November 4, 2020

Winter is coming on the Slope!

The one thing that has been constant this year is that the seasons are changing. Grape harvest is almost wrapped up and your new favorite wines are starting to take on structure and complexity in wineries all over Sunnyslope! Agriculture doesn’t wait for a virus and neither does the Calendar. That also means Thanksgiving is just around the corner.

wine glass and fire

Out on the slope, Thanksgiving weekend has always been a big deal with lots of people visiting many of the fabulous events at the vineyards and tasting rooms on the Sunnyslope Wine Trail. This year will look a little different than past years. If your Black Friday traditions include wine barrel tastings and stocking the cellar for the winter, you’ll need to plan ahead this year! 

Some traditional favorites are closing for the season before the Turkeys go in the oven. Some wineries are going to a reservation-only system and others haven’t finalized plans yet.

You can still have a great Wine Weekend this year! Reach out to your favorite Sunnyslope tasting rooms now and make some plans. Spontaneity is out and preparedness is in for the Holidays in 2020. Two great resources to watch for details are the Thanksgiving Weekend page on the Sunnyslope Wine Trail website and the Idaho Wine Commission’s Holiday event page. Both organizations are compiling as much info as they can to make your Holidays easier so check back often as the big weekend draws nearer. Have fun and celebrate safely this year!


Cooler weather signals the release of some great new red wines as well. As the growers on the Snake River Valley AVA plant more vines there are a few new varietals you might want to check out this year. 



This Italian grape originally hails from the Lombardi region and thrives in long warm summers that linger into a late fall. Sunnyslope has 1 or 2 places that can keep this grape in its hot comfort zone long enough to reach full maturity. Bitner Vineyards on Plum road has a great view of the oldest Barbera plantings in the Sunnyslope region and they have a limited amount of Barbera available from the epic “Doc Olie Site”. Get a bottle and snuggle up by a fire with this big full-bodied Italian!


This cousin to Barbera and likes long, warm, dry summers as well. This grape is as dark as they come at harvest time and is responsible for some of the finest wines to come out of Italy. It’s one of the first vines to bud out and one of the last to ripen so it is still under review here in Idaho. With climate change, this could well be a new star out on the ‘Slope. Lanae Ridge vineyard up above the Koenig facility has produced a wonderful Nebbiolo available at the Koenig winery this year. Sawtooth Winery just down the road has a dynamite example of this complex wine available too. I believe it will pair well with a smoked turkey.


One of my favorite reds is another import from Italy, the Sangiovese grape. It produces a great balance fruit flavor profile with a little bit of acid that I enjoy greatly. Williamson Vineyards have been producing a knockout Sangio for years and Koenig Vineyards is right behind them. Either wine would make a great addition to your holiday celebrations

- Other Newcomers -

Carmenere shows a lot of promise both here in Sunnyslope and up in the Lewis and Clark AVA in north-central Idaho. Sawtooth has a great representative of this grape in some bottles at their place for you to try.  Bitner has a great Cab Franc made with local fruit that is pretty darn good and my favorite Spanish red, Tempranillo is really coming into its own here in the valley. Petit Verdot has been growing under the radar here as well but this traditional blending grape makes a wonderful wine statement all by itself too. If you are looking to spread your wings in the red wine world you really can’t go wrong with any of these gems from the Gem State.

We all need things to celebrate this year. It’s not been an easy or predictable one so let’s all try something new this holiday season. Take your palate on a trip around the world of wine without leaving home. Sunnyslope has some great farmers growing wonderful grapes. The best thing we can do is support local agriculture. Go buy Idaho wine! 


It’s worth asking for and seeking out.

CHEERS and have a great Thanksgiving weekend!

 Jim Thomssen



The Idaho Wine Ambassador

© 2020 Jim Thomssen

Sunnyslope Wine Trail


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