6th annual Idaho Wine Competition begins today

By on September 22, 2015
Idaho wine industry is growing.

Idaho’s wine industry has grown to more than 50 wineries, many of them based in the Snake River Valley west of Boise. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

CALDWELL, Idaho – Eight Northwest wine experts will spend today evaluating about 160 wines from the Gem State in the sixth annual Idaho Wine Competition.

The judging, which takes place at Ste. Chapelle winery on a bluff overlooking the Snake River, is conducted by Great Northwest Wine.

Judges from Washington, Idaho and California have traveled to the Snake River Valley – the heart of Idaho wine country – for the evaluation.

The judges are:

  • Mike Dunne, longtime wine columnist for the Sacramento Bee and one of the most respected wine judges in California.
  • Ilene Dudunake, owner of A New Vintage Wine Shop near Boise and frequent judge in various Pacific Northwest wine competitions.
  • Lane Hoss, wine buyer and vice president of marketing for Anthony’s Restaurants.
  • Karen McMillin, fine wine brand manager for Hayden Beverage/Young’s Market of Idaho, based in Boise.
  • Kathryn House, enologist and educator for House of Wine in Boise and former winemaker for Betz Family Winery in Woodinville, Wash., and winemaking instructor at South Seattle Community College.
  • Mike Rader, member of Great Northwest Wine’s tasting panel.
  • April Reddout, wine program manager for the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center in Prosser, Wash.
  • Ken Robertson, member of Great Northwest Wine’s tasting panel and columnist for Wine Press Northwest magazine.

Idaho wine industry rising

Idaho wine country is growing.

A vineyard worker harvests Syrah at Williamson Vineyard in the heart of Idaho wine country near Caldwell. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

While this is the sixth annual Idaho Wine Competition, it is a continuation of the evaluation process by the Great Northwest Wine team that began in 2000 with one of the first large-scale blind judgings conducted of Idaho wine.

The Idaho wine industry has begun to enjoy healthy growth the past few years. As recently as 1998, there were about a dozen wineries in Idaho. Today, that has grown to more than 50, stretching from the Canadian border in the north nearly to the Nevada border in the south.

About 1,200 acres of wine grapes have been established, primarily in the Snake River Valley surrounding the communities of Caldwell and Nampa, which are about 30 miles west of Boise. In addition, wineries have begun to spread north into the Lewiston area, as well as in Moscow and the Panhandle communities of Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint.

Idaho’s first American Viticultural Area – the Snake River Valley – was established in 2007 and was one of the most significant events in the state’s wine history.

Today, two more AVAs are pending and are expected to be approved late this year or early in 2016:

  • The Lewis-Clark Valley would be a bi-state AVA that surrounds the cities of Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston, Wash. This is home to one of the historically oldest wine regions in either state and today is enjoying a renaissance with about 100 acres of vines planted. The proposed AVA would be more than 300,000 acres in size and, as proposed, would include removing about 57,000 acres of the Columbia Valley, which goes up to the Idaho border.
  • The Eagle Foothills would be a sub-AVA of the Snake River Valley in an area north of Boise and would be nearly 50,000 acres in size. Currently, about 70 acres of grapes are planted there. When approved, the Eagle Foothills will be Idaho’s first AVA entirely within Idaho’s borders, as the Snake River Valley crosses into Oregon.

Results of the Idaho Wine Competition will be released Wednesday.

About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is founding partner of Great Northwest Wine LLC and a longtime wine columnist. He is a third-generation journalist who has worked at newspapers since the mid-1980s and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Eric Degerman and served as its editor-in-chief for 15 years. He is the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books.

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