By Kayli Corbin
Photography Kimberlee Miller
The Eagle Foothills provide a harmonious balance of well-draining soil, abundant water sourced from the Snake River Aquifer, and south facing slopes that create the perfect environment needed for an American Viticulture Area (AVA). The Eagle Foothills AVA is the first to be contained within Idaho and supports an expanding local industry in high demand. The vineyard owners featured in this article are passionate trail blazers, striving to provide high quality products that utilize this amazing area. They are a few of the members of the Eagle Foothills Grape Growers Association (EFGGA) – a platform for local grape growers to communication about legislation that could impact their livelihood and to collaborate with other avid wine enthusiasts!
Martha Cunningham, an EFGGA member, shares “The group helps Eagle Foothills Grape Growers have a voice in marketing, the legislature, the wine commission, and offers education and resource opportunities to its members. I hope membership will evolve to include not only grape growers but Eagle community members such as our Chamber of Commerce, real estate agents, restaurants, retail shops, legislators, writers, photographers, etc.”
The EFGGA is open to everyone from the most experienced grape growers, to those who have only lightly considered growing, and even people who simply love wine. This association is about creating a community of passionate people who are advocates of delicious, high quality, local wine.
Rolling Hills Vineyard is owned by Mark Pasculli, President of the EFGGA. Mark and his wife, Lori, have always dreamed of having a vineyard. Lori’s family owned one and she grew up helping with a farming process much different than what is used today. This gives her a great perspective into the progression grape growers have made over the years and grants her a wealth of knowledge on the subject. The Pascullis have approximately 5,300 plants, the equivalent of 7 acres, and grow a variety of grapes.
Their passion for wine is very clear and their dedication to the association is admirable. This tight knit group of friends and neighbors have created a network of support, knowledge, and passion. They speak very highly of the quality of wine. It’s one thing to create a local wine. It’s another thing entirely to create a high quality, boutique wine. Mark proudly supports this association and makes a great leader and advocate for its progress.
3 Horse Ranch Vineyard located just 17 minutes from downtown Eagle has an atmosphere and ambiance representative of Idaho’s natural beauty. The drive takes you through desert shrub steppe and promptly opens to an oasis of rolling hills and greenery. Martha and Gary Cunningham planted their first grapes here in 2005 and opened their tasting room in 2009. The tasting room is the pinnacle of comfort with warm yellow tones and a homey, welcoming vibe. Their resident peacocks are sure to put a smile on your face as well.
Martha speaks very highly of the community and acceptance found in EFGGA. She hopes to see Eagle blossom into the wine community it can be and to spread the word about your neighbors who are creating these high quality hyperlocal wines. 3 Horse Ranch Vineyard facilitates a wine club that connects people of all ages and experience levels around a common theme – wine. The club has a modest purchase requirement and provides discounts on many wine offerings. Exclusive events are one feature that wine club members take full advantage of.
3 Horse Ranch Vineyard is the future site of a wine making facility to be used by EFGGA members. A custom club winery allows each vineyard to produce under the guidance of an experienced winemaker, opening the door to a variety of wine labels. Not to mention, it will be a place for these passionate friends and neighbors to spend time together doing what they love. Keep an eye out for more exclusive wines that are sure to delight your palate and leave you looking for more.
One Stone Hill Vineyard was created as a byproduct of owner, Steve Cooper’s, love for wine and agriculture from his history in cotton/alfalfa farming. Steve and his wife Bobbie expressed their gratitude to members of the EFGGA. Whether it was installing and planting trellis, irrigation systems, or vines, there was someone to answer questions and find solutions.
Steve had the following to share, “We have just joined the EFGGA and in the first encounter have benefited from the collaborative side of everyone together learning and cooperating towards success for all. The shared pieces of knowledge and experience by the members will be huge for us. That point alone would be motivation for any future Eagle area Vineyard to become involved. There is a huge upside in sharing a vision to grow the Foothills industry toward tasting rooms and hospitality avenues you see in longer established viticulture regions.”
Meadowlark Hills Vineyard is owned and operated by Richard Benear and founded in 2010. At it’s inception, this vineyard included 200 vines of various varieties and has blossomed to include almost an acre of plants with eight varieties best acclimated to the local micro climate. Richard shares, “The best thing about Meadowlark Hills is the Tempranillo vines and grapes. They really, really like the soils and micro-climate here. The micro-climate north of Eagle has a lot of similarities to the Rioja area of Spain where Tempranillo is grown. The Eagle Foothills AVA has its own unique granitic soils which can add a certain interesting minerality taste to the wine.”
His interest in growing grapes sprouted from spending time with people who enjoyed very good wines. It was something of a revelation when he learned that a wine could include so many nuances and complexities. He decided to make his own, and the first step was to grow high quality grapes. With a lot of learning and practice, Richard is now able to grow and contribute grapes that create some of Eagle’s most delicious wines. The knowledge and experience he has gained provides an amazing addition to the EFGGA. He has been able to network with people who share his passion and work with them to come up with unique solutions to obstacles that grape growers face.
In summary, each vineyard and the people behind it contribute a unique and needed component of the EFGGA. If you’re interested in getting to know these amazingly passionate people and experiencing the delicious wine they create, head over to https://www.eaglegrapegrowers.org/ . You’ll find a membership application and more information about what helps them create the best Idaho wine!