The Rise of Idaho Winemakers
Though it may seem like breweries are popping up almost every other week along Chinden, wineries are quietly taking center stage as visitors discover that Walla Walla and the Willamette Valley might have some competition. Cinder Winery is tucked neatly into, what some might call the “wine and beer district” of Garden City, just a stone’s throw from the Split Rail and Syringa Wineries and Bella Brewing. Cinder doesn’t see nearby wineries as competition, and in fact would welcome more grape-smashing neighbors. They already host visitors from states as far away as Maryland and Georgia, but the Treasure Valley is poised to become a real wine destination.
Cinder Winery was established in 2006, when Melanie Krause began making wine in some rented space before inhabiting their current spot in 2008 on East 44th. The industrial building feels vast but welcoming, and you’ll be immediately greeted by Laura Collett, the tasting room’s manager, or Donna Bilotti-Davies, who works in sales. Seated at the long bar, the walls are lined with their beautiful bottles that demonstrate the breadth of varieties they produce, and a wine tap offers some of their most popular wines straight from the keg, as well as a couple local beers for the hoppy types.
“Making wine isn’t quite like baking,” Hailey Alexander, Cinder’s knowledgeable enologist, says, “because there’s no real recipe. It’s more like making a soup.”
Cinder’s flagship wine is the Dry Viognier, which has a surprising complexity with hints of grapefruit and orange blossom, making converts out of the most loyal red wine drinkers.
“Most people don’t realize that white wine is more difficult to make,” Alexander notes. “It is a much more delicate process.”
If you’re looking for an inexpensive blend, that’s made just as thoughtfully as their pricier wines, try the Red or the White Table Wine from the Laissez Faire series. These are drinkable wines, something you want to keep around for unexpected guests or for weeknight dinners.
Though they typically produce about 1000 cases of wine per variety, they also create some exquisite small batches, like their 2014 Sauvignon Blanc. Their Small Lot Series features wines using more experimental winemaking techniques, and this particular white was fermented with 100% native yeast. Most of the time wine is not made with the grapes’ native yeast because the results can vary. But sometimes these varying results are exciting. Along with a reserve merlot and two special Tempranillos, these small batches, producing only about 180 cases each, are what keep the connoisseurs coming back and their wine club members engaged.
Stop in any day of the week to try out some wines, or check out their LIVE events featuring local performers every third Thursday of the month. Tasting wines at Cinder Winery is both an enjoyable and educational experience. You’ll leave having a better sense of your tastes and preferences, and you’ll learn a little about what makes Idaho grapes so unique. No need to leave the state for quality wines when you have expanding viticulture in your own backyard.