At the Cascadia International Wine Competition this past spring, Garden City, Idaho, based 3100 Cellars’ 2017 Whitewater Sparkling Wine won a Double Gold and Best of Class for Sparkling and Overall Best of Show. In a region where big, bold reds rule, sparkling never wins Best of Show.
Hailey Minder is the winemaker at 3100 Cellars, Idaho’s first and only sparkling wine house. Why sparkling? “Because bubbles are the best,” Minder laughs. “And no one else was making it,” she adds.
Sparkling wine is typically non-vintage, meaning the winemaker blends the best of the last several years into its current release. Hailey and husband/business partner Marshall Minder, however, had a different idea; all of 3100 Cellars’ wine is vintage and vineyard-designated.
“As young winemakers, we kept talking about the terroir,” she says. “Most sparkling houses have a style, but we aren’t yet able to lay in multiple years of vintages, so we decided ‘let’s keep it vintage and vineyard specific.’”
This ingenuity caught the eye of former mentor Richard Larsen. “I was struck by her attention to detail. She asked really in-depth, probing questions,” says Larsen, a recently retired research winemaker and enologist at Washington State University who met Hailey Minder while she was a student in the WSU Enology Certificate program. “There’s always one or two that really stand out. She was one of those.”
The award-winning 2017 Whitewater is 100% Chardonnay, made in a classic Champagne style. The 2018 has not yet been disgorged, but the company anticipates a fall 2022 release. 3100 Cellars currently bottles approximately 1,000 cases annually, including the Runoff Rosé, a 100% Syrah sparkling rosé (made by saigneé method), the Extra Brut Eddy Out and the Pet-Nât-inspired General Phunk.
The Minders, who met on a rafting trip (hence naming their winery after the 3,100 whitewater rivers snaking through Idaho), believe in being both traditional and completely giving in to the whims of the moment.
“So many people are focused on being comfortable,” says Hailey Minder, noting that in the burgeoning Idaho wine industry, “there’s an interesting variety of very practical farmer ideas — especially in vineyards — while winemakers are like, ‘Amphora? Funky wood? Sure, we’ll try that!’”
The Idaho wine industry is open and honest, she says. “It’s not perfect and tailored. There’s a hometown feel.”
Hometown and family, in fact. Mary and Lee Parsons, Hailey Minder’s parents, bought and planted a vineyard after watching their daughter’s passion and commitment to wine grow. Finca Besada Vineyard is now the estate vineyard for 3100 Cellars, producing Chardonnay, Syrah and Malvasia Blanca, a Croatian grape.
“It’s definitely a collaborative project,” she says, “but in terms of farming the land, they put in the most time, work and money,” while she and her husband concentrate on the winemaking.
As this land is their “forever home,” the Minders are planning to build a facility where they have enough space for production and a tasting room. When they have a fully functioning facility, they plan to experiment with native yeast from the vineyard for future releases.
Neighbors in this small, farming community have pushed back against their permit application, citing anticipated disruption by tourists and potentially inebriated patrons. The future looks promising, though these processes are typically very slow (conditional permitting has been approved).
For now, the best way to get 3100 Cellars’ high-quality, handcrafted sparkling wine is to join their wine club.