WINE TALK

March 20, 2019

Food on the Sunnyslope

Wow – All this wine tasting has made me hungry!

Wine and food have gone together longer than peanut butter and jelly. Luckily, there are great options for food out on the Sunnyslope Wine Trail. From full-service restaurants to fruit stand inspired picnics you can make a full day tour on the Slope seem like a trip to France, Spain or the Napa Valley.

Restaurants on the Trail

The Orchard House sits right in the middle of the trail on Highway 55. They have a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner service. They also have wonderful seasonal outdoor seating. As a big fan of breakfast, I have to tell you all that the Biscuits and Gravy at the Orchard house is head and shoulders above a lot of places across the entire country. Try to get out there before they switch over the kitchen to the lunch menu (before 10:30) and have a great base in your stomach to taste wine with! They also have an “All Idaho” wine list so you can enjoy what you’ve tasted with lunch or dinner without breaking into the case of wine you’ve just put in your trunk.

Another gem along the Trail is Vine and Branch Ranch on Hoskins road near Hwy 55. They are combining local produce, local wines, and local ciders to make a new culinary hot spot for us all to enjoy. Their philosophy revolves on the theory “if it grows together then it goes together”. They host multi-course wine and farm-to-fork meals year round with a great team of purveyors and chefs. They also have a fabulous small plate menu that can make a wonderful “Foodie” experience with a flight of Stack Rock Ciders or Snake River Wines.

Eat at a Winery

Many wineries and tasting rooms have picnic food available for purchase on site. Check the winery profiles to see if they have any food services available there. Food policies at each winery vary, so check ahead of time if it would be okay to bring your own picnic or celebration food! Eating between tastings is encouraged, and most wineries allow you to bring a picnic. Several wineries have outdoor seating. Vizcaya Winery has a great pavilion available for picnics so call ahead to determine if it’s available. Bringing your own alcohol is not allowed at any vineyard or winery.

Parma Ridge Winery has a full kitchen and a very talented staff. They do a fabulous job pairing dishes with their wines and it is a great place to start or end your wine trail adventure!

Many wineries also hold farm-to-fork or winemakers' dinners during the warmer months. These multi-course dinners pair the vineyard's wine with local food, often picked that day from just down the road. It's a great experience to sit outside on the vineyard grounds with others who enjoy wine and food and hear from the chef and winemaker about the one-of-a-kind pairings they have created. Tickets are usually limited, so if you discover there is a dinner while you are visiting the Sunnyslope, grab your tickets right away. There is no better way to experience the heart of Idaho Wine Country!

Idaho Wine and Food Pairing Ideas

Lot’s of folks like to talk about food and wine pairings. What’s the deal? It can get pretty complicated at times. Wine flavors are derived from specific components: sugar, acid, fruit, tannin and alcohol. Foods also have flavor components, such as fat, acid, salt, sugar and bitterness. There are “Rules” that white wine goes with fish and Red with meats, but I find that kind of limiting. Here are some ideas about how to pair food with wine from the Sunnyslope while you are here or at home!

Barbecued anything can go well with an Idaho Tempranillo.

Try a sparkling wine from Sawtooth with some salty snacks of fried food. The bubbles and acids clean your palate between bites and add some flavor tweaks as well.

Salad can be tough to pair wine with but if you use a little less vinegar in your dressing a Hat Ranch Sauvignon Blanc could be a perfect choice to offset the sometimes bitterness of an arugula salad.

A stilton cheese with a red dessert wine From Bitner Vineyards (similar to Port wines) as an after-dinner course will make you forget about a traditional dessert!

Wine and Food can open up all sorts of exciting options. It’s not often that we get the chance to combine two things and make them both come out tasting better together than they did on their own. It’s exciting and the Sunnyslope Wine Trail is right in the center of it all. Come on out and experience it for yourself!

Cheers & 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.

Sunnyslope Wine Trail
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5 comments on “Food on the Sunnyslope”

    1. Hi Carol! The wineries are open year round and there is something special to do every season! Spring is a beautiful time of the year as the orchards and vineyards are in bloom! Summer and fall bring warmer weather and an opportunity to taste wine AND the plentiful produce from our region. Winter is a little colder, but the farmers and winemakers are often in the tasting rooms during the off-season, offering a unique experience, plus there is ice-skating and holiday handcrafted markets in downtown Caldwell. Plan your trip based on what kind of experience you would enjoy the most - or better yet - plan a few trips to experience the Sunnyslope during a few different seasons.

  1. Dear Ambassador Jim:

    Great blog. One thing that I think would be helpful is if the winery's provided a list to be posted on their specific activities on this web site.

    1. Hi Michelle, Thank you for your feedback. We are working on posting more activities and events at the individual wineries. In the meantime, the wineries page has links to each winery website so it is easy to access their individual event calendars! Happy sipping!

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