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Idaho's wine country: taste testing

Idaho’s wine industry has seen tremendous growth over the last decade, but how do the wines from the Gem State compare with those abroad?

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho’s wine industry has seen tremendous growth over the last decade, contributing an estimated $210 million to the state's economy. But after looking into Idaho's wine industry growth, the one question left unanswered was how Idaho's wines compare with other wines on the market.

Idaho's wine industry has poured its way into the multi-million dollar industry.

"The cool thing about Idaho is, it's really unique," said Kathryn House McClaskey, director of education for Hayden Beverage and founder of House of Wine. "That we can grow a world of wine, really in just a few different areas."

The House of Wine is an educational laboratory, teaching people about their palates, different kinds of wine and how to those skills to pick out their favorite selections. Kathryn holds different trainings and consumer events at the lab, and provides certification for sommeliers.

"When we talk about wine, it can be really challenging because there's so many different regions, you really have to think about which area are you speaking of," Kathryn said, "because the lines that are grown, say in burgundy, are going to be very different varieties and styles than they would be from Bordeaux."

So how does wine from our region vary from France?

"In those areas, we grow a wide range of varieties. In areas of France for example, they're typically limited to specific areas. For example, the Rhone Valley are going to concentrate on Syrah and Grenache and Vionnet," Kathryn said. "Those are all different grape varieties. Whereas we might grow up here, syrah and vionnet, but we'll also grow other varieties like chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, riesling — things that normally would be grown in different places throughout the world, we can grow all in one cool sight here."

Idaho's soil has all the necessary ingredients to grow great wine.

"What makes Idaho wine country special, especially in the Snake River area, is our volcanic soil. That volcanic soil gives the wine a distinctive character," Kelli Meyer, Regional Manager for Sawtooth Winery and St. Chapelle Winery said.

"The wines of Idaho, I would say are unique in that they have a wonderful expression of varietal typicity, meaning it tastes like the grape variety it should," McClaskey said.

"My favorite fact about Idaho's wine country is that we sit at about the same latitude line as the real hot region of Spain and the Bordeaux region of France," Samantha Maxey, owner of Snake River Wine Tours said. "So we grow really great French and Spanish varietals here in Idaho and those are among some of the top varietals in the entire world, including cabernet, merlot, syrah, vignette, chardonnay and riesling, which was one of the first grapes planted in the state of Idaho."

Kathryn also agrees with that comparison.

"There are many wines that I taste that I think can compete with some of their classic counterparts out of France or Italy, maybe even Germany as well," McClaskey said, "it is really fun just to see people's expressions and get them to go, 'wow, I didn't know that Idaho could make wine like this'."

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