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 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 architecture program sold his 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 re-launch 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 women winemakers.
See the complete results of this year’s Idaho Wine Competition at idahowinecompetition.com.
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.”
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 and was voted as the state’s best red wine.
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.
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.
His latest pink wine unveils notes of brioche, plum and cherry all backed with bright acidity. This won a gold medal and best rosé. Last year, his 2017 syrah rosé emerged from the Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition with the award for best rosé at that international judging in the Columbia Gorge.
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue operate Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com.
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