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Eagle Foothills AVA...
Idaho's 2nd AVA - Snake River Valley's 1st Sub AVA

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       Place matters, say growers from around the world… and from Eagle, Idaho as well.

       In November of 2015, the wine community around Eagle learned their petition was successful in gaining American Viticultural Area (AVA)**  status for a second Idaho3 Horse Ranch Vineyard in Idaho's Eagle Foothills AVA AVA.  The Eagle Foothills winegrowing area has been granted AVA status of its own, distinct from the larger Snake River Valley AVA that surrounds it.

       Idaho’s new Eagle Foothills AVA lies entirely within the Snake River Valley AVA, making it the Snake River Valley’s first sub-AVA and Idaho's second AVA.  The encompassing Snake River Valley AVA has boundaries that spread across two states, Idaho and Oregon; although most of the Snake River Valley's area lies within southwestern Idaho, it does cross into eastern Oregon.  The Eagle Foothills AVA, on the other hand, lies completely within Idaho State boundaries.

      The new AVA’s area encompasses nearly 50,000 acres of land north of Eagle, near Idaho’s capital city, Boise.  The influence of nearby Prospect Peak at 4,874 feet elevation contributes to the unique terroir of the Eagle Foothills AVA; the drainage flow of the air from the hills in the area around it creates a unique climate.  The soil of the new AVA also differs from other areas of the Snake River Valley AVA, featuring granite pebbles mixed with volcanic ash/sandy loam resulting from Ancient Lake Idaho.  Nearly 70 vineyard acres are currently planted (as of November 2015), with plans for more than 450 planted acres in the near future.

Unique Elements of Eagle Foothills

       Discussion about the Eagle Foothills’ unique terroir began in 2012 when Martha Cunningham, co-owner of 3 Horse Ranch Vineyards (currently the only winery in the Eagle Foothills AVA **) asked for help from two scientists to evaluate the terroir of the Eagle Foothills area.  For quite some time, she and her husband Gary Cunningham had realized they lived in and were growing grapes in a special microclimate.  Both Dr. Gregory Jones, a renowned climatologist and professor of environmental science at Southern Oregon University, and Dr. Clyde Northrup, professor of geosciences at Boise State University, agreed the Eagle Foothills area — its climate, soil and terrain — is different from the rest of the Snake River Valley, or any other growing area.

       After reading Greg Jones' report, Cunningham concluded "This needs to be done.  Establishing the Eagle Foothills AVA will help further position Idaho as a developing wine region and hopefully attract growers, wineries, tourism and jobs.”

       Using the federal government's TTB petition process, Cunningham made the push to identify and authenticate the new Viticultural Area.  In November of 2015, she was rewarded for her efforts when AVA status was granted to the Eagle Foothills.  She hopes other areas of the Snake River Valley AVA will move ahead to craft petitions for their own unique spots.  "The Sunnyslope deserves its own AVA, too," says Cunningham.  "The Snake River Valley is so vast, and certainly diverse enough, I see no reason for others not to follow."

3 Horse Ranch Vineyards

(Wed - Sun, 12 - 6pm. Closed Mon & Tues)
5900 Pearl Road
Eagle, ID 83616

*** Visitors to the Eagle, Idaho area can taste the wines of 3 Horse Ranch Vineyards and one other Idaho winery on Saturdays at the Eagle Art Gallery (50 2nd Street N, Eagle, ID) where Cellar 616 Winery conducts tastings from 11 am - 4 pm or by appointment (208-906-9590).

More details about Eagle Foothills AVA


Unique elements of the Eagle Foothills AVA include:

SOIL – Soils consist of sand from volcanic ash, silt, granite pebbles and clay that are well drained and rich in mineral grains because of the sedimentary bedrock from ancient Lake Idaho and the nearby granitic mountains.

CLIMATE – The hills form south facing slopes creating hot afternoons and evening shade. The cool temperatures, short growing season and low growing-degree days allow for successful ripening of early to mid-season grape varieties, with low acidity levels. The precipitation varies between 11-18 inches per year and averages 2,418 growing days annually.

WATER – Water is abundant, despite the desert terrain of the Eagle Foothills. The AVA is located near the Snake River aquifer—one of the most productive water sources in America. The proximity to water gives Idaho potential to have sustainable vineyards for generations to come.

The Eagle Foothills sits at the north bank of Ancient Lake Idaho, its elevation ranging from 2,490 to 3,412 ft.


** An AVA is a federally designated wine grape-growing region distinguishable by distinct geographic features such as climate, soil, elevation and physical features.

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Copyright © 2015 - January, 2019  Susan R. O'Hara. All rights reserved.
Last revised:  01/08/2019