With a 2018 Riesling Ice Wine, winemaker Greg Koenig, center, won the 2019 Idaho Wine Competition for James and Sydney Nederend, left and right, the new owners of Koenig Vineyards in Caldwell. (Koenig Vineyards)

With a 2018 Riesling Ice Wine, winemaker Greg Koenig, center, won the 2019 Idaho Wine Competition for James and Sydney Nederend, left and right, the new owners of Koenig Vineyards in Caldwell. (Koenig Vineyards)

Northwest Wine: Koenig Vineyards wins Idaho Wine Competition

Perhaps Idaho’s most gifted winemaker, Greg Koenig took home the top prize for a dessert wine.

For years, Greg Koenig has been viewed as perhaps Idaho’s most gifted winemaker. He solidified that opinion by crafting the best in show at last month’s Idaho Wine Competition, taking home the top prize with a stunning dessert wine.

Koenig, who sold his Caldwell winery earlier this year, crafted a delicious riesling ice wine from the 2018 vintage that wowed this year’s panel of national judges. This isn’t the first best of show for Koenig, who won in 2016 for a dessert wine made with riesling.

The Idaho wine industry remains small at 52 wineries and 1,300 acres of vineyards. The federal government has established three American Viticultural Areas in the Gem State, with the most important and largest being the Snake River Valley, which includes Boise. Most of the vineyards and wineries are west of the state capital, near the cities of Caldwell and Nampa.

The region is perhaps best known for high-elevation vineyards that approach 3,000 feet in altitude, which helps the grapes and resulting wines retain natural acidity. The state’s reputation as an agricultural region no doubt has helped the wine industry grow and flourish, and there now is a nationwide fascination for Idaho wines among critics.

Koenig, who spent his summers on the Sunnyslope as a child, built his showpiece 7,000-square-foot tasting room in 2017, complete with a tower that overlooks the Snake River. While the graduate of Notre Dame’s famed architecture program sold his eponymous winery to James and Sydney Nederend of nearby SCORIA Vineyards, Koenig will remain as the winemaker for the next few vintages. In the meantime, he is gearing up to relaunch the Fraser Vineyard brand he purchased in 2018.

Here are the sweepstakes winners from this year’s Idaho Wine Competition, which drew 150 entries from 36 wineries. Of the 25 gold medals awarded, 15 were won by female winemakers. See the complete results of this year’s Idaho Wine Competition at idahowinecompetition.com.

Koenig Vineyards 2018 Riesling Ice Wine, Snake River Valley, $25: Harvested from nearby Williamson Vineyards, this dessert wine features deliciously concentrated flavors of pear and tropical fruit that gives way to a balanced finish. It is perfect with cheesecake. This won a unanimous double gold on its way to best of show, prompting one judge to exclaim, “You could sit that down with the world’s best trockenbeerenauslese, Sauternes and Tokaji and be proud as punch to be drinking that.”

Sawtooth Winery 2017 Classic Fly Series Petit Verdot, Snake River Valley, $35: Meredith Smith, a native of Idaho’s Treasure Valley, is among the most gifted winemakers in the Gem State, and this boldly structured red reveals her talents. Aromas of dried strawberries, Rainier cherry and boysenberry are backed on a palate that reveals more finesse than is typical with this variety. This won a unanimous double gold medal was voted as the state’s best red wine.

Hat Ranch Winery 2018 Estate Dry Moscato, Snake River Valley, $18: Helen and Tim Harless left Texas a decade ago to establish their winery in the heart of the Sunnyslope Wine District. Using estate grapes, this aromatic white unveils notes of classic grapefruit, lychee, hints of melon and cucumber, backed by a charming lift of juiciness. This expression of Muscat Ottonel was awarded a unanimous double gold medal and voted as best white wine of the judging. And it was no fluke. Hat Ranch — Wine Press Northwest’s 2019 Idaho Winery of the Year — won best of show four years ago with its 2015 Dry Moscato.

3100 Cellars 2016 Runoff Rosé Sparkling Wine, Snake River Valley, $36: This young bubble house in the Boise bedroom community of Garden City produces this from syrah grapes. Hailey Minder, assistant winemaker for Telaya Wine Co., flashes skill with her sparkling wine by presenting a mouthwatering mousse filled with red cherry and plum. The long note of pomegranate prompted one panel to award it a unanimous double gold medal on its way to being voted the best sparkling wine of the judging.

Par Terre Winery 2018 Rosé of Cabernet Franc, Snake River Valley, $16: When it came time to retire from professional dancing, Travis Walker and his wife, Mallory, decided to raise their family in Boise and enter the wine industry. Travis proved to be a quick study in earning his winemaking degree from Walla Walla Community College. His latest pink wine unveils notes of brioche, plum and cherry, all backed with bright acidity. This won a gold medal and best rose. Last year, his 2017 Syrah rose emerged from the Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition with the award for best rose at that international judging in the Columbia Gorge.

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue operate Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.

Talk to us

More in Life

Patterns of nature and mythology, by a Northwest master

See new works by Alfredo Arreguín, an originator of the Pattern and Decoration style, in Langley.

Doug Fahl will play Flan Kittregdge in Red Curtain’s live-stream performance of “Six Degrees of Separation.”
Stymied by virus, Red Curtain offers live-streamed theater

The Marysville troupe plans Zoom performances of “Something Rotten!” and “Six Degrees of Separation.”

The mask of an employee who returned to the office during the normalization period after corona virus quarantine, stands in front of the keyboard. Top view. Turkey.
What seniors can expect as new normal in a post-vaccine world

Here’s a preview of post-vaccine life for older Americans, from medical care to grocery shopping.

COVID-19 updates for parents and guardians

Public Health Essentials! A blog by the Snohomish Health District.

The trick to 1892 East’s crispy French toast is a combination of cornflakes and buttery palmiers, which add great crunch and rich flavor. (Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times/MCT)
Is your bread stale? Don’t throw it away; make this treat

Cornflake French toast might seem a bit of a gimmick, but the added crunch is a marvel.

The Washington State Wine Commission is using August, known for decades as Washington Wine Month, to promote the Drink For WA campaign. The commission estimates it will generate 12 million impressions through advertising and social media channels. (Photo courtesy Washington State Wine Commission)
Washington wine commission rolls out Drink for WA campaign

Share an image of your special occasion along with tags of #DrinkForWA and #EatForWA.

It only takes a small amount of cash to build a homemade swamp cooler to make your home comfortable this summer. (Jennifer Bardsley)
Can a do-it-yourself swamp cooler beat the August heat?

Instead of spending $400 for an air conditioner, purchase $25 of simple parts and assemble one yourself.

Fried green tomatoes stand in fro fresh red tomatoes in this BLT sandwich. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)
Make a fried green tomato BLT when you can’t wait for ripe

Firmer than red tomatoes, with a zingy, slightly sour taste, unripe tomatoes hold their shape.

Talking to stuffed animals and other lessons of COVID-19

Teddy bears are a source of comfort and can be a sounding board for something we are trying to express.

Most Read