When the days are short and the light is low, sometimes fun things can happen. Wintertime means that the farm "to do" list is shorter and while vines need to be pruned, the weather keeps a lot of folks close to home. While enjoying a glass of wine by the fire is indeed a great idea, don't let the weather keep you from exploring the Sunnyslope Wine Trail!
My wife and I ventured out on a cold winter’s day to visit the newest member of the Sunnyslope Wine Trail, Kerry Hill Winery! It has a great location right next to their estate vineyard in Canyon County. While this vineyard was established over 35 years ago, the neglected vines have been carefully cared for over the past two years by Kerry Hill’s staff in the hopes to produce new world-class vintages on the Sunnyslope.
Named after the type of sheep they keep on the property, the farm honors the history of the property while it increases its stewardship of the land through habitat preservation and responsible farming practices. They respect the grapes, the pollinators, the birds and all the things that go into quality agriculture and wine out here in 2C. They even have a Basque sheepherder's trailer that celebrates the immigrants from Europe that came to this area generations ago and helped make the intermountain west the culturally diverse and interesting place it is today.
With fewer folks out and about we had a great time visiting with Cynthia England, General Manager. The tasting room is brand new construction but it feels comfortable and spacious with fantastic sightlines over the vineyard and the Owyhee Mountains. The woodwork by River Valley Woodworks out of Wilder, Idaho is absolutely stunning. The mushroom wood doors are just amazing to look at. The design work here (both inside and out) is top-notch. Looking for a place to wow a group of friends from out of town? Put this place on your shortlist.
The four wines available now are being crafted by Tim Harless from Hat Ranch Winery and Vale Wine Co. in Caldwell. The unoaked Chardonnay is crisp and refreshing. The red blend of Cabernet, Syrah & Petit Verdot will be a great complement to the mustard/horseradish beef stew that is making my whole house smell so wonderful right now! The two rosés are amazing yet very different from each other. Even if you turn your nose up at rosé, please promise me you'll try these two gems. They will stretch your palate and defy easy categorization. More wines are coming as the vineyards rejuvenate after their years of neglect. Great wines are made in the vineyard and this one was in rough shape for a few years. The quality of these initial offerings only heightens the expectations of what is yet to come.
Without a doubt, winter is an amazing time to hit the road and visit Idaho's wine country. The color palette in the winter errs toward neutral tones, but the leafless trees give you a chance to see the snowcapped Owyhee mountains. Since the peak tourist season is spring-summer, the tasting rooms are less crowded and the staff has more time to share stories and show you why Idaho is so special (you may even meet the winemaker themselves!). On top of that, you won't have to worry about the wine you just bought getting too warm in the car!
Cheers to exploring! Get out there and see what winter wonders you can find – You won't be disappointed!
The Idaho Wine Ambassador
© 2020 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, Great Northwest Wine, 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.