Snake River Valley

Explore Idaho’s largest wine region, the Snake River Valley, and how its high desert climate is perfect for Riesling, Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet.

The Snake River Valley AVA, known for its high desert climate, ensures warm days for ripe fruit flavors in Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet, while the cold nights retain freshness and acidity, perfect for elegant whites like Riesling and Chardonnay.

Established in 2007, the Snake River Valley stretches expansively across southwestern Idaho into Oregon, encompassing over 8,000 square miles (20,720 square km). Predominantly located in Idaho, this vast region has quickly become a cornerstone of the Northwest's burgeoning wine industry.

Vines at Telaya Wines in Snake River Valley AVA

Geography and Climate

Located over 400 miles (650 km) from the Pacific Ocean, the Snake River Valley lies in a cold continental climate zone characterized by harsh winters, warm summers, and minimal rainfall, typically under 12 inches (305mm) annually. This scant precipitation results from the rain shadow effect of the Cascade Mountains. While these conditions may seem daunting for viticulture, they create a unique environment conducive to producing high-quality wines.

Elevations range from 2,500 to 3,000 feet (760 to 915m) in the valley, leading to significant diurnal temperature shifts of 30-40°F (16.5-22°C). This elevation contributes to wines with pronounced aromatics and vibrant acidity, enhancing their complexity and drinkability.

The region's soil, shaped by ancient lava, glaciers, and river deposits, gives the wines a unique mineral quality. Sand and loam from glacial and river actions enhance the structure and tannins of red varieties, defining Snake River Valley's terroir.

Quick Facts:
  • Major Varieties: Riesling, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Vineyard acres: 1125 acres (455 hectares)
  • Established: 2007
  • Elevation: 2,500 to 3,000 feet (760 to 915 m)
  • Rainfall: 11–18 inches (279–457 mm)
  • Snake River Valley AVA spans Idaho and Oregon
  • There are approximately 40 wineries here.