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Best White Wines for Summer

When it comes to wines from Idaho, there are so many choices! When someone asks us for a recommendation of what to drink, it's hard to suggest something because the choices of award-winning wines is endless! Plus, wine is a personal thing. Just like chocolate, most people like it, but some prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate. However, one thing everyone can agree on, during the summer you can get beautiful, light, crisp white wines on the Sunnyslope Wine Trail located just 30 minutes from Boise, Idaho. Below, Idaho Wine Ambassador, Jim Thomssen, shares his favorite summer varietals unique to Idaho's Wine Country.

Must-Try Idaho White Wines

I was recently asked to pick my three favorite white wines from the Caldwell, but I know what I love might not be something that you do. So, instead of recommending a specific bottle of wine I am going to recommend some varietals that are perfect for summer and can be found right here in Idaho. Buying close to the source is always a good thing since it gives direct support to the growers and winemakers, so go out and find some new favorites in Idaho Wine Country. Here are some fun, lighter wines to look for on your vacation to the Snake River and Sunnyslope wine region.

Alvarinho

Originally from Portugal and Spain (where it’s called Albarino) this grape has been planted in Idaho during the past few years, and it's thriving in our terroir! It produces a high acid, full-bodied wine with citrus and fresh fruit flavors. It usually has a bright smooth finish and may even be a bit effervescent when you first pull the cork. It’s a great substitute for un-oaked Chardonnays. Viscaya Winery, Fujishin Family Cellars and Sawtooth Estate Winery all have great Alvarinhos available.

Viognier

This is a more “Fruit Forward” wine with some classic peach and apricot notes in the flavor profile. Genetically this is a cousin of the more well known Nebbiolo varietal that produces lighter, more earthy red wines. Viognier is present many of the white wine blends from the Sunnyslope area such as Bitner Vineyard's High Desert White. Served chilled, it’s another great way to beat the summer heat. Koenig Vineyards, Indian Creek Winery and Williamson Vineyards have great single varietal Viogniers on hand for you to try on your next wine tasting outing.

Muscat

Muscat, also known as Muscato, is an ancient grape known as one of the only varietals to produce wine that actually tastes like grapes! First grown in the Mediterranean region it’s no surprise they do well in Idaho! The Snake River AVA is located is in one of the “Wine Belts” that circle the globe.  Look at the upper belt in the graphic and you'll see Idaho is on the same latitude as many “Old World” wine regions such as Italy. The wines crafted from Muscat can be bone dry or incredibly sweet depending on the winemaker's treatment, but they are all good. The Moscatos from Idaho are not your Grandparents’ Muscatel and definitely worth a second look. Hat Ranch Winery, Indian Creek Winery and Sawtooth Estate Vineyards all produce excellent wines from the Muscat grape.

While I do have my favorite go-to white wines for summer, I encourage you to try something new and find your own favorite. With options all across the Sunnyslope Wine Trail it’s easy to make new friends and find new wines. Download the Sunnyslope Wine Trail Map Brochure today and get out and explore what our great soil, weather and farmers have blessed us with!

The Idaho Wine Ambassador
© 2020 Jim Thomssen

Have you ever wondered how cherries are harvested? Now, you can feel the ground shake beneath your feet as cherries are shaken from the tree, because Cherry Hill Farms, a family run orchard in Caldwell, is opening their private orchard this month and inviting you to join them for their tart cherry harvest!

From July 8-11 you can discover first hand how Montmorency cherries are harvested and get a behind the scenes tour of how a commercial fruit orchard operates. You'll enjoy a scenic wagon ride tour of the orchards and will observe the process of loading and unloading the fruit, pick your own fresh fruit to take home with you, learn more about the different types of fruit that can be grown in Caldwell, Idaho, and enjoy games, taking pictures in the orchards, and of course, snacks for the whole family!

The Details

Who: This unique experience can be enjoyed by everyone. Bring your family, a date, or a group of friends. Make it a 'staycation' by visiting a tasting room or tow on the Sunnyslope Wine Trail and eating dinner at one of Caldwell's farm to fork restaurants.
When: Wednesday, July 8, and Friday July 10 - 5-9PM. Saturday, July 11, 10AM - 2PM. Tours depart every 15 minutes and reservations are NOT required. ?
Where: On the cormer of Chicken Dinner Road & Apricot Road (The nearest address for your GPS is 15228 Chicken Dinner Rd, Caldwell, ID 83607)
Cost: $7.00 per person or $5.00 per person in groups of 5 or larger.

Additional Details: Due to COVID-19 we encourage you to take precautions such as wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.

Tour Preview from Caldwell Insider Jim Thomssen

Jim Thomssen, Caldwell Insider and Idaho Wine Ambassador, was able to get a preview tour of the Cherry Hill Farms expirence! Read on below to learn more about his experience and gain a little more knowledge about the history of farming in Caldwell, Idaho.

I don’t know about you but it seems like a lot of folks are looking for local options for fun things to do. Vacations to exotic destinations are paused for the time being so we’ve all been looking for an adventure close to home. Luckily, Caldwell's agricultural region, know by the locals as the Sunnyslope is just a short 30-minute drive from downtown Boise and Eastern Oregon. 

Now, while the Sunnyslope is currently known for its vineyards and wine tasting rooms, the area's roots are in fruit production. At one time there was a trolley line from Caldwell into Boise to deliver the best fruit in Idaho directly to the Capital city! Imagine that – Light Rail solutions as early as 1907!

Many of the orchards still remain in Caldwell and are operated by many of the same families that started them in the 1800s. However, while they are beautiful when the trees bloom and fruit starts to grow, the public is unable to visit them because the farmers are not set up for visitors on a day to day basis. 

So, I was incredibly excited when I heard Cherry Hill Farms was 'opening the barn doors' and holding tours this year. Getting outdoors was the perfect opportunity for me to have a 'staycation' and safely enjoy some company - there is plenty of room for social distancing among the acres and acres of fruit trees!

As one of the top tart cherry producers in Idaho and Utah, the Rowley family has been putting food on our tables for over 5 generations. A few years ago they purchased Cherry Hill Farms from the Williamson family, who pivoted their efforts into the grape and wine business - Williamson Orchards & Vineyards is located at the end of Apricot Road and is a great stop before or after your tour! While the Williamsons kept some of their sweet cherry crop and do a great U-Pick cherry event, Cherry Hill Farms experience is much different. They grow TART cherries. While you might not enjoy the sour taste right from the tree, the tart fruit is perfect to make cherry pies and dried cherries. Cherry pie is always a favorite food especially in July when fresh cherries are ripe. 

The tours leave from the welcome station every 15 minutes and take you out through the orchards in a tractor powered open-air wagon. Don’t worry if you miss a wagon, another will be by soon. While you wait you can play some cherry corn hole in the orchard with bean bags full of dried cherry pits! 

Once you are on the wagon you’ll get to see apple, peach, apricot, and cherry trees as you are pulled around the farm. Make sure to bring your cameras, you'll see sweeping views of the Owhyee Mountains and Lake Lowell. The wagon stopped a few times and the farmers explained how the orchards are maintained, why they plant certain types of crops on different areas of the farm and gave us opportunities to ask any questions we had. 

One of the most interesting stops on the farm was at the apple trees. The trunks were big, but the branches were tiny! This peculiar looking tree isn't something you'd find growing naturally - it's actually 'man-made'. You see, the Rowleys were growing red delicious apples in this orchard for several years before the apple variety became less popular. So, what happens if your apple variety falls out of favor? Trees take years to grow so it’s not easy to replant and wait for the next new hybrid to grow in. Luckily, the Rowley’s’ know how to graft, or transplant a different kind of apple branch onto the existing tree root, so when the demand for Red Delicious apples started to falter they were able to cut some trees off about 2 feet off the ground and create Honeycrisp trees. In 2-3 years these hybrids developed at the University of Minnesota will be ready to harvest. They grafted trees do look a bit strange and you will ride right through them on the tour!

After a tour of the orchard, it's time for the grand finale - cherries being harvested! You'll feel the ground shake beneath your feet when a really cool machine shakes the cherry trees and gathers the fruit. Then the machine dumps the cherries in a bin full of water for a soft landing and trip to the processing plant. Did you know cherries don’t float? Neither did I – I figured we could bob for little tiny apples, but alas!

The Rowley’s start harvesting cherries from their trees after six to seven years of time in the ground. After seeing the harvester shaking the fruit free it’s easy to see why the productive life of a commercial cherry tree is about 20 years. The apple trees for instance can last 25-30 years or longer.

Of course, the best part of any tour is at the end when you get to sample the products! Cherry Hill Farms sells most of its fruit commercially but has added additional consumer products and experiences to expand. They currently make dried cherries, chocolate covered dried cherries, and tart cherry juice. The dried tart cherries look like Craisens but taste like a cherry pie. I’d also recommend you look up the recipe for Cherry bars here and try it with some of their fresh cherries or some cherry pie filling! Oh Yum! If you need other kinds of fruit I’d recommend a quick stop at Lakeview Fruit on Highway 55. They just opened this week and have a lot for farm-fresh fruit and vegetables available for you to add to your market basket!

The take away here is that there are great new things to try and experience right in our own back yard. While you can’t hop a trolley and visit the ‘slope anymore it’s not a long drive. Interestingly enough you’ll cross the Sunnyslope Wine Trail as you make your way out to tour the Cherry Hill Farms property. Maybe the kids won’t mind if you swing by your favorite winery and pick up a few bottles of another local fruit-based product to bring home for your summer celebration.

Cheers to Locally Grown Fruit & Wine! 

By Jim Thomssen, The Idaho Wine Ambassador

 

Here in Caldwell, Idaho, we celebrate our award-winning wine and cider during June!

June is always a special month. The days are long, school is out, and many of Canyon County's families return to the fields to begin harvesting early season crops or tend to the growing vines. It's the perfect month to celebrate the wonderful wines that Idaho and the Sunnyslope region in Caldwell are known for and in 2009, Governor Butch Otter declared June Idaho Wine & Cider Month.

In total, the state of Idaho has over 60 wineries and in 2018 they produced over 160,000 cases of wine. That’s just over 1.9 million bottles! Out of the 1,300 acres of wine grapes planted in Idaho, the majority of vines are right in the Sunnyslope Wine Trail region, just a short drive outside of Caldwell.  

In total, the Sunnyslope Wine Trail has 16 tasting rooms where you are guaranteed to find a wine that you will love. The latitude of the Sunnyslope is similar France’s Bordeaux and Rhone regions and as such, many similar grape varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Syrah & Viognier grow well here. Wine varietals made popular by Spain, Italy, and South America also grow well in the Sunnyslope because of its elevation and dry climate. In recent years, farmers have planted Sangiovese, Malbec, Carménère, Albariño, and Tempranillo.

When you plan your visit to Caldwell during Idaho Wine & Cider Month, you can expect to see special celebrations in places like our local grocery stores, wine shops, tasting rooms, and estate vineyards. There are many ways to discover your new favorite wine such as wine and cheese pairing events, concerts, and farm to table dinners. Check out the Idaho Wine Commission's calendar for more information about upcoming events. 

Don’t think you want to drink wine in the hot weather? The Sunnyslope region also has a cider tasting room located at Vine & Branch Ranch. Stack Rock Cider creates alcoholic apple cider with Idaho apples. My favorite offering from Stack Rock is called Skinny Dip which has hints of lemon and basil and pairs well with pasta and a smoked tomato red sauce! Hard cider has a lower volume of alcohol than wine and tastes so good on a hot summer day.  

June is a great time of year. New growth, new opportunities, new beginnings, and new experiences are all out there for you to explore in Caldwell, Idaho. Plan your trip to visit in June and let's celebrate Idaho Wine & Cider together. Request your copy of the Sunnyslope Wine Trail map & brochure today!

Cheers to Caldwell grown wine & cider!

The Idaho Wine Ambassador

Jim Thomssen

 The Plaza is the perfect place to explore or meet friends and family year-round! Here are just a few things to look forward to each season! 

Spring 

Springtime at the Plaza is all about new beginnings. The Spring Eggstravaganza is a free community Easter egg hunt as well as a chance to pick up everything you need to get your garden backyard projects started! The Eggstravaganza is held annually the Saturday the weekend before Easter.

The Mother’s Day Vintage Market, held on the Saturday before Mothers' Day is a great opportunity to spend some quality time with Mom and pick up a few things to decorate the house with after your spring cleaning.  

Summer 

When the weather gets warm enough, the fountains and splash pads will be turned on for everyone to enjoy! Summer is jam-packed with events and activities at the PlazaEvery Tuesday mid-may thought mid-October we will have the Farm to Fork Farmers’ Market!  Caldwell is known for its excellent produce, flowers, eggs and meat and now you will be able to grab it all in downtown Caldwell! 

We also have a weekly Concert Series on Tuesdays during the market! We’re calling the market and concert ‘Tuesdays on the Creek’ so make sure to come down after work for a fun evening with friends and family! 

Fall  

Fall in Caldwell is all about the harvest, and events and activities at the Plaza reflect it! Indian Creek Festival takes place the third weekend in September every year! Then, the Great Downtown Harvest Festival, held in late October, will mark the end of harvest season.  

Winter 

In November, downtown is transformed! Nearly one-million holiday lights decorate downtown, and the Plaza transforms into Idaho’s only, and the nation’s seventh, ice skating ribbon and ice rink.  Over 35,000 people ice-skate at the Plaza during our season. Are you planning to help us beat our record this year? Ice skating and winter events continue through February until the temperature starts to rise for Spring.  

While this article mentions just a few of the big events at the Plaza, there is always something going on here! You might find games like corn hole and ping pong pop up unannounced. The Plaza is available for public & private events hosted by community organizations. To see all of the events and activities happening, and for details about the events mentioned above, visit IndianCreekPlaza.com . Or, just stop by anytime and join us...no invitation needed! 

Tuesday Farmers’ Market at Indian Creek Plaza 

 By Madison Huck, Destination Caldwell Intern 

Enjoy the crisp spring air, sweet smells and farm-fresh goods at Caldwell’s new outdoor farmers market from 5 to 8 p.m. every Tuesday May 19 through October 16 at Indian Creek Plaza.  

The Farm to Fork Farmers’ Market was designed to make it easy for everyone in Caldwell to get fresh, local food straight from the source. For generations families in Caldwell have produced the best fruits, vegetables, spiceswines, proteins, and dairy around and now you can get it all in one place! 

The Farm to Fork Farmers’ Markets’ opening weeks will feature plant and vegetable starts such as cucumbers and pumpkins. In June and July shoppers can expect to see fruitand squash, peppers, tomatoes. Crops like apples and corn will be available in late summer and early fall.  

You will also be able to find proteins at the market. Get farm-raised eggs, chicken, pork and beef from a local farmer! Most proteins are available by-the-pound. If you are looking to fill your freezer you can also talk to the farmers about bulk-buying options. 

 Caldwell is also the home of the Sunnyslope Wine Trail, a collection of 16 wineries in the heart of Idaho’s wine country. So naturally, you will also be able to purchase local wine at the market! Several wineries will be featured throughout the summer including Huston Vineyards, Sawtooth Estate Winery, and Vizcaya Winery.  

 To make this market ‘farm to fork’ there has to be prepared food, right? Mid-summer chefs will be at the market, too! The featured chef will shop from the market stalls, then prepare food made there on site to sell shoppers! 

 The market will also have artisan vendors such as home décor, jewelry, and skin care.  

This event is not only a great way to purchase items sold directly from Caldwell’s’ community members but an even better way to spend time with friends and family. The market is held in conjunction with Indian Creek Plaza’s summer concert series, Tuesdays on the Creek. Live music will start each Tuesday at 6pm.

If you want to know more about what produce will be at the market each week, look for the ‘Farm to Fork Farmers’ Market’ event on Facebook. We hope to see you at the Farmers’ Market on Tuesday! 

Food on the Sunnyslope Wine Trail

By Jim Thomssen, Idaho Wine Ambassador   

Wow – All this wine tasting has made me hungry! 

Wine and food have gone together longer than peanut butter and jelly. Luckily, there are great options for food out on the Sunnyslope Wine Trail. From full-service restaurants to fruit stand inspired picnics you can make a full day tour on the Slope seem like a trip to France, Spain or the Napa Valley. 

Restaurants on the Trail 

The Orchard House sits right in the middle of the trail on Highway 55. They have a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner service. They also have wonderful seasonal outdoor seating. As a big fan of breakfast, I have to tell you all that the Biscuits and Gravy at the Orchard house is head and shoulders above a lot of places across the entire country. Try to get out there before they switch over the kitchen to the lunch menu (before 10:30) and have a great base in your stomach to taste wine with! They also have an “All Idaho” wine list so you can enjoy what you’ve tasted with lunch or dinner without breaking into the case of wine you’ve just put in your trunk. 

Another gem along the Trail is Vine and Branch Ranch on Hoskins road near Hwy 55. They are combining local produce, local wines, and local ciders to make a new culinary hot spot for us all to enjoy. Their philosophy revolves on the theory “if it grows together then it goes together”. They host multi-course wine and farm-to-fork meals year round with a great team of purveyors and chefs. They also have a fabulous small plate menu that can make a wonderful “Foodie” experience with a flight of Stack Rock Ciders or Snake River Wines. 

Eat at a Winery 

Many wineries and tasting rooms have picnic food available for purchase on site. Check the winery profiles to see if they have any food services available there. Food policies at each winery vary, so check ahead of time if it would be okay to bring your own picnic or celebration food! Eating between tastings is encouraged, and most wineries allow you to bring a picnic. Several wineries have outdoor seating. Vizcaya Winery has a great pavilion available for picnics so call ahead to determine if it’s available. Bringing your own alcohol is not allowed at any vineyard or winery. 

Parma Ridge Winery has a full kitchen and a very talented staff. They do a fabulous job pairing dishes with their wines and it is a great place to start or end your wine trail adventure! 

Many wineries also hold farm-to-fork or winemakers' dinners during the warmer months. These multi-course dinners pair the vineyard's wine with local food, often picked that day from just down the road. It's a great experience to sit outside on the vineyard grounds with others who enjoy wine and food and hear from the chef and winemaker about the one-of-a-kind pairings they have created. Tickets are usually limited, so if you discover there is a dinner while you are visiting the Sunnyslope, grab your tickets right away. There is no better way to experience the heart of Idaho Wine Country! 

Idaho Wine and Food Pairing Ideas 

Lot’s of folks like to talk about food and wine pairings. What’s the deal? It can get pretty complicated at times. Wine flavors are derived from specific components: sugar, acid, fruit, tannin and alcohol. Foods also have flavor components, such as fat, acid, salt, sugar and bitterness. There are “Rules” that white wine goes with fish and Red with meats, but I find that kind of limiting. Here are some ideas about how to pair food with wine from the Sunnyslope while you are here or at home! 

Barbecued anything can go well with an Idaho Tempranillo. 

Try a sparkling wine from Sawtooth with some salty snacks of fried food. The bubbles and acids clean your palate between bites and add some flavor tweaks as well. 

 Salad can be tough to pair wine with but if you use a little less vinegar in your dressing a Hat Ranch Sauvignon Blanc could be a perfect choice to offset the sometimes bitterness of an arugula salad. 

A stilton cheese with a red dessert wine From Bitner Vineyards (similar to Port wines) as an after-dinner course will make you forget about a traditional dessert! 

Wine and Food can open up all sorts of exciting options. It’s not often that we get the chance to combine two things and make them both come out tasting better together than they did on their own. It’s exciting and the Sunnyslope Wine Trail is right in the center of it all. Come on out and experience it for yourself! 

 Cheers & Bon Appétit! 

What Makes the Sunnyslope Wine Area in Idaho Special? 

By Jim Thomssen, Idaho Wine Ambassador 

I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating…Idaho is a world-class wine region!  We have two American Viticultural Areas (AVA), the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA in Northern Idaho, and the Snake River Valley AVA, where the Sunnyslope region is located, in southwest Idaho. We have amazing viticulture conditions that produce wine that compares to the quality you can find anywhere else in the world.  What’s the deal?  How did that happen? 

Well it has a lot to do with where we are.  Idaho is in one of the “Wine Belts” that circle the globe.  Look at the belts in the graphic above.   Idaho is directly across from the “Old World” regions in France and Germany and just opposite the great new world regions in Chile, South Africa and Australia and New Zealand.  I have a friend, Pierre Ly from the University of Puget Sound that has been traveling to the new wine regions in China lately.  His reports are pretty impressive about some of the wines that are starting to be made in China.  They are in the Wine Belt too so it shouldn’t be that big a surprise.  As a side note, the world “Coffee Belt”  is right between the two Wine Belts.  Coincidence – I think not! 

Wine grapes grow best between 30 and 50 degrees of latitude.  North or south of the equator really doesn’t matter, that just switches the timing of harvest.  It has to do with the amount of sun and heat the vines get (also known as degree days).  Grape vines are picky.  They need the right conditions to produce fruit with the right sugars and acids that produce great wines.  Grapes grow in other areas, but they don’t develop the right chemistry in their fruit to make great wine. 

Weather is an important factor, but the soil is really where the magic happens.  The Barrett family was one of the California pioneers that helped put US wines on the world stage.  This quote attributed to them sums up a lot of the mystery of winemaking.  “There are hundreds of decisions that go into making a bottle of wine and it all begins in the vineyard, with the land.  One of the most basic and essential ingredients in growing a great grape is starting with healthy soils” 

Wine grapes don’t like lush, dark, moist soils.  They prefer coarser soils with more drainage and fewer nutrients.  Ideally, you want a soil type close to what is called Loam.  Made up of silt, sand, clay, humus and some rocks, loamy soil challenges the vines in just the right way to make them produce great grapes with the right chemistry for great wine.  Want to see this soil for yourself? Head out to the Sunnyslope area with a shovel. The Sunnyslope agricultural, just a few minutes drive from Caldwell, Idaho, borders the Snake River and was home to immense geologic activity in pre-historic times. Without giving you a giant history lesson (you can get more details from our article about the Sunnyslope terroir) this geological activity resulted in a soil makeup that is mostly loam! In fact, the soil is so good, Caldwell is actually home to the most diverse crop base in Idaho and is known for it's farm-fresh goods! 

Idaho and Sunnyslope are blessed with soils similar to some of the great growing regions in the world.  Look at the two pictures below.  Yes they were taken in different seasons but look at the soils and the climates.  It looks to me like Spain and Idaho are close enough in soil characteristics to make similarly spectacularly great wine.  Have you tried an Idaho Tempranillo yet?  The grapes in Spain are 70 years older so the fruit is a lot more complex there, but Idaho is making some wonderful balance Tempranillos from Sunnyslope grapes. 

The magic happens in the vineyards and the winemakers’ job is not to screw it up in the winery. I have heard this from so many winemakers both near and far that it’s hard to attribute the thought to any one person.  The point really is that you need to set the vines in just the right spot, give them just enough sun, water, nutrients and stress, harvest them gently at just the right time, and care for them carefully in the winery to make good wine.  Simple right? 

My hat goes off to all the intrepid families that have taken the leap to grow grapes and make wine in Idaho.  The PintlersBitnersRobertsonsStowes, Williamsons, Koenigs and Symms are just a few of the families and early believers in Idaho viticulture and enology.  They are the pioneers of Idaho wines that we need to thank when we open any bottle of Idaho wine.  They saw the soils and felt the warm days and cool nights.  They looked at the sugars and PH of the fruit they grew.  They balanced luck and art in the wineries that were just a little more than tractor sheds.  These people had courage and vision. 

So what’s so special about Idaho  – we are blessed to live in an area where the tilt of the planet, our geologic and volcanic history, mother nature, shifting weather patterns and the vision of some special folks all came together to make the pert of Idaho a viable and ever-evolving wine region.  It’s time to come out and explore.  It’s time to expose your palate to the time, chemistry, hope, and love that makes up all Idaho wines .  Come on out and explore with me!  

 

 

Destination Caldwell Hosted 315 Events and Activities at Indian Creek Plaza in 2019 and Downtown Caldwell Sees 39% Increase in Foot Traffic

Caldwell, Idaho – Destination Caldwell, the non-profit that manages Indian Creek Plaza, delivers more than double the event and activities promised to the City of Caldwell in 2019.

The Memorandum of Understanding between Destination Caldwell and the City of Caldwell to manage and operate Indian Creek Plaza states the organization is to produce 150 events and activities annually. In 2019, the organization exceeded this agreement by hosting a total of 315 events and activities, including 13 large concerts and festivals, an 18-week concert and farmers’ market series, 88 days of ice skating and 25 venue rentals for other organizations events. Some activities provided by Destination Caldwell at the plaza in 2019  include Tai Chi classes, story time, and games such as corn hole, ping pong and life-size checkers.

Destination Caldwell estimated that 200,000 people were drawn to downtown Caldwell specifically to participate in events, activities, or ice skate on Idaho’s only ice ribbon in 2019. The annual traffic on the 7th Street pedestrian bridge, tracked by the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho (COMPASS), saw traffic increase to 395,144 bridge crossings in 2019, up 39% from 283,766 in 2018.

"It’s exciting for us to smash expectations and deliver on promises we made to the community, but we are not done," said Keri Smith-Sigman, CEO of Destination Caldwell. "We’re adding more events to our lineup in 2020 and expect the awareness of downtown Caldwell to continue to increase as more merchants and restaurants open and as people experience the electric atmosphere of downtown Caldwell."

In addition to Destination Caldwell’s events at Indian Creek Plaza, the organization saw increased traffic during the Winter Wonderland Light Display hosted by the City of Caldwell.  In December 2019, the monthly traffic across the pedestrian bridge was 144,978, an increase of nearly 55% over December 2018’s 93,716 crossings.

"The partnership between the City and Destination Caldwell has seen unprecedented success. The number of events hosted at Indian Creek Plaza over the last year and the resulting impact on downtown Caldwell has been extraordinary," said Garrett Nancolas, Mayor of Caldwell. "People now travel to Caldwell to experience all that we have to offer and it’s been wonderful to see the community thriving as a result."

The downtown Caldwell revitalizations and Destination Caldwell’s success in attracting visitors to the Indian Creek district and has enticed 10 new businesses to open in downtown in 2019, including the Chop Shop, a barbecue restaurant featuring locally sourced ingredients.

"We love the way Caldwell is designing it’s downtown to be a community-oriented, family-focused centralized location. There is great opportunity and potential in that, and that’s why I picked Caldwell," said Chef and Owner of Chop Shop, Kris Ott. "I also love that the focus on growth, while preserving our community’s farms keeps the agricultural history alive and creates quite the destination for foodies and families alike."

In 2020 the public can expect 18 large events and concerts at Indian Creek Plaza, including an expansion of the Tuesdays on the Creek Summer Concert Series and Farm to Fork Farmers’ Market to 20 weeks. Destination Caldwell’s 2020 event lineup can be seen at IndianCreekPlaza.com

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About Destination Caldwell - Destination Caldwell is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to leverage Caldwell’s agricultural heritage to promote economic growth. The organization aims to make Caldwell a destination for locally produced wines along the Sunnyslope Wine Trail, market fresh goods, and farm to fork dining. Destination Caldwell is also the City of Caldwell’s managing partner of Indian Creek Plaza, with the intent to produce 250 events and activities each year to attract locals and visitors to downtown Caldwell. The Plaza is located in the core area of downtown Caldwell’s retail district on the corner of Kimball Avenue and Arthur Street and is equipped with an ice-skating ribbon and rink, a stage for concerts, live entertainment and movies, outdoor seating, and two splash pads. For more information, visit https://www.destinationcaldwell.com and https://www.indiancreekplaza.com

When the days are short and the light is low, fun things can happen. Wintertime means that the farm “to do” list is shorter and vines need to be pruned. Enjoying a glass of wine by the fire is indeed a great idea but don’t let the weather keep you from exploring the new winery at Sunnyslope Wine Trail.

On a cold winter day we ventured out Homedale road to visit one of the newest tasting rooms in Idaho, since December of 2019, Kerry Hill Winery. This is the 16th winery to open on the trail. It has a great location right next to their estate vineyard in Canyon County. The vines have had 35 years to mature on this site under previous ownership (Wood River Cellars) and have been revitalized over the past 2 + years by the folks at Kerry Hill.

Owner Mindy Mayer named Kerry Hill after the type of sheep they keep on the property. The farm honors the history of the property while it increases its stewardship of the land through habitat preservation and responsible farming practices. They respect the grapes, the pollinators, the birds and all the things that go into quality agriculture and wine out here in 2C. They even have a Basque sheepherder’s trailer that celebrates the immigrants from Europe that came to this area generations ago and helped make the intermountain west the culturally diverse and interesting place it is today.

With fewer folks out and about we had a great time visiting with Cynthia England, the General Manger. The tasting room is brand new construction but it feels comfortable and spacious with fantastic sightlines over the vineyard and the Owyhee Mountains. The woodwork by River Valley Woodworks out of Wilder is absolutely stunning. The mushroom wood doors are amazing to look at. The design work here (both inside and out) is top notch. If you're looking for a place to wow a group of friends from out of town then put this place on your list.

The 4 wines available now are being crafted by Tim Harless from Hat Ranch and Vale wines in Caldwell. The unoaked Chardonnay is crisp and refreshing, the 2 Rose’s are amazing yet very different from each other and the red blend of Cabernet, Syrah & Petit Verdot will be a great complement to the mustard/horseradish beef stew that is making the whole house smell so wonderful right now! Even if you turn your nose up at Rose wines please promise me you’ll try these two gems. They will stretch your palate and defy easy categorization. More wines are coming as the vineyards rejuvenate. Great wines are made in the vineyard and this one was in rough shape for a few years. The quality of these initial offerings only heightens the expectations of what is yet to come.

Without a doubt, Winter is an amazing time to hit the road and visit Idaho’s wine country. The colors tend toward gray and brown but the wineries are less crowded and the staff has more time to share stories and show you why Idaho is so special. On top of that you won’t have to worry about the wine you just bought getting too warm in the car!

Cheers too exploring!  Get out there and see what winter wonders you can find – You won’t be disappointed!

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