It is really nice to have parents on the other side of the country. Back in the middle of July, I took my children to New York to visit their Grandparents. After 13 years with kids, being free of the responsibility of children for a few short weeks in the summer is a welcome break. Please don’t misunderstand, I love my children to no end, and I miss them very much, but for my wife and I, it’s like we’re newlyweds once again. We can actually go places, and do things we want to do.
What does this have to do with wine tours you ask?
Well, now that we are temporarily kid-less, we went out to The Orchard House Restaurant (map) on the Sunny Slope (That’s wine country in Idaho, in case you didn’t know). The Orchard House is a quaint little restaurant that is like a book that shouldn’t be judged by its cover. From Highway 55 South from the western side of Nampa, it looks like your average country restaurant, but it is so much more.
As we pulled in to the parking lot, we noticed a sign telling us there was more room 150ft down the road.
As the few spaces in front were full we rolled a little further and found a space in the overflow lot. We got out of the car to hear beautiful guitar strumming, and to see a cool and relaxed shaded patio of slate and pebble. We strolled past the guitarist, and found ourselves crossing a babbling stream. The mood of the place was one of leisure and simple pleasures. To the west, a hot Idaho sun blazed away to no affect on the tree shaded patio. Several different varieties of fruit tree and a few grape vines encircled a rich green lawn, hence the name.
Sarah and I walked through the patio and entered at the front door to be greeted by smiling faces. We were led back through the dining room to doors that led back out to the patio. It was a gorgeous evening. The guitarist, who I later found out was Wayne White, played amazing acoustic originals and a few popular covers to hearty applause after each. His innovative style and use of the whole neck and some percussion on the body of his guitar, added to the tranquil feel of the night.
We found a lovely table for two next to the brook under a sprawling elm. We each got an iced tea. Now you’d think we would have ordered a bottle of wine from a local vintner, but neither my wife nor I drink. Surprised? I don’t blame you. I started Idaho Winery Tours because I love Idaho. The wine and food community is a fantastic part of this state and there wasn’t anyone that I could find who was trying to promote this quickly growing industry within our borders. To me wine and grape growing are an art, and people who practice the art ought to be celebrated. If I can help these folks to educate the world about Idaho’s wine industry, I’ve done my job.
We both began with a soup. I had the gazpacho, Sarah the seafood cioppino. The gazpacho was excellent. It had a wonderful texture, and the best bit came with a single leaf of mint mixed with the cold vegetable puree. It was a refreshing change from our normal idea of soup, especially on a warm summer’s eve. The seafood cioppino was cool and peppery. The spicy mixture of fresh seafood and vegetables sparked our appetites even more.
Being a beef lover, I ordered the prime rib, and Sarah ordered the halibut; both of which were excellent. The red mashed potatoes and buttery green beans for sides, served homestyle, were tasty too. I like homestyle service because you can take as much or as little as you like, and if we had wanted more they surely would have brought it. The beef was prepared just the way I like it – the cooked side of raw. I love the looks I get when I say “rare” when asked how I’d like my steak. Our waitress didn’t flinch, which is probably because it’s not a rare request in Southwest Idaho. Sarah heartily enjoyed her halibut. I tasted a bit of hers and it was light and flaky – just the way it should be done. I don’t particularly care for a heavy batter, and this came nowhere near heavy. I could actually taste the fish; mild and tender. Desert was a large helping of Snake River Mud Pie. It dripped with hot fudge, and was the perfect sweet finish to an excellent meal.
After the meal, which was inexpensive, (a mere $53 and change with tip), I had a nice conversation with Sherri McCoy, owner and partner to Kris Thompson. Kris had the night off. We talked wine tours, vintners, and getting together to discuss how we could better serve the community and the industry. Sherri is a real sweetheart.
If you happen to be out on the Sunny Slope, pull in to the Orchard House Restaurant. Their wine list is full of local award winners, and our tours will include them for late lunches, dinner and evening entertainment. You’ll feel like you’re home from the minute you get there!
Thanks Sherri and Kris for putting together such a wonderful place!