The new year is a time to reflect on the events of the past year. I've tasted a lot of great wine in the last 12 months, but nothing has impressed me more than the evolution of Idaho wines. Gaining our own Snake River viticultural designation seems to have shaken things up, with lots of worthy new wineries joining the ranks of some old favorites. The only downside is their very limited production. Here are three exceptional Idaho wines that are still available in the market.
2009 Cinder Chardonnay, $18
My slam against so many American chardonnays is their overwhelming oak. We call them Chateau Two-by-Fours, and they are so colored by wood you risk getting splinters in your tongue. Cinder Wines winemaker Melanie Krause preaches the mantra of balance using mostly neutral oak to let the fruit shine through, while adding structure and texture. Her Cinder chardonnay offers beautiful peach and citrus flavors with just a hint of spice.
2008 Coiled Syrah, $24
Coiled Wines owner/proprietor Leslie Preston is from Idaho, but now lives in Napa, Calif., where she makes this wine using the Snake River grapes she finds so intriguing. Bottled under a screw-cap to preserve all the fresh fruit aromas and flavors, this is world class Syrah with spicy berry fruit on the nose and on the palate. Great structure with nice complexity and amazing length make for an impressive wine.
2007 Snake River Barbera, $17
The 2006 vintage of this Snake River Winery wine finished in the top three against a line-up of true Italian barberas back in April 2010. The only other Idaho wine to make the cut in a "Wine Sipper" tasting was a riesling, also from Snake River. They must be doing something right, and if anything, this 2007 is even better than the '06. Rich in ripe cherry fruit flavors, it is nicely balanced by crisp acidity, making for a food-friendly choice.