a de rigueur comparison)). Unlike many appellations, the soils are varied but are underlain by the remains of ancient Lake Idaho which largely forms the border of the area.
Viticulture had begun in Idaho in the 1860s but it wasn’t until the 1970s that it took root in the Snake River Valley. From that time number of wineries and vineyards to grown to nearly thirty and is producing wines from a wide range of vinifera grapes including:
- Cabernet Franc
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Petite Sirah
- Petit Verdot
- Pinot Gris
- Pinot Noir
- Sauvignon Blanc
I have been to Idaho, though not near the AVA but I did stop and buy a from the appellation. The wine was a dry Riesling from Ste. Chapelle and I will be looking for more in the future as it was dry and crisp with a bright burst of fruit. Sadly, on my trip to Oregon this year for WBC12, I was no where near the Snake River Valley. Maybe next time.
* Turns out the area that Evel Knievel took off from and landed was in the AVA. Worlds colliding?!