Wine Tasting

Our first stop was Three Horse Ranch Winery

When the Finley Family came to visit, they had one full day of overlap with Shannon and Jimmy. We split into two groups. The adventurous group, which was Shannon, Jimmy, Devin and Colleen, went white water rafting on the South Fork of the Payette River with Cascade Raft Company. Meanwhile the more moderate group, Lynn, Dan, Sandy and I, spent the day touring some local wineries.

We started with Sandy's favorite, Three Horse Ranch Vineyards. It's located in the Boise foothills north of Eagle and is only about a twenty minute drive from our house. It was a nice day so we sat out back on their patio while we tasted the wines. Since we hadn't eaten lunch, we ordered a cheese and nut tray. While we ate our snacks and sampled their wines, we were joined by their dog, who is very friendly and extremely calm. Just like our dog, Abby.

Sandy belongs to the wine club there so afterwards she picked up her wines for this quarter and bought a few more bottles to fill out a half case. Lynn joined in and bought several more. We were off to a good start.

Next we headed into Garden City to visit Cinder Winery. Yes, the winery is right in the middle of Garden City, just a half block off of Chinden Boulevard. That's as urban as you can get in Idaho. Obviously they don't have a vineyard there. They buy grapes from several vineyards in Idaho and one in Oregon but they do make the wines right there in the middle of town.

We move on to Cinder Winery

Sandy and Lynn had gone to Cinder this spring when Lynn came for a visit and had really like their wines. Their favorite was the Dry Viognier. I thought that all Viogniers were dry but Cinder makes both a Dry and an Off-Dry Viognier. Just goes to show that there is always more to learn about wines.

This was my first time visiting Cinder and I definitely liked their wines. Besides tasting you can buy wine by the glass or bottle. They sometimes have events at the winery, like live music. It was a fun visit and Sandy and I resolved to get there more often. It's very close and easy for us to get to. Of course, we picked up a couple of bottles of their wine to take home with us.

While we were there, Lynn talked to an artist who was in the process of setting up an exhibit of her works. She mentioned that there was another winery in Garden City. This was news to us. We looked it up and found out that it was right by the Boise River, next to the Riverside Inn. It was still mid-afternoon. We had plenty of time to check it out. We drove there next and found out that two different wineries shared a building, Coiled Wines and the Telaya Wine Company. Since we had already been to two other wineries we decided just to try the Coiled Wines. We would save the other for another visit. There was a nice patio outside right next to the Boise River. It was a beautiful day and it was very pleasant to sit out and sip wine and watch the river flow by.

Unusual summer weather - storm clouds over the vineyards

Coiled had a Dry Riesling that I thought was really good. They also made a sparkling wine from Riesling grapes which they called Rizza. The spelling reminded me of pizza, so you know I would like it. Lynn bought a bottle of and we drank it at home later and sure enough, I really liked it.

This winery was a good find for us. Sandy and I will probably go back again soon to try the other winery. Now that we are retired folks, we might get used to going and sitting by the river and drinking wine when the weather is nice.

We were done with the wineries and now it was dinner time. We thought we would contiune our evening along the river by going next door to the Sand Bar Restaurant in the Riverside Inn. It turned out that they had a wait of over an hour and a half so that didn't work. As we walked through the hotel we learned the reason for the long wait. The restaurant, and the hotel, was packed because of a Brave Girls Club symposium.

Lynn, Colleen and Sandy at Huston Vineyards

The were crowds of middle aged women everywhere. They were talking and admiring crafty banners which had been put up on the walls, with inspirational sayings like "I am brave" or "Peace" or "Love fixes things" or "Always Be Awesome". And strangely, no matter how they were dressed, they all seemed to be wearing cowboy boots. We decided thta it must be the official Brave Girls uniform.

We checked the group out later. Their website says that they are an organization which helps women learn to be brave, to change their lives and to meet and network with other women. And exchange recipies. (No, I didn't make up that last part.) The whole thing seemed kind of weird to me. And remember, I'm a guy who goes to wargame conventions.

For dinner, we finally ended up a little ways down Chinden Boulevard at The Stagecoach Inn. It was a popular family run restaurant for many decades which finally closed in 2014 when the owners retired. It reopened six months later under new owners who did a great job of recreating the old, well-known Stagecoach Inn. Many of the old staff were even brought back for the reopening. Dan and Lynn felt right at home as the atmosphere is very much like a midwest supper club, common in Wisconsin. We had a delicious meal to finish off a great day.

Yes, we had to buy a bottle of this

Everyone had fun so a couple of days later we decided to spend another day exploring the Idaho wine country. This time Devin and Colleen came along. We needed both cars for all six of us for the forty five minute drive out to Sunnyslope. Wine tasting turned out to be a good choice for the day. We had stormy weather, highly unusual for Idaho in July, and had to drive through quite a downpour to get to the wineries. It was a good thing that our trip to the mountains was scheduled for later in the week. Today we were originally planing to go to Ste. Chapelle Winery for one of their outdoor Jazz at the Winery events, but considering the bad weather we quickly decided to switch to pure indoor pursuits like eating and wine tasting at various wineries.

Before we started though we had lunch at the Orchard House. It's a small restaurant along the highway just outside of Marsing. I have passed it many times when traveling to California or other points south and had always wanted to eat there. Everyone else was game so we gave it a try. It was very small but we were able to get a table. The food was good and the portions were huge. I had a meatloaf sandwich and even though I was extremely hungry I still wasn't able to finish it, much less the large plate of fries that came with it. They also have a bakery counter with quite a few items that looked delicious. I had my eye on the cherry pie from the minute I walked in the door but after the huge main course I couldn't even think about dessert. The cherry pie will have to wait until next time. Maybe I'll skip the main course and just order dessert.

Dog-themed stemless wineglasses at Hells Canyon Winery

After lunch we started our wine tour. Our first stop was close by at Hat Ranch Winery. It's a fairly new winery, established in 2011. They do mainly reds and we are mainly white wine drinkers. But two years ago they also acquired Vale Wines. They kept the label, and produce several white wines under it, including a Viognier and a Dry Riesling, two of my favorites. So we had several wines to taste and left with a couple of bottles each.

Our next stop was Huston Vineyards. Sandy and I had been there before, and liked their Chicken Dinner White blend. Dan was interested because his mom's maiden name was Huston. Even the spelling was the same. He was able to find some souvenirs with the name on it that he bought for his mom. Devin bought a Chicken Dinner White tshirt, which he wore hiking while we were hiking later in the week. And we bought some wine, of course.

Hells Canyon Winery has a tasting room in an old farmhouse

Our last stop was Hells Canyon Winery. It was actually off the main road a bit so I missed it the first time. I was headed for the Snake River when I noticed that Sandy had stopped following me. We backtracked and this time we found it.

The tasting room was actually in a farmhouse, so instead of sitting at a bar it was like being in someone's living room, trying different wines. It felt very homey. But a big negative was that they charged for tasting. Some other Idaho wineries do that, but credit your tasting fee towards the purchase of any bottle of wine. Not Hells Canyon. So I am pretty sure that I wouldn't go back there for wine tasting. On the positive side, they did have some cool stemless wineglasses. We bought one with a big paw print on it, and another with the outline of a retriever on it. We are Dog People, after all. And we couldn't resist their blends, Bird Dog White, and especially, Retriever Red. We probably would have bought the last one just for the label, but fortunately it tasted pretty good too. Since it's a red, we'll probably keep it for a while.

I think Finley's enjoyed touring the Idaho wine country as part of their vacation. Lynn bought several bottles of wine which we drank through the rest of the week, and they still managed to get five bottles home to Wisconsin by packing them in their luggage.