We source our grapes from several vineyards in the Snake River Valley, constantly searching out new microclimates, sites and passionate people who are investing in new vineyards for this beautiful region. After meeting with great success and seeing the relationships with our growers strengthen over the years, we strongly believe that even though we make incredible wines from this region right now “the best is yet to come”. We have a huge AVA, interesting volcanic soils, a great climate for Viognier, Tempranillo and Syrah (among others) and certainly much more to continue to learn from our wines, growers and the environment. It is a beautiful adventure!
About the Snake River Valley AVA
Driving around the vineyards in the Snake River Valley makes a person wonder – how did all these weird shapes in the landscape occur? There are shining white hills of chalk, dark columns of basalt, and beds of volcanic cinder in shades of black, red, and orange. The history of the Snake River Valley is one of volcanoes and water shaping a bizarre and beautiful landscape.
The Snake River Valley is a rift, bounded on the north and south by fault zones. The continental crust is very thin here, due in part to the passing of the Yellowstone Hotspot immediately to the south. The thin crust allowed magma to well up and volcanoes to erupt periodically during the region’s geologic past. Beginning around 5 million years ago, a basin formed as the crust sagged and was filled by a series of wetlands and lakes, the largest now known as Ancient Lake Idaho. It seems appropriate, then, that the highest level reached by Lake Idaho, around 3400 feet elevation, forms the boundary of the Snake River Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA).
Volcanic activity continued during this time and the cinders that inspire our name erupted under the waters of Lake Idaho. Over the millennia, Lake Idaho drained out though Hell’s Canyon, leaving behind a valley filled with sediments. The power of water continued to influence the region. The Snake and Boise Rivers both carved out their courses in the valley, leaving behind a series of terraces and slopes separating their channels. Towards the end of the last ice age, the Great Salt Lake was 1000 feet deep and many times its current size. Called Lake Bonneville, it broke through Red Rock Pass in southeastern Idaho close to the town of Preston (where Napoleon Dynamite was filmed), and drained in an cataclysmic flood through the Snake River Canyon, in the process both deepening the canyon of the Snake River and covering a large portion of the Snake River Valley in sediment.
This complexity of geologic influences leaves the Snake River Valley AVA with a myriad of options for fine wine growing. The vineyards we source from represent many different soil types and aspects. The planting of new vineyards that match the grape variety to the microclimate will be an exciting process to participate in. Look for even better wines from the Snake River Valley in the future!
The Williamson Family has had fruit orchards in the “Sunny Slope” region of the Snake River Valley for over 100 years. This beautiful vineyard backed by white chalk hills and with a view of the Snake River, brings us some wonderful grapes. They are known across the valley for their peaches and their very popular fruit stand, and they are now in the wine business as growers and producers. We purchase Viognier, Syrah and Cabernet from this vineyard. The Viognier
This vineyard has brilliant soil and slope for achieving a self-controlled crop. Since these soils are low in organic matter and on a fairly steep slope with low water holding capacity, the vines produce a small crop and balanced canopy without a lot of human intervention. With yields between 2 and 4 tons per acre and plenty of heat, this vineyard is one of the earliest maturing in Idaho.
Skyline Vineyard is the biggest in the state. Just south of Sawtooth Vineyard, its soils are slightly deeper and finer. Syrah and Merlot sourced from Skyline produced medium bodied wines with great fruit aromas.
Martin Brothers/Emerald Slope Vineyard
Located on the Oregon side of the Snake River Valley AVA on a steep East-facing slope directly above the Snake River. Sandy loam soils produce well balanced Tempranillo grapes.
Located just south of the Snake River on steep, west-facing slopes, this vineyard is intensely hot. Dar Symm’s great grandfather started planting fruit trees in 1914 with the help of Dar’s grandfather who was 14 years old at the time. Cabernet Savignon sourced here produces rich intensely flavored wines.