EAGLE, Idaho — Nestled in the Eagle Foothills American Viticultural Area lies 3 Horse Ranch Vineyards, one of Idaho's wineries. The owners, Gary and Martha Cunningham, and their winemaker, Corey Sprott left Napa Valley for Idaho's wine country.
As they finish up this year's grape harvest, Sprott reflects on the challenges of Idaho's excessively hot summer.
"Harvest is doing really well we are really pleased with the quality of the grapes," he said. "The crop is small, which is actually a good thing because the small berries produce better wines. We are finding that it is going to be a high-quality harvest with an average crop load."
A smaller crop means less wine, but even with the summer Idaho had, Sprott said that some of their varietals actually did better this year.
"Syrah is amazing we just picked it a couple of days ago. The Merlot is really looking good this year we almost got a record crop of Merlot and we definitely got a record crop of Petit Verdot," he said.
As a winemaker, Sprott loves harvest time. Although it consists of long days, it's the time he gets to see the fruits of his labor pay off. This year was extra special because it was the first time harvesting in their new building.
They also grow all their own grapes and harvest them all by hand.
"We have been under construction for a few years. We opened in March, so this is our first harvest here in this building, and being able to harvest everything, and crush and fermentation with our own facility," Sprott said. "It is really quite amazing."
When he first tasted Idaho wines before making the move from Napa Valley, Sprott said that he knew there was something special here.
"I was not interested in making good wines for Idaho I was interested in making great wines that could compete on a national scale," he said. "I believe with my whole heart that Idaho wines can compete with California, Oregon, and Washington wines."
The higher elevations, sunshine, long summer days and deep soil is what he said makes grape growing in Idaho unique.
"It has to do with this being ancient lake Idaho. The soils are deep, granitic sand and so our vines really grow well," Sprott said. "They grow really deep roots, and they get stretched in the summertime which produces better-flavored fruits."
Idaho also brings its challenges, like this past summer's streak of high temperatures or the winter of 2016-17 when they lost a significant portion of their crops. But Sprott said that he wouldn't trade winemaking in Idaho for anything.
"The grape growing and winemaking here is really fantastic," he added.
Sprott said those challenges are just part of the job. 3 Horse Ranch has a lot to be excited about too.
They just released their fall wines and will be releasing their new Rosé in the following weeks.
For more information on their winery, click here.