No, that isn’t a typo, Nampa is located in the beautiful state of Idaho, and yes, they make wine. Nampa isn’t the only city in which wine is produced in the state, in fact, at the time of this writing, 34 wineries are listed on the website www.idahowine.org as either already producing wine, or coming soon.
The area’s Wine Growers experiment with quite a number of different varietals and styles. Idaho is one of the few states that produce Ice wine, thanks to the reliable frost that comes through late in the harvest season. Reisling also seems to grow well, lending itself perfectly to a nice dessert-ready late harvest wine. Of the three wineries I visited, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurtzminer, Viognier, and Bordeaux style blends were all produced. I found myself partial to the whites more than the reds, which included the dessert wines.
Our first stop was The Winery at Eagle Knoll (Website), a 5,000 case production facility with tranquil grounds for weddings and events. The Winemaker, Vernon Kindred, has a palate that leans toward dry wines, which translates into a very nice Chardonnay that doesn’t see oak or malolactic fermentation, and a dry Riesling that is well balanced and food friendly. The staff was friendly, prices reasonable, and white wines surprisingly pleasant. An enjoyable pairing was with a white dessert wine and a nibble of dark chocolate .The Winery has recently changed hands and the new owners are aiming at improving quality, changing the label, and investing in the business. Watch out for this one over the next few years.
Next we found ourselves sipping and depositing a lot of wine in the spit buckets of St. Chapelle Winery in Caldwell, ID, Southwest of Boise (Website). Although the Sparkling Brut was a good value, pretty much all of the other wines tasted off, sweet, flabby, or austere. The grounds are nice however, and it seems to be a popular choice for weddings and other events. A good comparison winery in California is Sutter Home. Huge production, low prices, low quality, with one or two varietals that are just O.K.
Our last stop was the Koenig Winery & Distillery (Website). Although the wines here are good, the prices are a bit steep, and I would much rather buy a good red from Washington at less than half the price. The Viognier was nice, but still, a bit pricey. The real gem of this stop is the vodka distilled from potatoes in double copper pot still’s made by renowned German coppersmith Adrian & Co. Unfortunately, the state doesn’t allow tasting of hard alcohol or shipping to any other state, so you have to pony up and grab a bottle when you visit. If you’re a vodka fan, this effort is sure to impress, and can be enjoyed in typical martini fashion or sipped out of a petite wine glass. Our tour guide, Gina, also recommends the brandies, available in Apple, Apricot, Cherry, Grappa, Peach, Pear, Plum, and Raspberry.
The next time you’re passing through town, move to the area, or are just going to Boise to watch the Bronco’s, schedule some time to see Nampa, you might be surprised at what you find.