Idaho Wine Commission
Idaho Wine History
It All Starts With The Grapes
Idaho is considered by some to be part of the new frontier of wine in the United States. But the first grapes planted in Idaho were actually grown in Lewiston in 1864. In other words, we’ve been at this for a while.
Read on to learn more about the time, effort, and expertise it took to create the award-winning wines we produce now.
“In Idaho we’re the oft-forgotten ‘other’ state in the Pacific Northwest,” says John H. Thorngate, Ph.D., formerly a professor at the University of Idaho, now Applications Chemist, Research & Development, Constellation Wines U.S. But it’s worth remembering that Idaho was home to the first wineries in the Pacific Northwest.
Before any grapes were ever planted in Washington or Oregon, they were planted here in Idaho by immigrants—Louis Desol and Robert Schleicher from France, and Jacob Schaefer from Germany. They were winning awards around the country before Prohibition took a debilitating toll on the industry and brought production to an absolute halt.
It wasn’t until 1970 that wine grapes were again planted in Idaho, this time along the Snake River Valley in the southern part of the state. This is where Idaho’s first American Viticultural Area (AVA) was established on April 9, 2007, and where most of the state’s wineries are located today. The Snake River Valley AVA covers more than 8,000 square miles and has a near-famous latitude for growing grapes, comparable to regions from around the world. Its immense size is a great advantage, allowing for tremendous room to grow. In other words, there’s room for everyone here.
The approval of the Snake River Valley AVA was a vast undertaking that gained attention around the world. And even though 2007 wasn’t so very long ago, our roots in winemaking grow much deeper. We’ve been at this for more than a century, making world-class, award-winning wine. So while some may see Idaho as the “oft-forgotten” state in the Pacific Northwest, we know better—great wine comes from Idaho!
Idaho Wine: A Timeline
Million Years Ago
Ancient Lake Idaho is formed, stretching 200 miles from Weiser to Twin Falls
Crop survives winter
An article dated September 5, 1865
in the Idaho Statesman reported that a vineyard of Royal Muscadine cuttings had been planted early in the spring of the previous year (1864) and it had survived the winter well and was beginning to produce grapes in Lewiston
Idaho wine industry booming
Prohibition halts the wine industry across the country with the 18th Amendment
Prohibition ends with the 21st Amendment being ratified on December 5, 1933
First winery to open after Prohibition. “The Garden of Eaves,” owned and operated by Gregory Eaves
The second bonded winery was established in 1972 in Troy, Idaho, called Chateau Juliaetta. They grew and produced wine from a hybrid grape called Chelois, and they also purchased grapes from some local growers in the valley
Grapes planted in Snake River Valley
Ste. Chapelle Winery
The state’s largest winery, Ste.
Chapelle Winery, opens
The Idaho Grape Growers & Wine Producers Commission is formed
656 acres of grapes planted
11 wineries in Idaho with more vineyards being planted
Snake River Valley
The Snake River Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) is approved as a federally designated grape-growing region in Southwest Idaho
Boise State University completes study finding that the Idaho wine industry has a $73 million economic impact
43 wineries in Idaho and 1,200 acres planted
Economic impact rises to $169.3 million
The Eagle Foothills AVA is approved as a federally designated grape-growing region within the Snake River Valley AVA
The Lewis-Clark Valley AVA is approved as a federally designated grape-growing region in Northern Idaho
Economic impact rises to nearly $210 million
73 wineries in Idaho and 1,300 acres planted
Harvesting Good Times
The Idaho wine industry has been a steadily growing community for the last 30 years with remarkable growth in the past decade—and we’re just getting started. In 2008, we had 38 wineries. Today, there are more than 75 wineries, eight cideries, and 1,300 acres of grapes planted. But there’s plenty of room to grow. With lots of recent recognition, a tight-knit community of passionate winemakers, and all eyes on what we’ll do next, this is an exciting (and delicious) time to be in the Idaho wine industry.
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Looking to establish or expand a vineyard in Idaho? We’ve got room to grow and resources to help you get there.