Boise, Idaho and Walla Walla, Washington are inland agricultural empires that have famously produced potatoes, wheat, onions and other staples of the American diet for generations. Today, the farmers in these areas are increasingly growing viniferous grapes and the impact that this crop is making on the local farm-based cultures is significant.
Earlier this month, we drove six and a half hours to Boise from Portland and pulled directly up to Telaya Wine Company’s generous riverfront establishment before heading to the hotel. Their sunny, dog-friendly deck had plenty of room for us and our impromptu picnic. The staff was warm and hospitable, and the wine flights were terrific. The Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon was outstanding and we bought a bottle to open on my mom’s birthday, a few days later in McCall.
McCall is an idyllic lakeside community on Lake Payette two hours north of Boise. There are no wineries in McCall, but the scenery is intoxicating, and our waiter at Shore Lodge opened the Red Mountain Cab minus the additional corkage fee, which is always a nice touch.
On the way from McCall to Walla Walla, we stopped for lunch in Lewiston, Idaho at Mystic Cafe. It was here that a clue was given. Our friendly server recommended a trio of Walla Walla wineries to visit, and the next day we took her up on one of her choice spots. Thankfully, Va Piano Vineyards surpassed our expectations in every way. The wine is exceptional, the vineyard is an easy 10-minute drive from town, and their picnic area outside the tasting room, adjacent to the vines is lovely.
Walla Walla is literally overflowing with wineries and tasting rooms. The city takes more than a single visit to orient oneself. While we arrived in town with a hot tip from the road that led us to Va Piano, we also arrived with our favorite producers in mind. That’s why we made a point to visit Waterbrook Winery, a wine we are able to purchase in the grocery store at home.
Waterbrook is a fantastic place to visit. It’s one of the few wineries in the area with a restaurant. Waterbrook’s impressive grounds, helpful staff, yard games, and delicious wine is the ideal combo for a nice afternoon. We had Lucy with us, and the rule is no dogs on the patio where food is served. Before I could protest, Waterbrook’s gracious staff helped us set up our table under a tree in their yard. Delicious burgers, salads, and wine were served. The Reserve Malbec was outstanding. I’m also impressed by the reasonable price points on many of Waterbrook’s wines.