Ste. Chapelle
Of Idaho’s 47 wineries, Ste. Chapelle is the powerhouse, producing 155,000 cases of the state’s 225,000 cases a year. The winery overlooks thousands of acres of orchards and farmland and the winding Snake River. Known for sweeter wines like rieslings, Ste. Chapelle is making a name for its reds and drier vintages, says Moya Shatz Dolsby, executive director of the Idaho Wine Commission. “What people don’t know is that they make some really great reds,” she notes. “I love their syrah.” Ste. Chapelle hosts many events, but the best times to enjoy the scenery are during winery’s outdoor summer concert series or during the fall harvest. The wine shop is open year-round, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 to 5 p.m. Sundays. 19348 Lowell Rd., Caldwell, 208-453-7843, stechapelle.com



Bitner Vineyards
Ron and Mary Bitner made their first plantings of riesling and chardonnay in Southwestern Idaho in 1981, rolling out their first wine four years later. Now Ron Bitner has added cabernet sauvignon, merlot, shiraz, petite verdot and viognier to Bitner’s 15 acres. “I like to call him the godfather of the Idaho wine industry,” says Shatz Dolsby. “He’s so involved and is very well respected across the country.” Bitner produces around 100 cases and snagged an accolade for best Idaho winery in 2009. Mary Bitner runs the cozy B&B on the property, hosting events on the deck in the summer with views of the surrounding vineyard. The winery is open to the public year-round from 12 to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. 16645 Plum Road, Caldwell, 208-899-7648, bitnervineyards.com

Sawtooth Winery
Sawtooth Winery and the connecting Skyline Vineyards—two different companies owned by the same family—has grown into the largest block of vineyards in the state. Under the direction of winemaker Bill Murray, Sawtooth produces between 10,000 and 20,000 cases of wine a year and grows 17 varietals across the two vineyards, including staples chenin blanc, riesling, cabernet sauvignon and chardonny as well as syrah, pinot gris, cabernet franc and viognier. “People started realizing that this area is pretty similar to Eastern Washington, which has just boomed over the last 15 years,” says Murray. “In the three years I’ve been here, I’ve made some incredible wines.” Sawtooth Winery is open 12 to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. 13750 Surrey Lane, 208-467-1200, sawtoothwinery.com

Koenig Winery & Distillery
Here are those potatoes you expected: Besides making wine, Koenig is also a distillery, making super-premium small-batch vodka using, yes, “the world’s finest potatoes.” Andrew Koenig, an award-winning master distiller, trained in Europe and uses hand-hammered copper pot stills from Germany. A crowd-pleaser is the huckleberry vodka, made with hand-picked wild huckleberries. Koenig and brother Greg also make a small selection of European style fruit brandies known as eau-de-vies—plum, cherry, pear and apricot, as well as grappa, distilled from grape must. Tours and tastes available from 12 to 5 p.m., Friday through Sunday. 20928 Grape Lane, Caldwell, 208-455-8386, koenigdistilleryandwinery.com

Savor Idaho
One mark of the success of Idaho wine is Savor Idaho, now in its fourth year. The event, sponsored by the Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers Commission, features tastings from a wide assortment of Idaho wineries and restaurants, all in one place. Savor Idaho 2012 will be held June 10 at the Idaho Botanical Garden in Boise. Tastings run from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. Tickets are $45 and can be purchased online, at local wine shops or tasting rooms. savoridaho.org

Tip
Looking for a little more guidance? Take a custom tour from Idaho Winery Tours—either a half day or full—and hit up to five wineries across Southwestern Idaho. Visit with the winemakers, grab lunch and get the local dirt from tour owner George Conduit’s Honda Element. Tours start at $75. 208-890-6627, idahowinerytours.com

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