The Snake River Valley AVA produces both outstanding red and white wines, including Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Reaching from southwest Idaho through two counties in eastern Oregon, this American Viticultural Area (AVA) is nearly the size of New Jersey. If you enjoy robust red and refreshing white wines, read on for more information on the history, vineyards, wineries and wines of the Snake River Valley AVA.
History. This enormous Idaho AVA takes up more than 8,000 square feet and has over 1,100 vineyard acres, 46 vineyards and 22 wineries. The first wines were produced here in the mid-1800s, although it wasn’t until the 1970s that the first post-prohibition vineyards were planted. Only a little over 1,100 of this AVA’s 5.27 million acres is vineyards (for now). This AVA was approved in 2007 (Idaho’s first and Oregon’s 16th AVA.)
Climate and Soil. The Snake River Valley AVA only receives about ten inches of rain each year during the winter, which means grape growers use irrigation during the growing season. The hot days and cool evenings of summer also make for excellent grapes. In general, its elevations are between 2,500 and 3,000 feet. The soil in Snake River Valley is varied, but typically consists of sand, silt, loess and/or volcanic soil. There is no one predominate soil factor in this wine region.
Wines. Snake River Valley produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling and other Idaho (and Oregon) wines.
Vineyards and Wineries. For some of the best wines of Idaho’s Snake River Valley, see the wineries and vineyards below.
Snake River Winery. This Snake River Valley vineyard hand prunes its 75 acres and continues to care for them by hand throughout the growing season. They also use both sustainable and organic practices on their Idaho vineyard, including using organic fertilizers and composting pomace (the remains of the grapes after pressing them for juice) for fertilizer. For an outstanding example of this Idaho AVA, try their 2009 Unoaked Chardonnay, with aromas of pear and flavors of kiwi and peach. Also try their 2009 Late Harvest Riesling, with aromas of lemon and lime followed by flavors of honey. For more information on this Snake River Valley winery, click here.
Hell’s Canyon Winery. This boutique winery is one of the oldest in Idaho, founded in 1981, and produces many award winning wines, including Chardonnay, Syrah, and Merlot. Its grapes are grown on Hell’s Canyon vineyards, on the sunny slopes above the Snake River banks, and they ferment their wines in small oak barrels. Try their Bird Dog White, an Idaho Chardonnay with wonderful aromas of peaches and pears and lots of citrusy flavor. Their Retriever Red 2006 is also outstanding, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend. Its flavors include raspberry, chocolate and licorice. For more information on this Snake River Valley winery, click here.
Bitner Vineyards. Bitner Vineyards consists of fifteen acres of outstanding Idaho winemaking grapes, including Chardonnay and Riesling. They sell their grapes to several other wineries in Idaho, and produce their own Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines. Try their award winning 2007 Chardonnay, with aromas of apples and flavors that include melon and oak. Their 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon has also taken home several awards, and you will enjoy its aromas of cherry and vanilla, followed by flavors of more cherry and berries. For more information on this Idaho winery and vineyards, click here.