Get Sipping: Discover North Idaho’s Wineries and Fine Dining
By: Jane Carlton
Boasting award-winning wineries and a variety of mouthwatering dining options, northern Idaho is not to be missed. Not only is this region an up-and-coming area for wine production, its viticulture has a long history. The first wineries in the northwest boomed in Idaho before Prohibition. In the 2000s, the industry was back in business and has continued to grow since. As a wine lover, I couldn’t wait to taste these storied wines for myself.
Wining and Dining in Lewiston
My trip began when I arrived in Lewiston, a thriving city at the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake rivers. I marveled at the rolling hills of the Palouse Prairie and rugged beauty of Hells Canyon on the way to my room at Hells Canyon Grand Hotel.
Ready to relax after my commute, Meriwether’s Bistro, conveniently located in the hotel, was calling my name. I sipped a Bloody Mary and took in the panoramic views. On a worthy recommendation, I tried the Cougar Gold Mac ‘n Cheese.
Before a day full of wine tasting, I needed a hearty breakfast. I headed to the Mystic Café for their Garbage Potatoes and topped them off with some gravy. I consulted a map and confirmed what I had been hoping for: I had my pick of vineyards nearby.
My first stop was Lindsay Creek Vineyards. With its breathtaking views and large patio, Lindsay Creek offers excellent wine in a setting that can’t be beat. I sampled a flight of dry rosé and bold reds in their chic tasting room. My favorite, the lush Petite Sirah, paired nicely with the Deja Bleu dip.
Up next was a visit to Two Bad Labs, a family-owned, dog-friendly vineyard. You’ll find a wide variety at this no-frills destination. From Cab Franc to Malbec, Fume Blanc to Riesling, there’s a varietal for everyone. Tip: The 2020 Semillon, a refreshing white with notes of vanilla, is outstanding.
Back in town, I visited the 2020 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year and winner of thirty-four platinum awards, Clearwater Canyon Cellars. I loved their Malbec, bursting with dark berries, and the complex Louis Delsol Cabernet Sauvignon. For dinner, I made my way to Bravas for a grilled sirloin paired with a glass of Colter’s Creek Tempranillo—a fitting end to a decadent day.
Spiral Rock Vineyards, set 1,200 feet above the Clearwater River, was the next stop on my vinicultural tour. Under a heated umbrella on the tasting porch, I sipped a mango hard kombucha while appreciating the bird’s eye view.
Jovinea Cellars, located in a historic, possibly haunted building, was next. There I tasted a flight of bold reds paired with locally-made chocolates. Just around the corner was Vine 46, the 2021 Wine Press Northwest Idaho Winery of the Year, where I enjoyed a tasting that included the impressive 2016 Petit Verdot and 2016 Sangiovese.
I checked in at the Clearwater River Casino for my last night in Lewiston, where I treated myself to a dip in their saltwater pool before dinner at Jollymore’s. For dinner, their panko-crusted salmon proved terrific.
Winding Along the River
Leaving Lewiston behind, I grabbed my hiking boots and headed south to Riggins. I pulled off to explore Hells Canyon Wilderness and try to catch an overlook of North America’s deepest river gorge. Later, I devoured a succulent ribeye at Summerville’s Steakhouse & Heaven’s Gate Brewery and checked in at the Salmon Rapids Lodge.
Riggins is truly an angler’s dream. I tried my hand at casting a line in Hailey Creek, one of the many nearby fishing areas. On Highway 95, I followed the Salmon River north to Cottonwood. I took a trip back in time at St. Gertrude’s Monastery, home to its own museum. There I learned the history of the region, and of course, St. Gertrude. A dinner of chicken-fried steak at Season’s Restaurant in Grangeville hit the spot before I eased into a comfortable night at the Super 8 by Wyndham Grangeville.
I traveled east along the Clearwater River to view Selway Falls, where whitewater tumbles beside towering pines and firs. In neighboring Lowell, I checked in at Lochsa Lodge. I stayed in for a meal of local grilled trout with huckleberry rice pilaf at the Lochsa Lodge restaurant and topped off my meal with bread pudding.
The river was calling me, so I booked a one-day whitewater rafting trip dubbed “The Mighty Lochsa”. In nearby Kamiah, I caught my breath on a serene balcony at the Hearthstone Lodge. Breakfast the next morning at the Hearthstone Bakery featured homemade breads and artisan tea. Ready to get going, I continued north to check out the Dworshak Dam and Reservoir and marvel at one of the highest dams in the Western Hemisphere.
In Orofino, I checked into a beautiful river view room at the Best Western Lodge at River’s Edge. At the aptly named, The Edge restaurant, perched along the Clearwater River, I ate alligator bites and decadent cedar-plank salmon.
Historic Idaho’s Offerings
On my ninth day, I drove east to Elk River, where huckleberry hotcakes awaited at the Elk River Lodge, then searched for Idaho’s highest waterfall and a grove of 500-year-old cedars. My stomach was growling after completing the two-mile Elk Creek Falls loop and I headed for Deary to have lunch at the Pie Safe Bakery. After a brick-oven pizza for lunch, I ordered some made-from-scratch pastries to go.
Nestled on both banks of the Clearwater River, Rivaura Vineyards produces wines from a valley that the Hewett family has worked on for over a century. The 2019 Reserve Syrah was intense and layered, while the bright Grenache was juicy and full.
I checked into the Merlot Room at the Hattabaugh Hotel above the Colter’s Creek tasting room in Downtown Moscow. I ended my day at Lodgepole North American Kitchen with delectable Hama Hama Oysters on the half shell and a grilled pork chop dinner.
In the morning at The Breakfast Club, I tried Stuffed Biscuits and Gravy. I strolled over to the Moscow Farmer’s Market to browse vendors who offered produce, baked goods, handmade soaps, and other wares. In the afternoon, I returned to Colter’s Creek. Among the many varietals I sampled, the full-bodied 2019 Expedition Series Petit Verdot stood out to me. I ended my day at Maialina with a Neapolitan wood-fired pizza and a flight of Marchesi di Gresi Reds.
Driving about three hours north to Priest Lake, a cedar cabin was waiting for me at Elkins Resort. I couldn’t resist trying the Huckleberry Daiquiri and Pulled Pork Wontons for dinner at the resort’s restaurant. For the main course, I had the Tomahawk Bone-in Ribeye with a cracked pepper sauce, complemented by a glass of Reeder Bay Red. The next morning, I got up early and drove northwest to Indian Mountain, a high ridge where a fire lookout was built in 1922. A gorgeous hike to the top featured huckleberries and wildflowers dotting the path and a spectacular sunrise over the entire Selkirk crest.
Leaving the lake behind, I traveled on to Sandpoint where I rented a bicycle before heading into Pine Street Woods. I was able to spot goats and sheep snacking on invasive plants, part of the planned sustainability of this community-owned land.
I continued my day with a stop at Pend d’Oreille Winery located in the Bellwood Building. I snacked on a charcuterie board alongside a Winemaker’s Selection tasting flight. In the late afternoon, I treated myself to a massage and jetted tub soak in Talus Rock Retreat’s luxurious Kipling Room.
After a fresh farm-to-table breakfast, I packed up and made for my last stop in Bonners Ferry. On the way, I pulled off to look around Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge. In town, I walked over to Heart Rock Wines. Along with some excellent northwest reds, I snacked on an antipasto platter. My final night’s stay was at the Northside School Bed and Breakfast. Located in a renovated school, The Northside’s rooms each have their own unique theme, and I decided on the Principal’s Office.
My trip to northern Idaho left me with a new appreciation for everything this diverse region has to offer. From exceptional wines to breathtaking scenery, fine dining to outdoor activities, this region offers a truly unforgettable experience. The flavors and adventures I experienced will surely be a lasting memory.