Northern Idaho’s Colter’s Creek Vineyard and Winery

Colter’s Creek owners Mike Pearson and Melissa Sanborn have always shared an interest in wine. On a cold, winter drive along the Clearwater River, they took a side path home and came across an overgrown yet picturesque vineyard for sale along the Potlatch River. The rest is history. They have since focused their zeal into establishing their new winery while improving the vineyard.

Unbeknownst to many, the Clearwater River Valley was once home to a prosperous grape and wine industry. In 1872, vines were planted near Lewiston. Throughout the following 40 years, up to 40 varieties of grapes, many of which were European, covered the slopes of the Clearwater River canyon and its tributaries. The region distinguished itself from others by its fertile soil, steep slopes and long, hot growing season. Wines from these grapes boasted several national and international awards, showing promise as some of the best wines in the world.

In the past 10 years, the slopes of the Clearwater Valley are again being decorated with vines. New vineyards have been established, with their fruit being turned into premium Idaho wines. There is little doubt that this region will once again stand out as one of the great wine regions of the world.

2010 Chardonnay, $11.99
This refreshing Chardonnay has hints of peach and citrus. Fermented and aged in stainless steel, this estate bottled wine is reminiscent of an Old-World white: clean, bright and crisp.

2012 Riesling, $11.99
The vines that produced this Riesling are some of the oldest in the state. Nestled on the banks of the Clearwater, the vines are naturally cooled by the river’s water, resulting in a crisp, flavorful wine. Slight hints of apricot and honey complement its subtle, off-dry sweetness.

2011 Syrah, $11.99
Sourced from the Snake River Valley, this fruit-forward, full-bodied Rhône blend (85 percent Syrah, 10 percent Mourvedre, 5 percent Viognier) has notes of blackberry and dark fruit.

2009 Koos Koos Kia Red, $25.00
Koos·Koos·Kia is the Nez Perce name of the Clearwater River, meaning “transparent water,” the same water that replenishes Colter’s Creek’s vines. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc. Well balanced with aromas of plum, sage, currant and leather, the Koos·Koos·Kia blend finishes with a slight minerality characteristic of our soils and clear water.

2009 Cabernet Franc, $28.00
The 2009 vintage provided the perfect growing conditions for this estate Cabernet Franc. A nose of plum, raspberry and a hint of clove is followed by cranberry and cherry flavors with a mineral finish.

Idaho’s Own Fraser Vineyard

With the help of friends and family, Fraser vineyard was planted in the spring of 2003. The Canyon County site, in the new Snake River Valley Appellation, was selected for its steep south-facing slope, 2,700-foot elevation and abundant Idaho sunshine. The vineyard is composed of three Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. The Spring issue ofWine Press Northwest named Fraser Vineyard 2011 Idaho Winery of the Year. The wines also received top honors at the October 2010 Idaho Wine Competition at Wine Press Northwest. The new 2011 Malbec just won a Gold Medal and the 2011 Tempranillo won a Silver Medal at the 2013 NW Wine Competition.

Here’s the lineup:

2010 Couloir Cuvée, $21.00
A blend of 70 percent Syrah and 30 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, $26.00
This estate Cabernet spends two years in barrel, six months in bottle. It’s a bright ruby color with aromatic nuances of ripe cherry, blackberry and black raspberry that combine seamlessly with cinnamon and baking spice notes. The plushness of this wine continues throughout the palate with intense fruit balanced by rich, silky oak. A long finish keeps you tasting this wine well after your final sip. Pairs well with numerous culinary delights from barbecued meats and blue cheeses to tomato-based sauces.

2011 Tempranillo, $24.00
The vibrant purple garnet color leads to a nose of spice, blueberry and roses. In the mouth, black fruit combines with leather and floral notes and a hint of pepper. Perfect for pairing with cuisines hot off the grill or hearty, sauce-based dishes.

2011 Malbec, $28.00
Spent 14 months in all new French and American oak. Light ruby color with, the ripe cherry aromas are backed by hints of dried herb and spice. The palate delights with bright cherry and blueberry and fresh cracked pepper. A well-balanced finish of fruit and oak keeps this wine fresh yet refined. it’s ready to enjoy with your favorite late-summer grilled pork and beef dishes.

Rediscover an Idaho Original: Sawtooth Vineyard

Sawtooth Winery, formerly known as Pintler Cellars, was founded in 1987 and started as a 15-acre vineyard in the heart of the Canyon County region of the Idaho’s Snake River Valley. The vineyards surrounding the winery were once rich pasture land owned by Charles Pintler. The Pintlers saw a the vineyard potential in the steep, south sloping hills, and set out to grow wine grapes.

Seven acres of European vinifera vines were planted in 1982, including Chenin Blanc, Riesling, and Semillon. In the following year, four additional acres were planted, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. In 1987, the first harvest of fruit was available for the winery.

Pintler Cellars joined Corus Estates & Vineyards in 1998, changing its name to Sawtooth Winery, and featuring a distinctive label that depicts the jagged Sawtooth mountains. Bill Murray, who boasts a long resume at some of the top wineries in California, is the current winemaker. Here’s the featured line-up:

2010 Sawtooth Chardonnay, $9.99
This 2010 Chardonnay marries crisp green apples with caramel and butter notes. A well-rounded palate leads to a fruit filled finish with well-integrated oak.

2012 Sawtooth Pinot Gris, $9.99
Opens with a vibrant nose filled with floral citrus and light mineral aromas. This bright Pinot Gris showcases pear and nectarine fruit flavors with a hint of orange. The finish is clean and lingers nicely.

2012 Sawtooth Cinsault Rosé, $12.99
Offers beautifully floral aromas of wildflower, clover and cherry blossoms. It’s a very fruit forward rosé with a rich mid-palate that’s filled with ripe strawberry flavors, balanced by bright citrus on the finish. A bold style that’s undeniably delicious.

2010 Sawtooth Skyline Red, $9.99
A blend of 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 14 percent Merlot, 11 percent Tempranillo, 7percent Petite Sirah, 4 percent Petite Verdot andthe final 4 percent a mix of Malbec, Syrah and Grenache. The resulting wine is filled with rich plum and cherry fruit, backed by earth and spice notes. The beautiful, long fruit finish is supported by a well-balanced, tannin structure.

2009 Sawtooth Cabernet, $13.99
This wine is filled with aromas of dark fruit, spice, vanilla and oak. It’s a fruit-forward, medium bodied wine with light tannins and ripe bing cherry fruit flavors that are nicely balanced by crisp acidity on the palate. The Cabernet is blended with 15 percent Petit Verdot and 5 percent Malbec.

Spotlight on Huston Vineyards

Huston is the Gateway to Idaho’s Wine Country and the well-traveled Sunnyslope Wine Trail. Established in 1911 as the agriculture portal to Southwest Idaho’s urban communities, Huston provided the transportation hub for farmers to ship fresh fruits and vegetables via the Boise Interurban Railway.

Locavore wasn’t just a philosophy but a way of life as surrounding towns received the freshest produce from the market basket of Huston and the nearby farming community. Today, Huston is the home of Huston Vineyards, a boutique vineyard and winery established in 2006. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah were planted and thrive on this site of rich volcanic soil and long sunny days.

2012 Huston Chicken Dinner White, $15.99
Pale straw color and tropical fruit aromas of pineapple and honeydew melon are the introduction to this off-dry white wine. Flavors of green apple, apricot and a hint of honeysuckle create a crisp yet balanced mid-palate and finish. 2012 Chicken Dinner White pairs well with apricot and walnut-topped baked brie, spicy Asian noodles with ginger dressing, fish tacos and mango salsa, and chicken (of course).

2011 Huston Merlot, $27.00
Deep ruby red color and aromas of smoky bacon and black cherry with flavors of cedar and vanilla are sure to please the most particular palate. This Merlot is well structured yet elegant, finishing very velvety smooth. Huston Vineyards 20011 Merlot pairs well with teriyaki-glazed chichen skewers, butter nut squash risotto, braised lamb shank, roasted pork tenderloin or ancho chile-opped ribeye.

2011 Huston Malbec, $29.00
South-facing slopes along the Snake River atop rich red volcanic soil provide excellent conditions for growing Malbec in Idaho. Huston Vineyards Malbec presents deep garnet colors and aromas of dried blueberries and allspice. This medium-bodied wine displays supple tannins and flavors of plum and black raspberry with a finish that is spicy and lingering.

Idaho’s Own, Bitner Vineyards

The family-owned Bitner Vineyards consists of 15 acres of premium vinifera wine grapes. Riesling and Chardonnay were the first varieties planted back in 1981, making them some of the oldest blocks in Idaho. The vineyards are located in the  beautiful Snake River valley, and the quality of the grapes is the result of the true “terroir” of the area.

Originally Bitner Vineyards sold grapes to several Idaho wineries. In 1995 they began providing Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to Koenig Distillery and Winery. Greg Koenig has won much recognition and many awards for his wines, and in 1997 began making small quantities of Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Reserve Chardonnay, which the Bitners bottled under their own label.

Dr. Ron Bitner is a professional entomologist. His work with bees has allowed him to travel extensively. Beginning in 1995, he spent nine seasons working in Australia with his bees, but also enjoying the Australian wine country. This experience has led to the plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz (as the Aussies say) to produce Australian-style wines. Here are notes on a few of their wines:

2011 Dry Riesling, $17.99
German style with floral aromas, crisp, clean, citrus flavors, in a medium-bodied wine. A great food wine that goes especially well with spicy foods.

2010 Chardonnay, $20.00
Lightly toasted oak with ripe apple, pear and melon aromas, punctuated by creamy butterscotch and soft oak. Long-lingering buttery finish, it pairs well with seafood and soft, creamy cheese dishes.

2008 Cabernet/Shiraz Blend, $30.00
Sixty percent Cabernet and 40 percent Syrah, the 2008 vintage expresses flavors of clove, chocolate, coffee and a hint of violets. Terroir-driven fruit, this wine is big, full bodied and can be laid down for up to 10 years. A perfect choice with lamb, veal or a standing rib roast.

Las Tres Mujeres (Three Women), $22.00
Very fruity Cabernet with strawberry jam aromas and a hint of plum.