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If you haven’t toured Idaho before, it might surprise you to find quality distilleries, handcrafted brews and tantalizing wineries, as well as food that will make any gourmand sit up and take notice. No matter what your tastes, you will find something to please the palate.
The Pend d’Oreille Winery in Sandpoint creates wine using traditional French methods, and they have produced numerous award-winning vintages. From a crisp Albarino to a sweeter Riesling to a bold Cabernet Franc, you will find something you’ll love to taste twice.
If you find yourself in Caldwell, Idaho, you’ll be amazed at your wine tasting options. You can start on “Winery Hill” at the Ste. Chapelle Winery. Set high above the Snake River, this lovely, airy tasting room offers a wide variety of tastes, from Merlot to a soft Huckleberry wine. From there, stop at Williamson Orchards and Vineyards. Known for using sustainable and organic growing methods when possible, this fourth-generation family-owned winery welcomes guests to its tasting rooms to try Viognier, Riesling, Rosé, Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, and many others.
Also in Caldwell, you can find the family-owned Hells Canyon Winery. Choose their Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or any of their other signature wines in their tasting room on weekends. You can also try their second-generation Zhoo Zhoo Wines.
Taste Viognier, Tempranillo or Syrah at Cinder Wines in Garden City, or sample the tempting wines from Snake River Winery in Boise – from Chardonnay to Riesling and from Barbera to a Grenache, you’ll find something that pleases your palate. Don’t forget to try hidden gems like Indian Creek Winery in Kuna or Sweetbriar Vineyard and Winery in Mountain Home, should your travels allow it.
If you are starting your explorations in Boise, you’ll want to start with the Bardenay Restaurant and Distillery. Thought to be the first restaurant/distillery blend in the United States, this downtown Boise hot-spot features handcrafted cocktails and artisan liquors to mix with its Northwest-inspired cuisine. It is so popular that you can find additional locations throughout the area. Also in Boise, try the Idaho Bourbon Distillers, which offers tasting room visits and tours by appointment, and 8 Feathers Distiller, a small batch distillery using local grain to create inspired craft whiskey.
Lewiston boasts the Printer’s Distillery, which produces a fine craft vodka, while Grand Teton Distillery uses the mountain snowmelt at the foundation of its award-winning spirits. And if you are traveling with a group who can’t decide between a distillery or winery tour, try The Koenig Distillery and Winery overlooking the Snake River.
Idaho is reportedly the biggest barley producer in the United States and one of the top hops growing regions. It is not surprising that there is a vibrant brewery scene, from Boise to Ponderay.
Boise does have the largest concentration of independent brewers, so if you are staying at a Best Western in town, you have numerous options for your brewery tour. Start with Payette Brewing in downtown. If you stop by the Tap Room, you can sample numerous Pale Ales, Brown Ales, and a Porter, along with any of their experimental brews that are up for tasting.
Head over to Sockeye Brewing. A Recent recipient of awards from the North American Brewer’s Association, their flagship beer is a Dagger Falls IPA, and you can enjoy live bands and brews at their pub. From there, try Woodland Empire Ale Craft. They feature over 100 beers from English-style Morning Coffee Mild to the Melorado IPA. Local collaborations are often “on tap” there.
Don’t forget Highlands Hollow or the new Boise Brewing in your brewery tours. Highlands Hollow is considered the oldest brewpub in Boise, and it offers a constantly rotating set of taps pouring the latest on-site brews. Boise Brewing has a community supported beer program and is known for its hoppy Hip Check IPA and Black Cliffs American Stout.
Of course, if Belgian beers are more your style, a trip to Selkirk Abbey is a must. It’s said to be the only Belgian-style brewery in Idaho, and the Infidel Belgian IPA is one of their most popular pours. Meanwhile, Laughing Dog Brewing in Ponderay has also gotten the attention of the judges, producing numerous award-winning brews. When you stop by, be sure to try the Rocket Dog Rye IPA.
You would probably be surprised to find some of your favorite foods to be among Idaho’s signature dishes. Poutine, finger steaks, Bison burgers Hagerman trout, butter cake, and fresh locally grown vegetables, are among the popular items you’ll find in the restaurants throughout the state.
Of course, you may also want a bit of history to go along with your meals. So, places like the White Horse Saloon, Grill and Hotel in Spirit Lake should not be missed – it’s said to be Idaho’s most haunted restaurant. If you want waterfront views with your amazing food, Trinity at City Beach in Sandpoint is calling.
Grilled Cheese is taken very seriously in Idaho, as it should be. While the competition is stiff, Meltz Extreme Grilled Cheese in Coeur d’Alene is reportedly the winner for the best in Idaho, and it serves some pretty spectacular poutine and barbecue, as well. Coeur d’Alene is also home to the oldest restaurant in the state – The Snake Pit in Enaville. Though the name might make you nervous, this rustic spot’s delicious homemade food has been pulling in crowds since 1880, including Wyatt Earp. If perfectly cooked steak is your mind while you are in Coeur d’Alene, reserve a table at Wolf Lodge Steakhouse. The portions are huge, and the steak is legendary – people will schedule their travel around a meal here.
State & Lemp is a local Boise restaurant that made the “America’s Top 11 list for two years running.” Also in Boise, is The Dutch Goose restaurant, home to what some have claimed to be the best finger steaks in Idaho. That’s a recommendation you can’t pass up.