When the Dog Days of summer hit Boise with their triple digit day-time temperatures that segue into hot muggy nights, I have just one thought on my mind ... escape. My personal refuge is a couple of weeks on one of the islands off Vancouver, Canada. Lots of trails to hike, inlets to kayak and a high temp that seldom passes 75, but if you want wine on your vacation it's usually best to ship it ahead. For the most part, the San Juan Islands have a fairly limited, overpriced selection, and if you opt for Canada's Gulf Islands the choices are limited to Okanagan whites or outrageously expensive imported reds.
My latest favorite vacation destination, Orcas Island, proved a pleasant surprise wine wise. First, Orcas is the least touristy of all the major islands I've visited. Perhaps that's because Eastsound, the central village is at the opposite end of the island from the ferry landing. Not that things still don't get crowded on the weekend, but you can usually find a parking place even then-try that at Friday Harbor on neighboring San Juan Island. Second, while we have it pretty good when it comes to wine buys here in the Valley, tiny Orcas has two shops that rival Boise's best.
For Northwest wines Eastsound Station has an impressive selection featuring all the usual suspects: K Cellars, Basil, Dunham, Andrew Will, Isenhower, Leonetti-the list goes on and on. One of my favorite finds was a lovely Sauvignon Blanc from a Bainbridge Island winery called Eleven. Matt and Sarah Albee literally make wine out of their two-car garage, but the results are impressive. With only a 150 case production you won't be finding this crisp, clean white around Boise, but look for it on your next trek to the Northwest. It's absolutely delicious.
Up the street from Eastsound Station (on Prune Alley to be exact) Rose's specializes in French wine. A blend of restaurant (serving some of the best food on the island), bakery (with cheese sticks that are to die for), deli (try the Australian black olives) and wine shop, Rose's is a not-to-be-missed island destination. Wine prices are reasonable and the selection is amazing. I enjoyed a number of red Rhônes from the 2001 vintage, something we've pretty much sold out of in Boise.
One thing to avoid on your island visit-the local cider theoretically made from Westcott Bay apples. At six bucks a pop it offers a mouth-puckering astringency something like sucking on an under ripe lemon, absolutely no hint of apple fruit, and a light metallic bitterness on the finish. It does have a nice label, though.