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Where Is the Gateway to Idaho Wine Country?

In Nampa, people may come for the outstanding vineyards, but they stay for the charm and the bountiful activities.

By Livability on February 1, 2023

Sawtooth Winery in Idaho.
Joshua Roper

Nampa is the gateway to Idaho wine country. Every year, visitors flock to the area to explore local vineyards and discover that the city is also brimming with museums, music venues and a historic Main Street so postcard-perfect it looks like something out of a Hallmark Christmas movie.

There is always fun things to do in Nampa, says Kelli Meyer, regional manager of Sawtooth Winery and Ste. Chapelle Winery. In addition to its proximity to Idaho wine country, she says, “Nampa is a great city to start a career, raise a family and enjoy countless family-friendly events as well as large events at the Ford Idaho Center amphitheater.”

Sip and Savor

In addition to outstanding wine, local vineyards also offer beautiful views and tasting rooms to sample area vintages.

A Taste of Nampa

Just beyond Nampa, smaller cities like Kuna, Caldwell and Parma enjoy the ideal conditions for growing grapes.

“The Snake River Valley has unique volcanic soils with ideal growing days consisting of relatively warm afternoons and cool nights,” says Tammy Stowe McClure, winery manager at Indian Creek Winery in Kuna. “This helps maintain balanced chemistry in the grapes, achieving ripe fruit with beautiful acidity.”

As far as the wineries themselves, Meyer says, the Idaho wine scene is still “the Wild West” in terms of wine countries, with an eclectic mix of micro-boutique wineries and larger, commercial wineries.

“Each winery brings its own origin story, spanning nearly five decades of vineyard planting and wine production,” she says.

Places to add to your list include Parma Ridge Winery, Sawtooth Winery & Tasting Room, Indian Creek Winery and Ste. Chapelle Winery & Tasting Room. If you’d rather leave the driving to someone else, Snake River Wine Tours was voted the No. 1 Wine Tour in the Country by USA Today in 2022.

Sawtooth Winery offers a boutique-style tasting room in Idaho.
Joshua Roper

Places To Stay

Nampa offers a range of accommodations for visitors who come to the area. Downtown Nampa is very walkable and a great home base when exploring shops and restaurants. There are also several lodging options near popular attractions like the Ford Idaho Center.

Whether you’re seeking an Airbnb with room to spread out or a traditional hotel room, it’s easy to find someplace that fits into your itinerary in Nampa.

Homegrown grapes harvested in the Treasure Valley
Genesis Amador Photography

And While You’re Here

Nampa may be the gateway to Idaho wine country, but both Meyer and McClure are quick to point out that there are many reasons to fall in love with Nampa beyond wine.

In fact, many visitors come simply to enjoy the charm of the small city. “Downtown Nampa has a quaint small-town feel with local shops that have been around for decades, as well as up-and-coming local franchises that make a great fit for walking around and making a day of it,” McClure says.

She cites eclectic antique shops, wine bars, breweries and restaurants as reasons to spend time downtown. Meyer adds that downtown Nampa is extremely family-friendly with regular monthly events, so there’s always something new to enjoy.

Nampa is also home to the outstanding Warhawk Air Museum, which is home to a stellar aircraft collection and veteran’s history project. Meyer says that visitors should be sure to take in a concert at the Ford Idaho Center amphitheater, which hosts some of the biggest names in music performing against a backdrop of stunning Idaho sunsets.

Meanwhile, the Nampa Civic Center is a hub for fairs, concerts and plays. Equestrians travel from all over the nation to horse shows at the Ford Idaho Horse Park and Sports Center, which boasts over 100 acres and accommodates up to 850 horses.

Meyer says this mix of activities is one of the main reasons so many people are drawn to this unique area.

“Within a 20-mile radius of Nampa, you can create a fun afternoon in the downtown shops and restaurants, then take a drive down the scenic byways exploring the Snake River, Owyhee Mountains, wineries, orchards and agritourism events,” she says.

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