Monday, April 20, 2009

Idaho’s Earrings – Pend d’Oreille

Continuing in the vein of talking about Idaho, I received a couple of samples from Pend d’Oreille. Julie and Stephen Meyer, both longtime wine enthusiasts who have been working in vineyards and wineries for the last 24 years, established Pend d’Oreille on June 21, 1995. They cut their teeth on the 1985 harvests in Meursault and never looked back. Steve is now the winemaker of Pend d’Oreille.

Again, the winery makes a wide variety of wines, including a huckleberry wine. I have very little experience with wines produced from anything except grapes. I have a blueberry wine on my shelves that I look forward to opening up sooner or later.

I always love hearing the story behind names. For instance, what enticed a company to call their winery “Hangings of the Ear” (literally translated) or Earrings (for those that do not take themselves to be quite so literal)? So, I went right to the source and asked the winemaker, Steve Meyer a few questions.

Could you tell me a little about yourselves and about getting into wine?

Julie and I are the full owners [of Pend d’Oreille]. We started the Winery in 1995 after having worked in the wine business starting in 1985 in Meursault, France. The reason I traveled to France…skiing! I eventually got to ski the Alps, but my time in Meursault changed my life.

We were the first North Idaho Winery, but we now have two small wineries to the south of us in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls. We get together for professional wine tasting to stay sharp, and we do some cooperative wine marketing – mainly through non-profit fundraising.

What led to the name? If my french is still working I translate Pend d'Oreille to Earrings. Is that accurate?

Very good! Actually ear ring in French is pendant d’oreille, and that was the way our lake was originally named in 1812 when David Thompson, a Canadian Fur Trapper and explorer discovered the lake and its natives who were wearing ear rings – thus the ear ring people or pendant d’oreille’s. Over time and much broken French, the “ant” was lost as well as the d’ (thanks to the Idaho Department of Transportation).

Why start a winery in Idaho?

You have to visit Sandpoint to really understand that one. The skiing, biking (our two big passions) and other recreation is phenomenal. We are only a short distance to our Washington vineyards with which are contracted. So the choice was high desert and three hours to ski fresh powder or 20 minutes. Plus, Sandpoint’s beauty is a big tourist draw, so we have access to a very large population, but we don’t have to live in a big suburban area.

In doing my research on this winery I discovered a very interesting program that they announced this past February. They call it “Think Green Drink Red”, a program where they sell their Bistro Rouge Table Wine, a simple blend of what they consider “vin de pays” wine, in a refillable 1.5 L bottle. The purpose is to not only save to consumer money on glass (buying the refill is $9 cheaper than buying the original bottle) but also to conserve glass, which might otherwise be thrown in a landfill. If you’d like to read the press release you can find it here.

I tasted two of their wines, the 2006 Pinot Noir and the 2006 Wood River Terroir Series Malbec. The Pinot was not my favorite, with a very large dose of the bitterness I did not enjoy in the Sawtooth wines. On the other hand, the Malbec was nice. Pouring out of the bottle the wine was an inky dark purple filled with blueberry, butterscotch and vanilla perfume. The taste was vibrant and juicy, a rich ripe cherry with just a little but of tartness at the end.
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