Something's shaking the grapes out in Eagle, and these days, it's not the soothing lilt of a string quartet. Drive down dusty Highway 16 to the newly re-named Wood River Cellars and let the wail of an electric guitar lead you in. With a stage framed by the rising foothills and a bubbling waterfall, this 2,000-person-capacity venue is poised to become the Treasure Valley's new Dionysian destination.
"We've been working with Big O Productions. We basically said, 'We have this venue, let's go ahead and fill it.' That's how it got started, and it's just grown from there," says Neil Glancey, Wood River Cellars' new winemaker.
And their late summer lineup couldn't be more intoxicating. Starting out August with a strum is the inaugural Chicks and Picks. Organized by Ben Chow, owner of local management company Irichi Music, Chicks and Picks features 22 female-fronted acts and over 12 consecutive hours of music.
"All I wanted to do was create a network of female artists in the Northwest," explains Chow. "To make the community conscious of the talent that we have here, the immense talent."
A few short months ago, Chicks and Picks might have sounded like a KFC dinner special. But after Chow started tossing the idea around with his stable of female singer/songwriters—including Anna Sali, Desirae Bronson and BlazenKelly—the event grew wings. Though Chicks and Picks boasts some well-known acts like Rebecca Scott and Gayle Chapman, it also has a sprinkling of unknown artists who'll tune their strings and take the stage. And even if the venue seems like a bit of a jaunt for normal Boise concert-goers, Chow is confident that the bevy of talent will bring people out.
"I think because there's such a strong following of all the different artists with their own fan bases, I would hope that they would follow them out and help support them," says Chow.
Though the majority of musicians at Chicks and Picks will, quite obviously, be women, Chow has a few tricks up his sleeve to disguise the occasional male drummer. Oh yes, he bought wigs. Long, black Morticia Addams wigs. Erica Flom, owner of Foxtrot Style for Living and anointed Fanciest Fiddler, is one performer who might have a couple of tousled troubadours in her brood.
"I'll have backup female accompanists and a couple of rhythm guitar players that won't be women but that have played with me at nationals for 10 years, so they're really salty pickers," says Flom.
Like the previous concerts held at the old Winery at Eagle Knoll, Chicks and Picks features an assortment of vendors and fermented beverages. The winery plans to offer cheese boards and a selection of wines by the glass, while other local vendors will serve more traditional festival fare like beer and bratwurst. In addition to performing and emceeing the event, Flom will have a booth where festival-goers can peruse Foxtrot's unique designer duds.
"We think that the arts are so huge in this community and, being a musician myself, we just love to support all local acts. We just thought that it was really exciting and jumped on board to be a sponsor for it," says Flom.
After Chicks and Picks lights the flame, the lineup at Wood River Cellars really starts to boil. August 20 brings Grammy Award-winning alt-country group Wilco out among the vines. The band found commercial success with their 2002 hit, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but have also garnered considerable praise for their double-disc Woody Guthrie cover album, Mermaid Avenue. Joining Wilco that night is Seattle-based indie buzz band, Fleet Foxes. With their 2008 self-titled release, Fleet Foxes have scurried to the forefront of the indie-folk pack, drawing comparisons to both Band of Horses and the Beach Boys.
Following in the folk-country vein and, oddly, the fox theme, singer-songwriter Neko Case will perform on August 29. Case is most known for her snappy pop crooning on New Pornographers albums, but also became a critics' darling with her 2006 solo release, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Glancey encourages people to buy their tickets in advance for these two big-name acts as Wilco, he says confidently, will sell out soon.
Wood River Cellars winds down its season with a harvest festival on September 20 in which Glancey encourages people to "come out and stomp grapes." But, it might be a good idea to wash your feet off before trekking out to the vineyard's final fete on September 27, an art walk.
With all of the exciting events coming up at Wood River Cellars, we suggest you put on some giant sunglasses, head down to Eagle and get down like a California Raisin. You can say you heard it through the grapevine.
Wood River Cellars (formerly the Eagle Knoll Winery), 3705 N. Hwy. 16, Eagle, 208-286-9463.