Editor’s note: This is the 14th in an occasional series on destination wineries of the Pacific Northwest.
CALDWELL, Idaho – Though the Idaho wine industry is still in its youth, one winery has long carried the torch for the Gem State and has developed into the Snake River Valley’s first bonafide destination winery.
Ste. Chapelle overlooks the Snake River in the Sunnyslope Wine District of southern Idaho and is the state’s oldest and largest producer. Begun in 1975 by the Symms family, Ste. Chapelle produces about 130,000 cases of wine annually – meaning it makes more than half of the entire state’s production.
Ste. Chapelle is perched atop what is known as “Winery Hill” and overlooks thousands of acres of agriculture land that is put to use in orchards, row crops (including potatoes) and, of course, wine grapes.
Ste. Chapelle’s early days
When the Symms family launched Ste. Chapelle, it did so in the town of Emmett, 25 miles to the northeast of Caldwell. The winery quickly outgrew its original space, so the new winery was built west of Caldwell.
The winery is named after La Sainte Chapelle in Paris, which was built by King Louis IX in the 13th century, and while the winery in no way resembles the famous gothic cathedral, it does share an airy, high-ceiling feel with its French ancestor.
Stained glass and vaulted ceilings with wooden beams give this a special feel. Ste. Chapelle’s tasting room is well proportioned and large enough to handle sizable crowds. Upstairs is a recently renovated banquet facility.
In the 1990s, Corus Brands in the Seattle area purchased Ste. Chapelle, as well as Sawtooth Winery in nearby Nampa. In 2001, Corus sold nearly all of its wineries to Constellation Brands in New York, including Ste. Chapelle, Columbia Winery, Covey Run Winery and Paul Thomas Wines. The only property it kept was Sawtooth.
In 2003, Dan Baty – who owned Corus – launched Precept Wine and began to build an wine empire that today account for nearly 1.5 million cases of wine production. Ultimately, it merged Corus and Precept. The Batys also own Winemakers LLC, which has large vineyard holdings in Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Amid its holdings is Skyline, Idaho’s largest vineyard at more than 400 acres.
In 2006, a new Sonoma County-based company called Ascentia Wine Estates purchased Ste. Chapelle from Constellation (along with many other wineries, including Columbia Winery in Washington).
By 2012, Ascentia was failing, and it sold Ste. Chapelle to Precept – for all intents and purposes putting it back in the hands of Dan Baty.
Ste. Chapelle today
These days, Ste. Chapelle is the most-visited winery in Idaho – as it has been since its birth in 1975.
In addition to the production of many high-quality, award-winning wines under the direction of head winemaker Maurine Johnson, Ste. Chapelle also is a popular destination because of its nicely manicured grounds, its surrounding vineyard and its picnic tables.
During the summer, Ste. Chapelle puts on a concert series that is popular with locals and visitors alike. The family-friendly concerts are typically scheduled for Sundays and feature local and regional musicians. Area restaurants cater the concerts.
For those looking for a great place to hold a wedding, the grounds at Ste. Chapelle are a romantic location.
And if you’re looking for something to nibble on, the tasting room sells regional artisan cheeses.
Amenities at Ste. Chapelle
- Gift shop
- Picnic area
- Concert venue
- Live music
- Conference facilities
- Food for sale (such as cheeses)
Nearby restaurants recommended by Ste. Chapelle
Nearby overnight accommodations recommended by Ste. Chapelle
- Bitner Vineyards B&B (Caldwell)
- Holiday Inn Express (Nampa)
- Fairfield Inn (Nampa)
- Hampton Inn (Nampa)
Nearby coffee places recommended by Ste. Chapelle
- Coy’s Coffee in Marsing
Non-wine activities recommended by Ste. Chapelle
- Warhawk Air Museum
- Natural History Museum
- Hiking, biking, fishing, camping, river rafting
- Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge
- Eagle Island
- Zoo Boise
- Roaring Springs Waterpark
Ste. Chapelle hours, directions and contact information
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
From downtown Boise, take Interstate 84 west toward Caldwell. Take Exit 33A. Go west on Idaho 55. Turn left on Chicken Dinner Road, which becomes Lowell Road. Turn right into the winery driveway.
Address, phone and website:
19348 Lowell Road
Caldwell, ID 83607
208-453-7840 ext. 3