My first sips of Idaho wine were poured from bottles of 2011 and 2012 Cinder Viognier about four years ago this month. There was a lot riding on those first impressions for me. Viognier and I have a history, so to speak, and this was my introduction to Idaho wine.
The spunky, distinctive floral nose, soothing viscosity, and tangy fruit and honey notes of Viognier set it apart from other whites. We speak of “big” reds, but Viognier is a large-and-in-charge white that you are lucky to swirl and swish whenever you get a chance. When people tell me they drink only red wine, I eventually manage to slip a glass of this Rhone varietal under their noses, and then challenge them to take a sip of the golden juice and and tell me it is just another wedding-shower white.
Melanie Krause’s deliciously dry and off-dry Cinder Viogniers reeled me in to the Idaho wine camp and then led me down a path where I discovered the charms of her amazing Syrahs (two new vintages that include Viognier — yes, a white influencing a red) and one of the best expressions of Tempranillo I have tasted anywhere.
“Winemakers all have their own style,” said Krause, swirling a glass of Cinder’s 2016 Rosé recently at the winery at 107 E. 44th St. in Garden City. “I try to make my wines as beautifully aromatic as possible, and then balanced after that so what you’re getting are gorgeous fruit aromas — whatever the case may be for that wine — and then the sensation of the wine in your mouth, so that after you’ve swallowed, it is all one seamless experience. This year we made our Rosé out of Tempranillo grapes and Syrah grapes — both red grapes that we essentially make a white wine out of.”
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The dry, wonderfully crisp and refreshing Rosé shows off some spring-like strawberry and watermelon notes that will serve as a fabulous cocktail and pairing with small plates well into the summer.
At a release event this past weekend — one of two held annually — I was treated to the latest vintages of that Rosé and my heartthrob, Viognier. They were among six new Cinder releases. Besides the wines, it was an opportunity to experience the inner workings of Cinder. Krause and husband, Joe Schnerr, hosted about 900 guests who sampled the wine and perfectly paired bites.
Schnerr and Krause were married in 2006 and soon opened one of the first urban-style wineries/tasting rooms in Garden City.
After starting out with just two barrels of Syrah, which netted about 45 cases, Cinder began doubling its output year after year until growing to its current production of about 8,000 cases. The goal is to become “the best 10,000-case winery in the Northwest,” said Schnerr, who runs the sales and marketing side of the operation.
Krause and Schnerr have grown their operation like a garden, increasing production and atmospheric accoutrements all along the way. The once drafty produce warehouse facility, which they recently purchased, has morphed into what amounts to a culinary tourism destination where customers enjoy sipping wine, light food pairings — and even a beer for those so inclined. Artwork adorns the walls, and live local music often resonates in the space.
Cinder has been smart to make the most out of Idaho grapes in producing 10 different premium wines in the $18 to $30 range, and along the way introducing a second label, Laissez Faire, at the $16 price point. Both labels are found at wine shops and restaurants (some in innovative wine kegs) throughout the state and the region, further enhancing the brand.
And the couple knows where it comes from — strong family roots and a support system that has relied upon, and benefited from, family all the way. Now parents themselves, Krause and Schnerr owe a deep debt of gratitude to Melanie’s parents, Gary and Liddy Krause, who offered an amazing array of support as the winery grew.
“Gary’s been our winery engineer ... the fixer,” Schnerr said. “Liddy has fed our crews, made us pies and watched our children. Those two, its been a real blessing to have them. It’s a family winery ... that old-world model for a new-world wine.”
Come for a taste of Cinder
The Cinder tasting room is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at 107 E. 44th St., Garden City.
Call (208) 376-4023 or email firstname.lastname@example.org; cinderwines.com