As we pull into Idaho on I 84, we see an exit for Chicken Dinner Road and it cracks us up! There has to be a story behind that, right? You bet there is! We got the scoop in the most interesting way while sipping some great wine in Idaho Wine Country! You heard me right! Idaho is producing some really good wines. It pays to get out and explore! You never know what you will learn.
We begin our exploration of the Snake River AVA at Huston Vineyards, on Chicken Dinner Road! Greg, the wine maker and owner of Huston Vineyards is an extremely friendly guy who considers himself more of a naturalist farmer. With over 16 hours of sunlight each day during the summer months, well draining volcanic soil and ample water supply the climate in the Snake River AVA is perfect for growing wine grapes. The warm days ripen the fruit and cool nights conserve tannins and acids creating fruit forward wines with great structure.
Idaho’s vineyard elevations (ranging up to 3,000 feet) are higher than most others in the Northwest and its soils are comprised primarily of volcanic-ash. Add to that long, warm daylight hours during grape-growing season – typical of northern latitudes and arid climates, cool summer evenings – characteristic of desert environments, and you have a combination of factors that contributes to producing quality wine grapes with concentrated fruit flavors and naturally high acidities.
We enjoyed all of their wines but our two favorites, ones we purchased to savor again later, were 2014 Chicken Dinner White and 2014 Huston Vineyards Malbec. Chicken Dinner White is a crisp, well balanced blend of Riesling, Viognier, and Muscat with tropical fruit aromas of pineapple and honeydew melon and flavors of green apple and apricot. Great on a hot summer day! Huston Vineyards Malbec has aromas of dried blueberries and allspice and flavors of plum and black raspberry with a spicy finish.
Now we can’t resist any longer. We ask, “What is the story behind Chicken Dinner Road?” Deborah shares the tale of Laura Lamb and Chicken Dinner Road. Baylee pours our wine and explains the wine regions qualities and why they produce the wines they do. Nicely done ladies!
The story begins somewhere around 1930. Laura Lamb was known far and wide for her fantastic chicken dinners and her homemade apple pies. She and her husband Morris lived on a ranch down one of the many dusty, pothole ridden road in the western Idaho countryside. Laura was sick and tired of all the dust and the bumpy ride into town. She had requested so many times for the potholes to be filled she couldn’t even count the requests any more.
Finally inspiration hit her. She would invite the governor of Idaho, Gov. C. Ben Ross and his wife, whom she knew, to have one of her famous chicken dinners. He agreed to come for dinner. They placed a sign at the end of their road saying “Chicken Dinner” so the governor would know where to turn. The chicken dinner was as fantastic as he had heard and as he sang her praises, Laura seized the opportunity to ask the governor for a favor. She had baked one of her famous fruit pies and the smells of warm fruit and buttery crust filled the air. If he wanted a piece of that wonderful pie then he needed to do her a favor.
Laura explained that she could not tolerate another minute of driving down the road filled with potholes and dust flying everywhere. If the governor agreed to fill in the potholes and fix the road, she would serve him a delicious piece of pie. The governor considered the offer, sniffed the baked fruit filled air, and agreed to the proposition. The governor told her, “Laura, if you get that road graded and graveled, I’ll see to it it’s oiled.” Laura would get her road fixed and the governor would get his pie!
With that, Laura Lamb approached the Canyon County commissioners and they agreed. Once the road was graded, Laura telephoned the governor to remind him of his promise. As the story goes, he only oiled her road. The neighbors were quite upset and decide to make their feelings known. The day after Halloween Laura went out to get the mail and came back as mad as a wet hen! Someone had painted the words, “Lamb’s Chicken Dinner Avenue,” in big, bright letters on the freshly-oiled road! The letters were so big and bright yellow, they would knock your eyes out!
It is said, school children riding the school bus took up the chant, “Chicken Dinner, Chicken Dinner,” as they passed the house and the name stuck. The locals swear this is where the well know saying “Winner, Winner! Chicken Dinner!”comes from! Who’s to say for sure but it makes for a good story! And this is how Chicken Dinner Road got it’s name!
Hat Ranch Vineyards- All Hat No Cattle!
With a slogan like that you know you’ll find someone that is into his wine! Owners Tim and Helen Harless moved here from Texas and opened their tasting room in August of 2012. The tasting room has a perfect view of the Marsing Valley and the Owyhee Mountain Range. We enjoyed their un-oaked 2013 Chardonnay with the essence of fresh peaches and pineapple. But their 2012 Malbec was the one that hit the mark for us.We could pick up raspberry and dark fruit flavors of blackberry and plum. Barrel aged for over 24 months gave it toasty oak nuances. This region is very well suited for growing malbec and it comes through in their wines. There is also a B & B on the property if you’d like to stay and taste your way through the Snake River wine region.
Country Corners RV Park, Caldwell, Idaho
Got a good feeling about where we were going to stay as soon as I spoke with Justin at Country Corners RV Park. He and his wife recently bought the RV park when he retired from the US Air Force and are working hard to make this a great place to stay. When we arrived, he escorted us in his jeep to our site. Mature trees shade each gravel site and a wide strip of grass separates you from your neighbor. There is a big pond at the far end of the property which is home to a huge bullfrog! On the opposite side of the park from the RV’s is a lovely grass area under shade trees for tent camping. Our nephew Ian lives nearby and he was the #1 attraction for us in Idaho!