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Idaho’s wine industry petitions for two new AVAs

Idaho's wine industry is excited about the possibility the state could have two new American Viticulture Areas this time next year. Idaho currently has one AVA, which is a federally designated wine growing region.
Sean Ellis

Capital Press

Published on December 1, 2014 12:30PM

Wine grapes grow in a vineyard in Southwestern Idaho this fall. Idaho could have two new American Viticultural Area designations this time next year.

Sean Ellis/Capital Press

Wine grapes grow in a vineyard in Southwestern Idaho this fall. Idaho could have two new American Viticultural Area designations this time next year.

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BOISE — Idaho could have two new American Viticultural Area designations this time next year.

An AVA is a specific wine grape growing region that is federally designated because it has certain growing conditions, boundaries and history.

AVAs are designated by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. According to the ATTTB website, “These designations allow vintners and consumers to attribute a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of a wine made from grapes grown in an area to its geographic origin.”

Idaho wine industry representatives say the state’s first AVA, the Snake River Valley AVA, established in 2007, was a catalyst behind the rapid growth that has occurred in the state’s wine industry since then.

The number of Idaho wineries has grown from 38 to 51 since 2008.

The addition of two more AVAs in Idaho “would really be exciting for the Idaho industry in general,” said wine maker Martin Fujishin.

An AVA serves as a reference point for consumers and having two more in Idaho “will be an overall general recognition for the state as a whole,” he said.

Wineries in north-central Idaho have petitioned the ATTTB to create a Lewis-Clark Valley AVA, which includes a 40-mile long strip of canyons with the cities of Lewiston and Clarkston in the middle. It includes parts of Asotin, Garfield and Whitman counties in Washington.

The proposed AVA has been accepted for formal review and is third on the list of proposed AVAs waiting to be published in the Federal Register.

Colter’s Creek Winery owner Mike Pearson, who is helping lead the Lewis-Clark effort, said the proposed AVA is due to be published in February. A 60-day public comment period would follow and it takes about six months on average after that for final approval unless there is opposition, he said.

“Maybe a year from now it will exist. That’s what we’re hoping,” Pearson said.

A proposal to create an Eagle Foothills AVA in the foothills north of Eagle, Idaho, is fifth on the ATTTB’s queue of proposals waiting to be published.

This AVA was formerly known as the Willow Creek Idaho AVA but changed its name to avoid confusion with one existing and one pending AVA with variations of that name, said 3 Horse Ranch Vineyards owner Martha Cunningham, who crafted the proposal.

If accepted, it would be sub-divided from the Snake River Valley AVA.

Cunningham said that wine grape growing area is substantially different from the rest of the Snake River Valley AVA and deserves its own designation.

“There are a lot of things about this area that differentiates us from the Snake River Valley AVA,” she said.

Fujishin, who teaches viticulture at Treasure Valley Community College, agrees.

“The soil profile up there is entirely different than what it is down here in the Sunny Slope area (and) we definitely see a big difference in the fruit,” he said.

The Eagle Foothills AVA is also on track for final approval late next year.



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