Imagine a beautiful summer’s evening sitting at a long farm table set between a wildflower patch and a stand of tall sunflowers. As the light fades and a cool breeze sweeps down the hill toward the river, your hosts bring out another course of dinner. The amazing food has been prepared on-site and was harvested just 15 feet away from where you are sitting. The wine being served has roots in Idaho, too. You feel blessed to be sitting with 30 other lucky people as you already know you all be better friends by the time the evening's events conclude. This is the magic of Idaho wine country and how it can transform a Farm to Cork dinner into a life-altering event.
The premise of a Farm to Cork dinner is that food and wine that are grown together tend to go together. The ground that produces world-class wine grapes is equally as important in creating the farm-fresh produce and pasture-raised proteins that Caldwell is known for. With the care our Idaho farmers put into their produce and grapes it makes for an incredible meal. Especially in the hands of a talented chef.
Vine & Branch Ranch, a winery that also home to a cidery, produce farm, and restaurant, frequently holds Farm to Cork dinners. The menu at the June 29, 2019 dinner included five courses, starting with vinegar poached chicken hearts, followed by a charred beet salad, a pesto tagliatalle, milk braised pork and concluded with a stewed local cherry semifreddo for dessert. These were all paired with great local wines from the ranch's Snake River Winery. The art of food and wine pairing is not easy and sometimes the wine makes the food taste better so be adventurous and give it all a try! Don’t be afraid to stretch your palate a bit at these dinners. Try something different and if it’s not your cup of tea just set it aside, you will NOT go hungry. The food was visually stunning, too. Here are some food shots from that amazing farm-based dinner.
Other wineries also host Farm to Cork dinners as well. Many are open have tickets available to the public, but sometimes the dinners are for the exclusive enjoyment of wine club members. Sawtooth Winery has a wonderful series of dinners and their Farm to Fork events are very popular. The Caldwell Chamber Of Commerce puts on a special Farm to Fork dinner annually in September on a bridge over Indian Creek in beautiful downtown Caldwell. It is a truly unique dinner because it celebrates as many as five different wineries on the Sunnyslope Wine Trail alongside a meal crafted from food grown or produced in southwestern Idaho. Dinner menus can even have a seasonal or regional theme, such as Cantina Night at Bitner Vineyards or dinners based on Idaho's regional Basque dishes, lots of cuisines pair exceptionally well with Idaho wines! Dinner locations can also vary from farmer’s fields to startling outdoor settings such as Scoria’s ancient lava vent, to urban warehouses. The constant between locations is the fabulous food and wine that are showcased at these events. If dinner isn’t your favorite meal, look for a brunch event! These are frequently held in the spring around Mothers' Day.
Farm to Cork dinners in Idaho offer another unique opportunity, meeting the winemakers themselves. The winemakers usually present each wine, just like the chef will present each food course. The winemakers put so much energy and effort into their wines this is a great opportunity to learn what they think about the wines being served. Hopefully, you will learn something special about both the wine and the food!
I can’t think of a better way to enjoy the Sunnyslope Wine Trail, taste great food, learn about new wines and meet new people than going to a wine dinner. Call them Farm to Table, Farm to Fork, Farm to Cork, Farmstead, winemakers or vineyard dinners but do make an effort to get to one of these amazing meals soon! There is something for every palate in the heart of Idaho wine country.
Helpful hints regarding Farm to Cork Dinners:
- Check with your favorite wineries either by phone or on their websites. Dinners will be posted there along with prices, dates and a general idea of the menu.
- Be adventurous – You may be presented with something you have never seen – Keep an open mind & palate!
- Take some friends along. While you will meet new friends it’s always fun to share the experience with folks you know.
- Pick a designated driver. Some wineries will even price a 'DD' ticket lower and that person will receive tasting room sample size pours on plenty of non-alcoholic beverages.
- Don’t let the calendar throw you a loop! Dinners can and do happen all year round. One of our favorites was a Winter Solstice celebration!
- Be ready to make new friends. We have met some great folks at Huston Vineyards events and now count those as our closest & best friends. Food and wine really do bring people together. Be open for that possibility!
Cheers and Bon Appétit’
The Idaho Wine Ambassador
© 2019 Jim Thomssen
About Jim Thomssen, the Idaho Wine Ambassador: Jim grew up in Minnesota but moved west to get away from the snow. He landed in Washington state with a degree in Economics. He discovered the wines of Washington in the 1980s as the region emerged, and when his banking career brought him to the Treasure Valley in 1993 he saw the wine region in Idaho had the same potential. Jim has worked with and volunteered for the Caldwell Economic Development, The Idaho Wine Commission, The University of Idaho, and the Sunnyslope Wine Trail over the last ten years to help develop the Idaho wine industry and promote Idaho wines. Jim is an avid wine traveler and has visited Napa Valley, the Alsace, and Portugal. He earned the title of Ambassador after arranging a trip to the Rioja in Spain with an Idaho Winemaker to explore the differences and similarities between the Snake River AVA and the Rioja Alta.