New York (Finger Lakes)
Known for its breathtaking wilderness and, perhaps more famously, potatoes, Idaho also is home to a fast-growing wine industry and award-winning wines. Nestled between the Rocky Mountains and the Snake River, Idaho wine regions nurture the grapes with a moderate climate, limited precipitation, and a consistent growing season that adds complexity to the grapes.
Idaho champions Riesling as one of the region’s most well-suited grapes. Originally planted by German and French settlers in the mid 1800s, Riesling grapes thrive in Idaho’s four-season climate. Cold winters allow vines to go dormant, rest and conserve important carbohydrates for the coming season, while ridding the plants of bugs and discouraging the formation of disease. Idaho summer’s combination of cold nights and warm days keep sugars high, nurtured during the long day by abundant sunshine, and maintaining acids at favorable levels by cool evenings.
The Snake River Valley’s lack of rainfall also is a plus. The region only receives an average of 11” of rainfall annually, so the grapes can hang well into the cooler of months of October and November without being subject to rot. This dry climate also allows growers better control over canopy management.
Most vineyards in Idaho are planted on hillsides with southwestern exposure to mitigate against frost damage and to ensure full ripening. Riesling generally ripens very well in this region.
Snake River Valley Appellation
The Snake River Valley encompasses Southwestern Idaho and two counties in Eastern Oregon, with more than five million acres falling at the 45th parallel. Situated 400 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, it experiences more drastic variations in day and night temperatures than any other appellation in the Pacific Northwest.
Coupled with some of the highest vineyard elevations in this corner of the USA (generally 2,800 feet), this region provides a unique setting for growing Riesling grapes. Soils vary widely, but are typically sandy loam created by a combination of flooding and volcanic activity.
The dry continental weather patterns of the Snake River Valley generally produce highly aromatic Rieslings. The aromas fall more to the stone fruit, tropical and floral side of the Riesling spectrum than to the steely minerality side often found in cooler growing regions. However, Idaho’s cool nights maintain the quintessential racy acidity Riesling is known for.
Idaho Rieslings cover the gamut. The majority are traditionally on the sweeter side, but as more wine producers move to the region, this tendency is changing.