Hells Canyon Winery

The Idaho wine industry has experienced tremendous growth in the past decade, increasing from 11 wineries in 2002 to just over 40 in 2010. With the recent designation of the Snake River Valley AVA, Idaho’s wine industry is well-positioned for continued success and growth. Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to experience an array of wines from large producers like Sawtooth Winery and Ste. Chapelle Winery to smaller, boutique wineries like Pend d’Oreille and Hells Canyon Winery. In celebration of Idaho Wine Month in June (for more details visit IdahoWines.org), I thought I’d recap a recent wine I sampled from Hells Canyon Winery.

Located in the Snake River Valley in Caldwell, Idaho, Hells Canyon Winery produces approximately 3000 cases a year. Overlooking the banks of the Snake River at an elevation of 2700 feet, Hells Canyon vineyards are some of the oldest in the state, made up of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah varieties.

A few weeks back I pulled the cork on the 2006 Merlot Reserve. Retailing for $30, the wine represented my first Merlot from the state. Aromas of black cherry, plum, fresh herbs and pepper blend together to deliver a complex, multidimensional nose. A medium-bodied, age-worthy Merlot, the palate displayed similar flavors as the nose with an added touch of vanilla. Well integrated tannins and just enough acidity round out the wine.

With each new vintage Hells Canyon selects original sporting art to represent the experience of Idaho. In fact, when you buy Hells Canyon wines you are pledging your support for wildlife conservation organizations. Each year, the winery donates 10% of net profits to the cause. Great wine and a worthy cause. Cheers!

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