When Steve Robertson
first saw the property off Chicken Dinner Road that would become Hells
Canyon vineyards, he was totin' a gun. Ducks and geese were
noisy in the sky overhead, but Steve wanted a pheasant. His
trusty labrador, Savvy, flushed a covey of quail before they kicked up
a colorful cock pheasant. This kind of Idaho experience was a
welcome escape from the busy restaurant Steve created in Boise after
college and a fifth year at the Culinary Institute of America.
What a bonus to realize that this same country could also produce
remarkable wines from vinifera grapes.
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Hells Canyon vineyards
were planted in 1981 on the sunny slope above the banks of the Snake
River, overlooking the Owhyee Mountains. It is the oldest Idaho
vineyard for wine grapes and is made up of Chardonnay, Cabernet
Sauvingnon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah varietals. The
elevation at the site is 2700 feet. The protected Treasure
Valley is also influenced by marine air flowing from the Pacific along
the Columbia and Snake rivers which moderates the mountain climate
enough for vinifera. Acient volcanic soils contribute good
drainage and trace elements and also allow for deep root penetration.
The big Idaho sky is full of sun that means ripe fruity flavors.
Natural acid balance is achieved during the cool ripening month of
September when temperature differences between daytime and nighttime
bring on the sugars and keep in the acids.
Hells Canyon wines are
made in the traditional manner of fermenting in small oak barrels.
Steve Robertson trained as a chef, but he realized he could raise
grapes where the pheasants, quail, ducks, and geese roam, he sold the
restaurant and started making wines to go with food instead.
Hells Canyon wines reflect the character of the geography and are
always made as food wines.