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Northwest Wine: Best of Idaho wine

Meredith Smith, the head winemaker for Sawtooth and Ste. Chapelle in Idaho’s Snake River Valley, makes the best rosé in Idaho.
Meredith Smith, the head winemaker for Sawtooth and Ste. Chapelle in Idaho’s Snake River Valley, makes the best rosé in Idaho. Great Northwest Wine

With 51 wineries and more than 1,600 acres of wine grapes, Idaho’s wine industry is growing into something special.

At the recent seventh annual Idaho Wine Competition in Boise, a group of international wine judges from up and down the West Coast gathered to taste through nearly 200 examples of wines from the Gem State.

The top winner was a special dessert wine from Koenig Vineyards, one of Idaho’s rising stars.

Here are some of the top wines from the competition. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.

Koenig Vineyards 2014 Botrytis Single Berry Select Late Harvest Riesling, Snake River Valley, $30: In the classic trockenbeerenauslese style of Germany comes this gorgeous dessert wine from Williamson Vineyard in the Snake River Valley’s Sunnyslope region. Aromas of apricot, honey and rich peach are backed by thick, textured flavors of crème brûlée and more apricot.

Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2014 Umiker Vineyard Estate Syrah, Lewis-Clark Valley, $28: From the new Lewis-Clark Valley in Lewiston comes the best syrah in Idaho. Aromas of chocolate-covered pomegranate, a hint of slate and pepper lead to flavors of dried blueberry, Montmorency cherry and black currant. It’s all backed by firm tannins.

Cinder Wines 2015 Off-dry Riesling, Snake River Valley, $18: Winemaker Melanie Krause now makes a riesling, and it’s one of the best examples you’ll find from the Pacific Northwest. On the palate, it reveals aromas of fresh apple, pear and peach, followed by clean, bright flavors of peach and nectarine. Its bright acidity balances out the touch of sweetness.

Bitner Vineyards 2012 Reserve Petit Verdot Merlot, Snake River Valley, $32: Longtime grape grower Ron Bitner works with Sunnyslope winemaker Greg Koenig to craft this delicious Bordeaux-style red blend that leads with petit verdot. Bold, dark, dense aromas of molasses, plum and black cherry are backed by flavors of red fruit, tobacco and a hint of oak. It’s all backed by well-managed tannins.

Huston Vineyards 2015 Chicken Dinner Red, Idaho/Washington, $18: Here is a classic Idaho red blend that tends to win a gold medal year in and year out. This example leads with cabernet sauvignon and makes good use of oak. On the nose are aromas of cherry, purple fruit and lavender. On the palate, this leads with salivating flavors of blackberry, dried cherry and Marionberry that carry into a spicy finish.

Sawtooth Winery 2015 Classic Fly Series Grenache Rosé, Snake River Valley, $25: Sawtooth winemaker Meredith Smith simply makes the best rosé in Idaho. This is the third consecutive year her rosé has topped this category. It offers a beautifully delicate color and presents aromas of orange oil, pink raspberry and a hint of plum. Flavors are bright with Rainier cherry, white peach and ripe strawberry. This will be perfect with barbecued chicken.

Indian Creek Winery 2014 Mountain Syringa Dry White Wine, Snake River Valley, $14: Kuna-based Indian Creek is one of Idaho’s oldest producers, and it crafted a superb gewürztraminer that reveals classic aromas of lychee, clove and grapefruit, followed by flavors of orange peel, clove and tropical fruit. It is a dry and focused white that would pair well with delicate seafood dishes.

Open Air 2015 Chardonnay, Snake River Valley, $18: This chardonnay from Ste. Chapelle is crafted in a fresh style that could be likened to white Burgundy. Aromas of limestone, almond and Golden Delicious apple give way to flavors of fresh orchard fruit and just a whisper of oak.

Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2014 Phinny Hill Vineyard Carménère, Washington, $28: Owner/winemaker Coco Umiker reaches into Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills for her carménère, and she crafts what is arguably the best example of this rare Bordeaux variety in the Pacific Northwest. Her latest version creates a theme of black peppercorn with a mix of black and blue fruit. It’s full-bodied and beautifully balanced.

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.

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