As one of only a handful of wineries in north Idaho, Coeur d'Alene Cellars is kind of an oasis for wine and art lovers.
Owner and founder Kimber Gates attended Whitman College in Walla Walla and spent her junior year living in Burgundy, where like many who've gone before her, she fell in love. "They really appreciate food and wine as a lifestyle, and I felt the need to bring that back home with me," she says.
After a stint at Waterbrook Winery in Walla Walla and after earning a business and accounting degree, Gates opened Coeur d'Alene Cellars in 2002. By 2004, the winery had outgrown its small shop in Dalton Gardens and moved to its current location, a larger facility that houses both a production area and a tasting room with outdoor patio space. While Gates tends to the business side of things and supervises two on-staff winemakers, her mother Sarah Gates, a painter and gourmet cook, enlivens the space with watercolor paintings that are also reproduced on the wine labels. Her recipes are featured on the winery's website and in wine club events.
Behind the winery is a small backyard vineyard that produces Dolcetto grapes, a varietal commonly grown in northwest Italy. "It's really more ornamental than anything, but it is pretty and we do harvest a small amount of grapes from it each year," Kimber Gates says. However, the majority of their grapes are grown not far away. "We get all of our fruit from the Columbia Valley, as far south as the Horse Heaven AVA, and as far north as the Chelan area," she says.
As a boutique winery, Coeur d'Alene Cellars focuses on small bottlings, though its wines include a whole spectrum of reds and whites. "We look for wines that produce intensity, complexity and balance," the younger Gates says. "We also try to make wines that are fully reflective of the varietal." She says customer favorites include the Mourvèdre, also known as "The Mo," and the No. 6 red and white wines.
"The Mo is a favorite for its rich, spicy flavor, and the No. 6 wines are blends we've made to be particularly soft, approachable and drinkable," she says.
Coeur d'Alene Cellars is currently open seven days a week, following a period of closures this past year due to COVID-19. "It was definitely a strange year, with a lot of changes, but I feel like we're still here and we have more support than ever," Kimber Gates says. "In April we were able to hold our annual golf tournament, followed by our June wine release, and both events had excellent turnouts."
She's already planning for the next wine cruise, as well. "In the past we've done cruises to Italy and Croatia, and the west coast of Europe," she says. "Now post-COVID, I'm looking to schedule a June 2023 trip to Australia and New Zealand."
Gates says a big part of what makes Coeur d'Alene Cellars special is it's uplifting and warm atmosphere. "It's easy to make great wine, but the secret for us is the sense of community we've developed here," she says. "The people who join us here really do become family."
Ratatouille Bread Pudding
Gates recommends pairing this recipe with the winery's Mourvèdre or No. 6 red. "This dish is wonderful for late summer or early fall because it highlights produce from that season like zucchini, peppers and basil," she says.
• 4 teaspoons olive oil
• 4 cups chopped onion
• 4 cups cubed peeled eggplant
• 2 2/3 cups chopped zucchini
• 2 cups chopped red bell pepper
• 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
• 1 teaspoon salt
> • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
• 1 teaspoon oregano
• 1/2 teaspoon cloves
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
• 2 cups milk
• 1 1/2 cups or more grated Parmesan or Romano, divided
• 8 large eggs
• 16 ounces cubed day-old Italian bread
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
3. Add onion, reduce heat to medium-low.
4. Cover and cook 15 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.
5. Add eggplant and next 6 ingredients. Cover and cook 15 minutes or until tender.
6. Increase heat, add tomatoes and cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring occasionally.
7 .Cool slightly.
8. Combine milk, 1/2 cup cheese and eggs in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.
9. Stir in the eggplant mixture.
10. Add bread and stir.
11. Let stand 10 minutes. Spoon mixture into greased 4-quart baking dish or 2 (2-quart) dishes.
12. Sprinkle pudding with the remaining 1 cup cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour or until pudding is set and lightly browned.
Yield: 12 servings.