Time to wine down and kick off the summer with Idaho Wine Month

Hello, June. Welcome to Idaho Wine Month.

Unless you’ve been checking the Idaho Wine Commission’s events calendar daily, you’ve already missed out on some great opportunities to sip, swirl and wine down around the state during this special month when Idaho grapes are the featured attraction.

Check it out: There are wine dinners galore hosted by local wineries, wine bars, shops, restaurants and tasting societies. There are several showings of the wine documentary “Idaho Wine from Bud to Tastebud” and plenty of other special events.

For example, Savor Idaho at the Idaho Botanical Garden on June 14. Bad news — Savor is sold out. Good news — Savor is sold out, which means once again more than 900 people are going to be sampling small bites and wine flights in a celebratory, festive fashion that will further enhance the growing reputation of Idaho wine.

If you can’t make Savor, make a wine date and check out one of the other events. In Idaho, there are 51 wineries, 56 wine-grape growers and 1,300 acres growing dozens of varietals that are putting the Snake River American Viticultural Area on the wine map. The warm summer temperatures are going to make the Viogniers, Chardonnays, Pinot Gris, Rieslings and Rosés taste all the more refreshing.

But I have plenty of other wine news to report:

•  I was out at the Eagle (State Street and Horseshoe Bend Road) WinCo recently and I did a double-take because the store has doubled the size of its wine section. My take on WinCo, before this, is that it was catering to the $5 to $15 crowd with mostly mass-production labels I could find almost anywhere. So why go to WinCo?

But during that visit I saw some wines on the upper shelves selling for $25 and more, and I discovered labels and varietals I’d never seen at an Idaho WinCo — especially some California Zinfandels that caught my eye and ended up in my shopping cart. Moderately priced in the $10 to $15 range was a Renwood (Amador County, $15) and a Zin-Phomaniac (Lodi, $12).

That is certified Zin country, folks, east and south of Sacramento, respectively, and these were big and berrylicious with hints of spice and pepper undertones just the way I like them. Pass these Zins around with the hot sauce to pair with Mexican fare, steaks, chops, dry-rub ribs and, well, just because. Zin is a kind of the “American” cousin to the Italian varietal Primitivo.

•  My friend Tony Harrison, a local publicist, shared some unusual wine news with me about a rare wine now being poured in Boise.

The local Ruth’s Chris Steak House is occasionally (when they can get it) serving a 1908 d’Oliveira Bual Madeira, according to sommelier Ryan Robinson. Though it costs $85 a glass, it is 117 years old — and it is a rare opportunity to sip something like that in these parts. Aged wine with an aged steak? That’s some kind of heaven. The restaurant says the wine should be available throughout the summer. Learn more about it at

•  After tasting at the Boise Farmers Market last weekend, I can make some comments about two Indian Creek varietals: I found the Pinot Noir to be lacking in classic floral nose and taste, and it makes me wonder why anybody messes with that grape in these parts. On the other hand, the Indian Creek Tempranillo I tasted was a fine example of this spicy, berry, full-bodied red. That Spanish varietal seems to do very well and is coming on strong throughout my Grapes West territories: California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

•  For my July 3 column, I’d like to feature some wines that go well with July 4 holiday meals: reds, whites and blue cheese potato salad pairings. I’ll share some of mine, and I’d love it if you’d shoot me an email and share some of yours.

In August I will download on my food and wine experiences in Walla Walla, Wash., where I have been won over by some excellent Merlot. Suffice to say I am no longer “Sideways” with that varietal.

Robert Ehlert’s wine column runs the first Friday of each month. Reach him at (208) 377-6437. Twitter: @IDS_HelloIdaho