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Wine in Idaho: Cinder Wines Spearheads Urban Wine Expansion

East44Wineries

Continued from People Make Wine in Idaho. I’ve Got Proof!

Garden City, a former Chinese community that once served as Boise’s Chinatown, was so named because they grew vegetables for the pioneers.  The main drag is still called “Chinden Boulevard”.  Now, artists, breweries, and wineries have been finding refuge in the cheap cost of warehouse space and the East 44th Street building leased by Cinder Winery is no different.

CINDER WINES

MelanieKrause

Winemaker Melanie Krause, a former assistant winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle, returned to Boise in 2006 with her husband Joe Schnerr, a chemist at the time (although Joe admitted to being involved in wine from a very young age as an altar boy). She started a winery consulting business which gave her inside access to “visit the vineyards and taste through the cellars of most of the producers in Idaho.”

Krause’s first attempt making Idaho wine was a small amount of co-fermented Syrah and Viognier. Encouraged by the results and her observations of the region’s potential, Krause decided to start the label Cinder with her husband, a reference to the layers of volcanic soil found in Idaho’s vineyards. By 2007, she and Joe had added white wines to their red-strong line-up. They now produce nearly 5000 cases spread over 9 different wines. All of Krause’s growers are within an hour from her winery; she purchases fruit from six different vineyards.

This year, Krause was acknowledged for her contributions to the Idaho wine industry and achievements in general with a 40 Under 40 Tastemaker award from Wine Enthusiast.

Signature Wines and Prices

  • Viognier $18
  • Syrah $28
  • Tempranillo $28

Which grapes do you think grow especially well here? Viognier attracted me most of all the whites due to its amazing aromas. I find that many regions have difficulty preserving its delicacy, but here in the Snake River AVA, I am able to get precision and fruit expression with grace and high acid.  Syrah does really well in this type of region too, as does Tempranillo. I think we should see more Spanish varieties planted here.

To what other region in the world would you compare the Snake River AVA? I’d say Ribera del Duero and Washington State. Ribera is a better match in that it’s at a higher elevation; both have a continental climate: hot, dry summers and cold winters.

What are the pros and cons of making wine in Idaho? The cost of land here is significantly less than other wine regions, and pest management is a bit easier given our dry climate. We are the next great American wine growing region, and thus on the cutting edge. We’ve got the excitement and freedom to explore and be pioneers. Of course being a new region is a double edged sword, and we don’t have as many vineyards planted as we need.

Are there any water issues out here?  Of the western states, Idaho has one of the best water management programs. As of now, they don’t have the pressures of, say California, although having water rights is key for growers.

What are your primary markets? We are distributed throughout the state; we also have a wine club with members from 20 different states plus a small market in Jackson Hole, WY and Montana.  As for the East Coast, we need a distributor if you know of one! For now, we can ship directly to customers in New York. Go online to CinderWines.com to order.

Any other thoughts? It’s fun if people can get to Boise, to have them come out and visit us. In addition to the other wineries, we have an art gallery upstairs. The artist movement in the region has been going on for about 15 years, but the beverage industry has really picked up with wineries and breweries moving in, plus two new musical performance venues.

My tasting notes I found Cinder’s wines well-made, showing the exciting potential of Idaho. The wines had fruit depth tempered by a savory edge; no jam bombs in the mix. I particularly liked:

Dry Viognier 2013 Peach and citrus notes on a vibrant palate. Some floral character and almond on the bright finish. The majority of the fruit comes from the Williamson Vineyard and was picked a little earlier to retain freshness.

Tempranillo 2012 Dark and spicy, with a deep red and black fruit core, a frame of  dusty tannins, and a hint of earth and bitterness on the finish.  Not common yet, Melanie thinks Tempranillo and other Spanish grapes will do well in Idaho.

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People Make Wine in Idaho. I’ve Got Proof.

IdahoRockyWine

I write this post sitting in a log cabin in the middle of the Sawtooth Mountains near Stanley, Idaho. I’ll be lighting a fire and, dreadfully, donning my winter jacket for the first time this season; tonight’s expected low: 23 degrees Fahrenheit. Summer concludes precisely — cruelly — on Labor Day out here.

Not anticipating functioning wifi, I flipped open my laptop and the connection light blinked on.  Is there no place left in the world detached from the grid aside from the far western Sonoma coast? Regardless, here I type, at the base of stony, jagged peaks in a state to which cartographers had oddly apportioned a wide bottom with a long, slender finger that stretched north to Canada. I’d stare at maps as a child (and still do now), imagining life in the American West of this exotic state, so it feels odd to finally be here  — with my dad — because the fascination I held for Idaho (and surrounding states) was partly an extension of my father’s.

CabinFireplace

My dad grew up a little bit country in Circleville, Ohio, where my great-uncle bred horses for harness racing. Likely a product of the era of his youth, one in which country western films featuring icon John Wayne pervaded the imaginations of growing boys, my dad took a curious shine to all things cowboy and Indian Native American. The toys of his youth reflected this interest which never abated with adulthood.

He’s the only lawyer in Columbus who wears cowboy boots to work and before judges in court, often dressed in a suit. He admits to not owning a single pair of dress shoes but several pairs of Tony Lama and Ariat boots. I believe he once subscribed to Cowboys & Indians magazine, and I know he acquired two reproduction Remingtons to conciliate his dream for an authentic one. (Remington was the equine sculptor who worked bronze into taut, sinewy horses and cattle ropers frozen mid-action.)

IdahoRockyRanchCabininside

Although unable to afford him the gift of a collector’s piece, I offered my dad passage to visit Idaho as a co-captain of my rental car to explore this curiously unadvertised and sparsely populated slice of the West. In addition to traversing the Sawtooth Mountains to ride horses and fish at the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch, we’d visit nearly a dozen wineries in Boise and its surrounds. Characteristically, his first question was not “wine? In Idaho?” but rather “can I bring my cowboy boots?” Yes dad, bring your Tony Lamas. And your Stetson.

They Make Wine in Idaho

My thin knowledge of the Snake River AVA, approved in April 2007, stemmed from my WSET Diploma exam studies. I’d never actually drank an Idaho wine, let alone seen or heard of one in NYC. The Idaho Wine Commission was prescient in selecting me to visit; I immediately said yes. Intrigued by the chance to visit this state still unknown to me, especially one about which so little was written, I crossed my fingers I’d discover a pioneering wine scene to accompany the state’s unspoiled rivers and mountains.

FirstGlimpseofSawtooth

Quick Idaho Wine Stats (provided by the Idaho Wine Commission)

Idaho had one winery in 1976 and 51 by 2014. The Snake River AVA encompasses 8000 square miles with a little less than 1300 acres planted. Most vineyards are in the Snake River area which lies 30 minutes east of Boise, the best found around Sunny Slope.The leading varieties are, for whites: Chardonnay, Riesling, and Viognier; and reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, and Tempranillo. Elevations range from 600-3000 feet.  The climate is desert-warm with cold nights, and well-draining soils with access to irrigation from the river and reservoirs.

Day One:  Wineries of East 44th Street, Garden City

This industrial strip by the river, ten minutes from downtown Boise, functions like many wine ghettos that have sprung up around the country (Lompoc near Santa Barbara, California and Woodinville near Seattle, Washington), in that it provides young, enterprising winemakers affordable space to pursue their craft when owning vineyard land for a winery is not yet feasible. A particular strip of East 44th street has attracted several small optimists: Cinder, Telaya, Coiled, and Split Rail. The first three are located in a renovated warehouse, the latter in a former auto body garage.

EAST 44th STREET TASTING ROOM HOURS

Cinder: 7 Days a week, 11-5 p.m.

Telaya: Fri. – Sat., 12-6 p.m.

Coiled: Fri. – Sat., 12-5 p.m.

My review of the wineries…


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