Great Northwest Destination Winery: Ste. Chapelle

By on December 15, 2014
Ste. Chapelle Winery is in Caldwell, Idaho.

Ste. Chapelle is Idaho’s largest and oldest winery, having started in the mid-1970s. Today, it is the Gem State’s top destination winery. (Photo courtesy of Ste. Chapelle)

Editor’s note: This is the 14th in an occasional series on destination wineries of the Pacific Northwest.

CALDWELL, Idaho – Though the Idaho wine industry is still in its youth, one winery has long carried the torch for the Gem State and has developed into the Snake River Valley’s first bonafide destination winery.

Ste. Chapelle overlooks the Snake River in the Sunnyslope Wine District of southern Idaho and is the state’s oldest and largest producer. Begun in 1975 by the Symms family, Ste. Chapelle produces about 130,000 cases of wine annually – meaning it makes more than half of the entire state’s production.

Ste. Chapelle is perched atop what is known as “Winery Hill” and overlooks thousands of acres of agriculture land that is put to use in orchards, row crops (including potatoes) and, of course, wine grapes.

Ste. Chapelle’s early days

Ste. Chapelle winery is Idaho's largest wine producer.

Ste. Chapelle is in the Sunnyslope Wine District of Idaho’s Snake River Valley near Caldwell, Idaho. (Photo courtesy of Ste. Chapelle)

When the Symms family launched Ste. Chapelle, it did so in the town of Emmett, 25 miles to the northeast of Caldwell. The winery quickly outgrew its original space, so the new winery was built west of Caldwell.

The winery is named after La Sainte Chapelle in Paris, which was built by King Louis IX in the 13th century, and while the winery in no way resembles the famous gothic cathedral, it does share an airy, high-ceiling feel with its French ancestor.

Stained glass and vaulted ceilings with wooden beams give this a special feel. Ste. Chapelle’s tasting room is well proportioned and large enough to handle sizable crowds. Upstairs is a recently renovated banquet facility.

In the 1990s, Corus Brands in the Seattle area purchased Ste. Chapelle, as well as Sawtooth Winery in nearby Nampa. In 2001, Corus sold nearly all of its wineries to Constellation Brands in New York, including Ste. Chapelle, Columbia Winery, Covey Run Winery and Paul Thomas Wines. The only property it kept was Sawtooth.

In 2003, Dan Baty – who owned Corus – launched Precept Wine and began to build an wine empire that today account for nearly 1.5 million cases of wine production. Ultimately, it merged Corus and Precept. The Batys also own Winemakers LLC, which has large vineyard holdings in Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Amid its holdings is Skyline, Idaho’s largest vineyard at more than 400 acres.

In 2006, a new Sonoma County-based company called Ascentia Wine Estates purchased Ste. Chapelle from Constellation (along with many other wineries, including Columbia Winery in Washington).

By 2012, Ascentia was failing, and it sold Ste. Chapelle to Precept – for all intents and purposes putting it back in the hands of Dan Baty.

Ste. Chapelle today

Ste. Chapelle's head winemaker is Maurine Johnson.

Maurine Johnson is the head winemaker for Ste. Chapelle in Idaho’s Snake River Valley. (Photo courtesy of Ste. Chapelle)

These days, Ste. Chapelle is the most-visited winery in Idaho – as it has been since its birth in 1975.

In addition to the production of many high-quality, award-winning wines under the direction of head winemaker Maurine Johnson, Ste. Chapelle also is a popular destination because of its nicely manicured grounds, its surrounding vineyard and its picnic tables.

During the summer, Ste. Chapelle puts on a concert series that is popular with locals and visitors alike. The family-friendly concerts are typically scheduled for Sundays and feature local and regional musicians. Area restaurants cater the concerts.

For those looking for a great place to hold a wedding, the grounds at Ste. Chapelle are a romantic location.

And if you’re looking for something to nibble on, the tasting room sells regional artisan cheeses.

Amenities at Ste. Chapelle

Ste. Chapelle holds concerts at its winery in Caldwell, Idaho.

Patrons enjoy a concert at Ste. Chapelle near Caldwell, Idaho. (Photo courtesy of Ste. Chapelle)

  • Gift shop
  • Picnic area
  • Concert venue
  • Weddings
  • Hiking
  • Gardens
  • Live music
  • Conference facilities
  • Food for sale (such as cheeses)
  • Kid-friendly
  • Pet-friendly
  • Handicap-accessible

Nearby restaurants recommended by Ste. Chapelle

Nearby overnight accommodations recommended by Ste. Chapelle

  • Bitner Vineyards B&B (Caldwell)
  • Holiday Inn Express (Nampa)
  • Fairfield Inn (Nampa)
  • Hampton Inn (Nampa)

Nearby coffee places recommended by Ste. Chapelle

  • Coy’s Coffee in Marsing

Non-wine activities recommended by Ste. Chapelle

Ste. Chapelle hours, directions and contact information

Hours:

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Directions:

From downtown Boise, take Interstate 84 west toward Caldwell. Take Exit 33A. Go west on Idaho 55. Turn left on Chicken Dinner Road, which becomes Lowell Road. Turn right into the winery driveway.

Address, phone and website:

19348 Lowell Road
Caldwell, ID 83607

208-453-7840 ext. 3

www.stechapelle.com

About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is the editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine. He is a third-generation journalist who has worked at newspapers since the mid-1980s and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Eric Degerman and served as its editor-in-chief for 15 years. He is a frequent judge at international wine competitions. He is the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books. He writes about wine for The Seattle Times. You can find him on Twitter and .

One Comment

  1. Jean Ann Sullivan

    December 22, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    I LOVE Soft White or Soft Chenin Blanc but it is very difficult to find here in southern Nevada—Henderson and Las Vegas. My son looked for it today in Boise and no one had a bottle!!!! What’s going on??? Thanks

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