Eagle Foothills gets its own AVA

You may remember reading about 3 Horse Ranch Vineyards in the August issue of Treasure Magazine and the winery’s efforts to bring a new AVA to Idaho. (To read that article, click here.)

In November, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) established the Eagle Foothills American Viticultural Area — the first AVA entirely within Idaho’s borders.

Martha and Gary Cunningham own 3 Horse Ranch Vineyards, and Martha was the primary author of the petition to the federal government. The Eagle Foothills AVA of 49,815 acres becomes the first sub-AVA of the Snake River Valley.

“I’m just thrilled we have a new AVA,” said Moya Dolsby, executive director of the Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers Commission. “This puts Idaho on the map again and serves as validation that yes, we are a recognized grape-growing region. There aren’t a ton of acres out there, but hopefully there will be in the future.”

According to the news release, “TTB is issuing this regulation in response to a petition submitted on behalf of local grape growers and vintners. TTB designates viticultural areas to allow vintners to better describe the origin of their wines and to allow consumers to better identify wines they may purchase.”

Greg Jones, a professor at Southern Oregon University and recognized as one of the world’s leading figures in climate research for viticulture, assisted Cunningham on the petition along with Boise State’s Clyde “C.J.” Northrup, a geosciences professor and aspiring winemaker. They supported the Eagle Foothills petition as a grape-growing region because of the influence of nearby Prospect Peak at 4,874 feet in elevation and the granite pebbles mixed with volcanic ash/sandy loam as a result of Ancient Lake Idaho.

The establishment in 2007 of the Snake River Valley AVA, which shares a portion of its western boundary with Oregon, continues to be viewed as the watershed moment for the Idaho wine industry in terms of sales, marketing and reputation.

At this point, there are a mere 69 acres of vineyard planted in the AVA, and 3 Horse Ranch Vineyard is the largest at 46 acres.

Ironically, there are problems with the other AVA petition involving Idaho. The proposed Lewis-Clark Valley AVA involves two states — Washington and Idaho — but the debate involves removing about 57,000 acres from the Columbia Valley AVA. That would require Rick Wasem of Basalt Cellars in Clarkston, Wash., to use Lewis-Clark Valley, rather than the well-known Columbia Valley AVA, on the label of his wines. Public commenting on the Lewis-Clark petition closed June 15 after most statements favored establishment. However, the TTB chose to revisit the petition and created a second 30-day commenting period. That closed Nov. 27.

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Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information website. Learn more about wine and see more of their stories at

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