Great American Escapes: Sun Valley and Boise, Idaho 4 min read

Once upon a time, this adventurer set out to discover Idaho and Sun Valley, where the famous Sun Valley Auction takes place.



Idaho is a northwestern state known for its wilderness, rocky landscapes, and vast swaths of recreation areas. The area’s natural purity and majesty attracts millions of visitors, adventure travelers and pleasure seekers, to this nation’s best-kept secret.  Its capital, Boise, is set in the Rocky Mountains, which are crossed by the Boise River, a favorite spot for water rafting and fishing.


An important affair takes place there every July, a symbol of the community coming together and celebrating the arts and humanities in the most inspirational of ways—philanthropically. In its 35th year, the Sun Valley Center Wine Auction is truly an affair of camaraderie, with a goal of raising funds for the arts and education in the Wood River Valley area. Inspired by Auction Napa Valley, its founder, Glenn Janss set out to replicate Napa’s charitable model. Vintners came in scores, bearing precious gifts of wine. The rest is history. The atmosphere is magical, overflowing with generosity and a shared love for great wine and food. The event offers opportunities to forge lasting friendships between patrons and vintners. All of this is set against a glorious backdrop of majestic mountains and cornflower blue skies.


If you decide to travel there, make sure to stay at Sun Valley Lodge. In addition to quarters in the lodge, this expansive, drop-dead gorgeous property offers cottages, condominiums, or townhomes, whatever your heart desires.


The country’s very first historical ski chalet has been newly renovated, with spacious guest rooms, state-of-the-art 20,000 sq. ft. spa/wellness center, stunning pools, restaurants, lounges, and theater. You get the picture. No need to leave the property.


One of its extraordinary features is the year-round, full-size, outdoor ice-skating rink. Numerous Olympic athletes that practice there regularly, so keep an eye out for the next gold medalist! It is home to hockey players and the Sun Valley Figure Skating School. I caught an amazing series of performances there.



Do not miss Ketchum’s Warfield distillery, home of the impressive Mayday Vodka and No Return Gin. The owner, Alex Buck, fell in love with European brews while touring the Old World. A desire to lay roots in the spectacular mountains of Wood River Valley combined with a passion for crafting fine brews and spirits cemented the deal. The spirits are outstanding, pure and expertly crafted. Sip on a Point of No Return cocktail (gin, luxardo, lemon juice, crème de violette, peychaud’s bitters) on the rooftop deck, enjoy the sun rays, and watch life pass below.



Back in Boise, park your bags at the chic Modern Hotel and whatever you do, do not miss their brunch.



Make a stop at Telaya Wine Co. The wines are superb and the company/hospitality even better. Parents of two boys, Earl and Carrie Sullivan, Telaya’s owners, both had successful careers. On vacation in Cabo San Lucas, an epiphany struck. Their main loves—family, travel, and creativity must merge. They named the winery Telaya as an homage to their two favorite places—Tetons and La Playa. The winery grew into a brand-new space that hosts guests daily for wine tastings and is available for social functions. I liked several wines in their portfolio, with a decided standout being a 2014 Mourvedre that spent 20 months in French oak. Meaty, spicy, with bright red fruit notes it’s, decidedly a keeper.



Finish your trip at Bardenay Distillery. Great cocktails don’t happen by accident. Handcrafted from their distilled vodka, rum, gin and fresh juices the quality of ingredients, it is good as it gets. My favorite was a delicious Due Diligence (Ransom Old Tom Gin, Averna, wild hyssop, rock) The food is no slouch, either, fresh, well-prepared northwestern-style dishes are a delight to nosh.




Boise is a great place to come and discover not only its many marvels, but a bit of yourself in the process. You will feel lucidity flowing as you breath in fresh mountain air and take in the vistas and re-experience once more what is truly important in life.

Ilona Thompson

Ilona Thompson is Editor-in-Chief at PalateXposure, a destination site for oenophiles, gourmands and luxury travelers. She also recently launched #Wine, a site dedicated to wines and spirits reviews, and #Photography, a site devoted to high-quality wine, food, and travel related photography.

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