Wine

Big changes coming to Sawtooth Winery and Ste. Chapelle

Winemaker and Idaho native Meredith Smith will now head up the winemaking for both Sawtooth Winery and Ste. Chapelle. Ste. Chapelle is Idaho’s largest winery.
Winemaker and Idaho native Meredith Smith will now head up the winemaking for both Sawtooth Winery and Ste. Chapelle. Ste. Chapelle is Idaho’s largest winery. Idaho Statesman file

Sawtooth Winery’s winery and tasting room in Nampa will close, and its wine production will move to nearby Ste. Chapelle Winery, the largest in Idaho.

Seattle-based Precept Wine, which owns both wineries, announced the change Friday. Precept said it will continue to operate the tasting room at Sawtooth through the 2016 touring season and will honor all public reservations for it.

Precept also said it has purchased 40 acres surrounding Ste. Chapelle from the Symms family as part of a master plan that includes the establishment of a new tasting room for Sawtooth on the Ste. Chapelle site, new vineyard plantings and, eventually, a 5,000-seat amphitheater.

“We want to create a more quintessential wine country experience and make it a real destination for Idaho,” Alexandra Evans, chief marketing officer for Precept, told GreatNorthwestWine.com. “We view this as a really important investment for us in Idaho and helping to create a halo effect on the Sunnyslope.”

Groundbreaking for the amphitheater is tentatively scheduled for April 2017.

Chantelle Lusebrink, Precept’s communications and public relations manager, estimated the cost of the land purchase, amphitheater and construction at more than $2 million.

Much of the land is under Red Delicious apple trees. The vines have been casually referred to as Winery Hill Vineyard.

Sawtooth winemaker Meredith Smith will head the winemaking for both Ste. Chapelle and Sawtooth. The original plan had been to have longtime Ste. Chapelle winemaker Maurine Johnson and Smith remain with their respective brands, but Smith saw her responsibilities skyrocket from 10,000 cases to 135,000 in one day when Johnson said that she was leaving Ste. Chapelle to join the red-wine team at Hogue Cellars in Washington state.

The vineyards surrounding Sawtooth are not for sale. Precept said it hopes to lease the Sawtooth winery and tasting room.

Read the full story at GreatNorthwestWine.com.

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