Life December 19, 2017

Destination Tasting

Wine tasting in Garden City

Nine years ago, Melanie Krause found an old produce warehouse in Garden City that proved to be the perfect building for a winery.

The setting on 44th Street just off Chinden Boulevard, a road known more for used car dealerships and RV lots than boutique wine, might seem unexpected, but the building suited the budget and needs of a winemaker who had outgrown a shared space and needed a place for Cinder Winery to call its own.

Since then, other local wineries and craft breweries have found space in the area, too, creating a destination in Garden City for people to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The wineries are a short drive from downtown Boise and accessible from the Boise River green belt, where signs have been placed pointing to the tasting rooms.

Krause said other winemakers asked her about space in Garden City to open their own wineries, but she doesn’t take credit for starting a trend. “People have asked us about our journey, and we’ve encouraged them to look at warehouse space in this area,” she said.

Cinder Winery no longer resembles a produce warehouse in any way. The long, light green building features a stylish industrial theme inside with a laidback atmosphere that invites people to relax with friends while they sip and learn about Cinder’s wines. There’s a tasting bar along with tables and comfortable seating.

“We try to have a very open and educational atmosphere in the tasting room,” Krause said. “Even if you don’t know anything about wine, you can come in and learn a ton from our sales staff here at the tasting room. They’re super knowledgeable about all the wines.”

Tina Marks was behind the tasting bar on a recent Sunday ready to educate customers about the wine with each one-ounce pour for them to sample. “There is so much to learn about wine,” Marks said. “We try to explain to people ‘the why’ of all the wines and the purpose or meaning behind them.”

Cinder Winery owner Melanie Krause. Photo by Ray Gadd.

Cinder’s flagship wines are its Viognier, Syrah and Tempranillo, Krause said. Although those are the wines that Cinder is known for, Krause took the top prize at the Idaho Wine Competition in September for her 2016 off-dry Riesling, adding to a list of accolades she’s accumulated as a winemaker.

“That Riesling was only the second year that I’ve made a Riesling for Cinder,” Krause said. Cinder’s Rose has also proven popular, but because the winery hasn’t made a lot of it in the past, it tends to sell out quickly, Krause said.

The name Cinder comes from the volcanic cinders that shaped the Snake River Valley, which is where the vineyards are that produce the grapes used by Cinder. The tasting room features framed examples of the layered soil of the region.

Krause has long-term contracts with six vineyards in the Snake River Valley, which runs as close as Nampa and as far as Adrian, Oregon.

The tasting room also features a rotating art gallery with the work of local artists. Outside the winery, colorful murals greet customers as they arrive down an alleyway. Cinder also hosts events and live music.

“It’s a really nice place to listen to music,” Krause said. “The sound is great, but it’s also a really relaxing place to listen music with a glass of wine.”

Cinder’s tasting room is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.

Split Rail Brings the Unexpected

Wine tasters won’t have to go far to find another place to sample good wine. Split Rail Winery is right across the alleyway from Cinder, with a frontage on Chinden. The bright yellow and gray building is hard to miss.

When guests come to sample the wines at Split Rail, inside of stepping in front of a bar, they’re seated and served tastings of winemaker Jed Glavin’s unique creations.

“We kind of like to do different stuff than other wineries are doing,” Glavin said while processing grapes that were just delivered at his winery. “We play with some different varietals, we co-ferment a lot of stuff, do a little more experimental stuff. We have a wine that we infuse with beer hops that’s on tap here.”

Split Rail has become known for its Rhone varieties, Glavin said. The blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, known as GSM for short, is the winery’s flagship. “We do a straight Mourvedre. We do a straight Grenache, so I love all those varietals,” he said.

Split Rail puts some of its wine in cans and makes keg wine for local restaurants. Tasters can choose a traditional wine tasting that includes four of the winery’s boutique bottles or a flight that includes the keg wines.

“For the tasting, really, we just want people to come in and experience all of the different wines that we’re creating,” Glavin said.

For guests who want something more familiar, Split Rail does make a Cabernet.

Glavin chose the winery’s location because it’s close to the restaurants he serves and to other wineries and breweries, including Cinder. Bella Brewing came after Split Rail, but it’s just across the parking lot. The winery was a former auto body shop that Glavin described as “pretty funky” before he gave it a lot of love and renovation.

This article appears in the Winter 2017 Issue of Territory Magazine.