Sunday, September 18, 2011

A visit to Holesinsky Winery

Welcome to the winery (cool sign)
Photo by Meg McKenzie
I happened upon James Holesinsky's delightful winery near the end of a grueling day of tasting wine (I know ... but someone's got to do it!) on my tour of the Twin Falls area, in which I covered five vineyards in one day. I had actually arranged to visit the weekend before but then scheduling problems intervened. This time when I called I got no reply, so I was taking a chance in making the side trip to Buhl on my way back to Boise from Hagerman. Unbelievably (for me), I didn't get lost finding his place south of I-84 and west of Twin Falls.

And in a further stroke of luck, Holesinsky was hosting a bus tour, and the winery was not only open, it was hopping! (James has a lovely deck behind the tiny tasting room, and a local investment club was making merry in the back as I tentatively lurked around in the front). But James' helper found me, summoned JH himself, and the rest of the hour went by quickly as he charmingly opened bottle after bottle of his certified organic wines for me to try.

James Holesinsky with his tasty organic wines
Photo by Meg McKenzie
Now I'd tasted samples of JH's wine at the Capital City Market in Boise, and couldn't reach much of an opinion from the tiny cupful. But with a bigger serving, and a freshly opened bottle -- and the winemaker himself right in front of me ... wow, what a difference.

James has whimsically named vintages (Octopus, Unicorn, etc.) and quirkily designed bottles (Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee), as well as a disarmingly off-the-cuff attitude, but let me say this: his wines are totally, seriously good. Especially that 2009 Fat Men Merlot -- at $15-18 a bottle retail, quite the light and spicy, crowd-pleasing bargain. He also has a new Unicorn Syrah Rose that has been garnering raves and awards.

A tour group enjoys food and beverages at Holesinsky's
Photo by Meg McKenzie
He told me he produces a couple thousand cases a year, and ages his wines in 100 percent French oak, and it ferments in the barrel. He's also dedicated to running an organic vineyard -- no pesticides here.

Though his attention was divided between his paying guests and the unannounced interloper -- me! -- James was gracious and lovely. In fact, he invited me to hang around till after the bus tour left so we could chat further, but I was on a mission to make it to Cold Springs Winery before it closed at 5 o'clock, so I reluctantly took my leave. But here's a promise, James -- I'll be back, with a group!

Holesinsky's Vineyard and Winery
4477 Valley Steppe Drive
Buhl, ID 83316

Kelsey Swope and Dustin Jones
pour JH wine in downtown Boise
Photo by Meg McKenzie
☻☻☻☻☻ James' tasting room schedule is a little uncertain (in general, it's best to call ahead), but if you can't make it to Buhl, he's reaching out to an eager wine-drinking public from his remote (albeit charming) outpost by manning booths at several area farmer's markets (Boise, Sun Valley, etc.). I'm here to tell you, though, a trip to his vineyard makes a big difference in enjoying his product, which includes some first-class (organic!) wines (i.e., the 2009 Fat Men Merlot), and a lovely, friendly vibe.  

My ratings go from one grape (poor) to five (excellent), and are based on accessibility, ambiance, overall experience and, of course, the wines.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September Uncorked! A New Crush of Events

My, who would have figured Idaho would be bubbling over with wine-related events? Well ... me. And I'm dying to share them with you!

Martin's award-winning wine
Photo by Meg McKenzie
-- First off, in honor of Oktoberfest (OK, so it's a few weeks early, but so what?) tres bonne cuisine is having a German wine tasting Thursday, Sept. 15, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. It's only $10 per person, and includes free hors d'oeuvres along with a big lineup of Riesling, Auselese, Liebfraumilch and more. Tres Bonne Cuisine is at 6555 Overland Road in Boise. Call 208-658-1364 for more info.  

-- Next, I have to congratulate Martin of Fujishin Family Cellars for the awesome shout-out Wine Press Northwest gave his 2009 Late Harvest Riesling. Columnists Andy Perdue and Eric Degermann included Fujishin's wine among their "Outstanding" selections this past week -- his scrumptious $15 vintage was mentioned side by side with much pricier Washington selections, and it was the only Snake River AVA wine in the column (read it in the Statesman this week).

Check out Twig Munro's place in downtown Boise
Photo by Meg McKenzie
-- I also want to give props to the Sunnyslope Festa Celebration of the Harvest: I saw Gregg Alger out workin' the crowd at Capital City Market last weekend, and I heard that more than 300 folks turned out for the grand finale at Ste. Chapelle on Sunday.

-- Tuesday found me at Twig's Cellar in downtown Boise this week, tasting a flight of Argentinian wines courtesy of the wine pickers at Tastevin distributors. There was a Torrontes (Argentina's answer to Viognier) that blew my mind. At $7 you get three different wines, and Twig Munro gives you a good pour of each. Plus it's a great place to relax with pals. She's talking about installing a flat-screen so you may soon be able to enjoy a Bronco game or Dancing with the Stars with your favorite Periple Tuesday Night White or Huston Chicken Dinner Red. Twig's is downstairs in the historic Hoff Bldg, 816 W. Bannock St. Call 208-344-8944.

Check out the cozy wine bar at Helina Marie's in Star
Photo by Meg McKenzie
-- Thursday night there will be an Idaho Distributor wine tasting from 5 to 7 p.m. and Saturday will bring another great wine and karaoke party, both at Helina Marie's funky rustic wine bar in funky, rustic Star. The fun goes from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. 11053 Hwy 44 in Star. Call 208-286-7960.

-- Also Saturday the 17th, two awesome-sounding Eagle events: The Eagle Food and Wine Festival is from 6-9 p.m. at BanBury Golf Club. The cost is $40 per, with local Idaho wines paired with local chefs.Tickets are available at Syringa and Three Horse wineries and at BanBury off of Eagle Road. Call 208-939-4600 for more info.

 -- From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Woodriver Cellars is having a grape stomp and harvest carnival, with family-friendly activities at their winery on Highway 16 in Eagle. Call 208-286-0291.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A visit to Periple winery

A pretty display of Periple wines
Photo by Meg McKenzie
Angie Reff's cavernous space (which backs onto Cinder's cavernous space in a warehouse on E. 44th Street in the Garden City suburb of Boise) actually has a pretty intimate feel. She's got twinkling fairy lights illuminating a surprisingly intimate-feeling little tasting room space that you're drawn to when you first come in. Though not as grand and modern as Cinder, it beckons you with its foosball table, wine-barrel tables and couches. And then there's Angie herself, an unprepossessing lady who seems more like a soccer mom than a winemaker.

Actually, she IS a soccer mom (to three boys). But Angie's story also attests to her dedication to the craft: A U of I microbiology grad, she apprenticed with some major California players, including Alexander Valley Vineyard and Marcassin Wine Co., where she became assistant winemaker.

Angie Reff sells wine to some customers
Photo by Meg McKenzie
For the past four or five years, Angie's been crafting her Periple wines out of grapes she sources from California, Oregon and Washington -- sort of the flip side to Coiled's Leslie Preston, who sources HER grapes from Idaho but makes her wine in California! Not sure I understand the reasoning behind Angie's not using Idaho grapes. But ... whatever.

I tasted her Tuesday Night white ($16), which is a blend of Washington Chardonnay and Riesling grapes, and very smooth. Her Russian River Pinot is made in California, tucked in a barrel and then bottled and distributed in Idaho. Angie's first vintage was in 2007, and she started selling her Periple (a French word that means "odyssey") wines in '09. Her reds are in the $30-$40 range, and thus not in this wordsmith's budget, and are truly boutique (less than a thousand cases of each vintage).
Bus tours help pay the bills
Photo by Meg McKenzie

Like most other area wineries, Periple has a wine club (those are going to be the topic of a whole separate post very soon -- it's a lot of research, and I'm only half done) that lets the winemaker send you new releases at a discount and gives savings on cases and entree to special wine events. Periple wines are also sold at Twig's Cellar, a cute little wine bar on Bannock Street in downtown Boise, and at Bown Crossing green market some Sundays. Her wine will also be featured at the upcoming Eagle Food & Wine festival.

I could have stood chatting with Angie under her twinkling lights all day, it was that pleasant and comfortable. Back outside, I couldn't believe I was still in the wilds of Garden City.

Foosball table's a nice touch
Photo by Meg McKenzie
Periple Wines
107 1/2 E. 44th St.
Garden City, ID 83714
(208) 941-5641;

Owner/winemaker: Angie Reff

☻☻☻ I'm glad there's a winemaker as talented and down-to-earth yet savvy as Angie Reff producing quality wines in the Boise area, and making it happen close to downtown. Her space is inviting and appealing. I just wish she'd give those excellent Caldwell grapes another shot and produce a Snake River Valley vintage that gives a nod (and props) to her new hometown.

My ratings go from one grape (poor) to five (excellent) and are based on accessibility, ambiance, overall experience and, of course, the wines.