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Friday, Jul. 30, 2010

Idaho gets grant to explore adding viticultural area

BOISE -- A $100,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration will pay for a marketing campaign and a study that could lead to creating the Gem State's second American Viticultural Area.

The Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers Commission also will use the grant to study best practices in other wine-growing areas and map the state's only existing AVA, the Snake River Valley area that includes Canyon, Ada and surrounding counties.

"We've never had anything like this before," said Moya Shatz, the commission's executive director.

With an AVA, a wine can carry a region's appellation such as Napa Valley or Snake River Valley rather than just the state it came from.

The Snake River Valley appellation, approved in 2007, cultivated regional and national interest and respect for the area and sparked creation of new wineries, Shatz said.

The mapping project will identify prime grape-growing locations and their suitability for specific grape varieties based on landscape, soil and climate.

Ron Bitner, owner of Canyon County's Bitner Vineyards in Caldwell, will lead the collaborative project with help from experts from Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

The commission will work with the Clearwater Economic Development Association to assess the climate, soil, temperature and wine-grape varietal information necessary to establish whether it's feasible to create a Clearwater AVA for the Moscow/Lewiston area and parts of eastern Washington.