New wine retreat to debut soon in Valley County

The common area at Ray and Peg Zemke’s West Mountain Wine Retreat near Tamarack Resort.
The common area at Ray and Peg Zemke’s West Mountain Wine Retreat near Tamarack Resort. Provided by West Mountain Wine Retreat

Oenophiles will surely like the West Mountain Wine Retreat that’s on track to open in early December at 2259 West Mountain Road near Tamarack Resort in Donnelly.

Owners Ray and Peg Zemke recently moved here from Minnesota to embark on the next chapter of their lives, which includes running a wine-education getaway in the West-Central Mountains. Think of it as a bed-and-breakfast inn for wine geeks. The Zemkes have visited Valley County many times in recent decades and felt it would be an ideal spot for such a wine-centric retreat.

“The house was a family retreat before, so it’s set up perfectly for what we wanted to do,” Ray Zemke said.

After a substantial remodel of the 2,800-square-foot house, which included building a commercial kitchen and decking out two guest suites that can comfortably accommodate a couple in each room, they are now taking reservations. They also recently added a fireplace to the common area so everyone can stay cozy during the winter. The guest suites cost $245 a night, and a big breakfast is included in that price.

“In the morning, we will serve our signature blintzes with huckleberry sauce, baked egg dishes, pastries and other things geared to pair with breakfast bubbly,” Ray Zemke said.

“Who doesn’t like a little bubbly in the morning?”

It’s safe to say that the friendly couple knows a thing or two about sparkling wines and other wines from around the world. Ray Zemke’s experience in the wine-buying industry dates back to 1989. For the last decade and a half, he was the lead wine buyer and director of wine education for The Cellars Wine & Spirits chain in the suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Plus, he and his wife have traveled the globe extensively over the years checking out far-flung wine regions.

The cost of the wine seminars is not included in bed-and-breakfast price package. Custom seminars come at an additional cost and get prearranged with guests in advance so they can have a truly intimate and unique experience. Popping corks on mass-produced wines that everyone already knows about was never part of the plan.

“We are focusing on smaller, artisanal producers and working hard to bring in new wines to Idaho, while staying away from the big factory wines,” Ray Zemke said.

The seminars, which typically run 1 to 2 hours, will boast themes such as “Bubbly Around the World” and “Mountain Wines,” an educational and wine-tasting session that examines grape varietals from high-elevation climes, including select wines from Argentina and Washington’s Red Mountain AVA.

The most common seminars cost $50 for four people (Level 1) and $110 for four people (Level 2), depending on the wines chosen. Larger group seminars will cost more.

For larger groups, the Zemkes can help to make reservations for overnight accommodations at nearby Tamarack Resort and local hotels. And they have built relationships with Valley County restaurants to get them on the same page. Those who attend seminars will be provided with a food-and-wine pairing sheet to take to local eateries so they can continue on after the seminar ends.

To make reservations and develop a custom wine seminar plan, call 208-325-8509 or visit

Check out Cinder’s Halloween bash

Don your best costume and head to Cinder Wines, 107 E. 44th St. in Garden City, on Sunday, Oct. 29, for the winery’s annual Happy Hallo-Wine party. And you can bring the kids and the family dog.

The free event, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., will have several Halloween costume contests throughout the day for everyone in the family (even Fido), in addition to face painting and other fun activities. Wine tasting, food and kid-friendly refreshments are sold separately. Mobile-food vendor Il Segreto will be on site dishing up wood-fired pizzas all day.

For more information, go to

Fill up a wine growler at Fujishin

Fujishin Family Cellars is now selling growlers of wine at its tasting room, 15593 Sunnyslope Road (Idaho 55), in the Sunnyslope area of Caldwell.

The longtime Idaho winery, owned and operated by Martin Fujishin, has a growler fill-up station that stocks a red wine and a white wine at any given time. Your first fill will cost $24.95 (that includes a handy 950-milliliter glass jug) and then it will only cost $13.95 to fill it up during future visits.

The selection typically includes the Summerslope Red Blend — a dry, unoaked red wine with hints of cherry, figs and vanilla — and Sunnyslope White Blend — a dry white wine made with viognier, chardonnay and riesling. Sometimes the winery offers Old Shed Red (a sweet red blend) at the growler station as well.

Fujishin’s tasting room is open noon to 6 p.m. daily.


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