Wine Making in the USA: Idaho’s Ste. Chapelle Winery
Topped only by the iconic wine producing nations of France, Italy, and Spain the United States of America is the fourth largest wine producing country in the world. At the mention of American wines your mind may naturally go to the great state of California, and rightfully so. With over 89% of all American wines being produced in California it’s easy to assume that the state is the origin for all American wine, but to assume that is to overlook the great wines from other states.
Today I’d like to give a brief history of wine production in Idaho, some background on the Ste. Chapelle winery (the largest in Idaho), and a quick opinion of my favorite Ste. Chapelle wine, the Soft Red, that I last had after a nice game of golf in Branson, MO at Thousand Hills.
Whether you’re traveling through or near the state of Idaho, the Ste. Chapelle winery and the wine producing region of southwestern Idaho is definitely worth checking out.
Wine Production in Idaho
Idaho joined the USA as the 43rd state, and is situated in a region known as the Pacific Northwest. Wine production in Idaho goes back more than one hundred years, with the first vineyards planted in the 1860s, about thirty years before Idaho became a legitimate state in July of 1890. Wine is mainly produced in Idaho’s southwestern region known as “Sunny Slope,” which is fed by the mighty Snake River.
Idaho is most known for its cooler climate white wine varietals like Chenin blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Chardonnay although there has recently been a push to produce more red wine varieties like Merlot and Syrah. Idaho’s sometimes early and often cold winter also allows the state to produce specialty ice wines which require the grapes be frozen while still attached to the vine, and allow for an incredibly sweet wine.
In addition to the grape types listed above Idaho also produces a plethora of other grapes including: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lemberger, Malbec, Muscat Canelli, Orange Muscat, Petit Verdot,Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Viognier, Zinfandel, and Zweigelt.
Ste. Chapelle Winery
The largest winery in Idaho is known as Ste. Chapelle. This winery is located in “Sunny Slope” and sits atop “Winery Hill.” The winery was founded by the Symms family in 1976 and named Ste. Chapelle Winery after King Louis IX’s beautiful 13th century court chapel known as La Sainte Chapelle located in Paris, France.
The winery is beautifully constructed, and offers guests a throwback to the olden days of quality artistic construction with its elegant vaulted ceiling and wooden beam construction. The lofty cathedral-style windows offer natural lighting that provides visitors with bright, cheery warmth from the southwestern Idaho sun.
Ste. Chapelle was created to be a small winery, but high demand for its quality wines helped it grow quickly into Idaho’s largest winery, capable of producing 130,000 cases per annum.
Ste. Chapelle’s Soft Red
Although I wouldn’t classify myself as an avid wine connoisseur, or even that knowledgeable, what I can tell you is that I absolutely love Ste. Chapelle’s Soft Red wine. Generally held in storage for two years before release, Soft Red is a wonderfully pleasing mix of raspberries, plums, Bing cherries, and licorice. With just the right level of sweetness as to not overwhelm, Soft Red is well suited for any casual event. Not only that, but it is the perfect wine to serve well-chilled on warm to hot summer days. For a winning combination I like to pair Soft Red with grilled salmon or barbecued pork chops, and a dessert consisting of fresh fruit and assorted cheeses.
If you’d like to learn more about the Ste. Chapelle winery, or Idaho wines in general, you can visit the Idaho Wine Commission at www.idahowines.org.
About the Author:
David Bryce is an online publisher and blogs on the topics of golf, travel, and vacations.