The unique combination of geography, climate and soil conditions found in Idaho’s vineyards consistently produce grapes with outstanding varietal character. The high elevation (ranging up to 2,900 feet above sea level), extra long hours of daylight during grape ripening, cool nights, ungrafted vines, volcanic ash soils and naturally low vineyard yields all contribute to producing grapes with concentrated fruit flavors and naturally high acidity.
The Snake River is the unifying element that binds Idaho’s wine country, providing the climate-tempering influence of a great river that seems to be so important to premium wine regions the world over. The Snake winds its way through Idaho for over 600 miles; from Idaho’s eastern border with Wyoming, it sweeps across southern Idaho until it defines Idaho’s western borders with Oregon and Washington states. The Snake helps temper the hillside vineyards by drawing off warm air in the summer, and provides frost protection by reducing cold air pockets in the spring and fall.
Idaho is considered to be one of the newer wine growing areas in the United States, so it will come as a surprise to some to learn that a thriving wine industry was located in Lewiston, Idaho, between 1872 and statewide prohibition in 1916. French and German immigrants imported European grape varieties to plant in the fertile areas near Lewiston, especially along the Clearwater River. Although most of Idaho’s vineyards now follow the Snake River Valley in Southern Idaho, the future will undoubtedly bring growth along both the Snake and the historically proven land along the Clearwater.
Courtesy of the Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers Commission, Boise, Idaho.