CALDWELL — In the heart of the Sunnyslope Wine Region, Josie and Clay Erskine are building the 28-acre farm of their dreams.
Peaceful Belly Farm, which has been at its location on Hoskins Road south of Caldwell for just over one growing season, has recently expanded with the opening of Vine and Branch Ranch — a new winery and cidery in partnership with Snake River Winery and Stack Rock Cidery.
“Some of our goals are to really showcase the regional foods system — the terroir of this area, whether it’s wine or cider, or just the produce and the meat and the dairy that comes out of this area from small producers,” said Josie Erskine, co-owner of Peaceful Belly.
The idea to open Vine and Branch Ranch, Erskine said, was primarily inspired through travel.
“We would visit a lot of different farms or different places,” Erskine said. “We started really noticing how much wine or cider brings to a small, organic farm.”
The Erskines fused their desire to supply locally produced goods with their ideal wine-making environment at Peaceful Belly, which made the decision to create Vine and Branch, their “agrarian-focused business,” an easy one.
“We chose this area for lots of reasons,” Erskine said. “It’s beautiful, it’s an ag area, it already has wine industry, so cider and wine is a good fit.”
Peaceful Belly Farm relocated to the Sunnyslope wine region after more than a decade of farming in the Boise foothills’ Dry Creek Valley.
The move from Dry Creek, she said, was due to the proposed growth in the area that could bring 1,800 homes to the valley, located just northwest of Boise near the Idaho Highway 55 and East Beacon Light Road intersection.
In August, Ada County officials approved the first portion final plat for the 1,800-home subdivision.
“We kind of got pushed out by growth,” Erskine said.
Vine and Branch, Erskine said, was created with the idea that it might help sustain Peaceful Belly through winter and extend the farming season.
“Most of the products we’ve grown year after year only last a few days — a head of lettuce, a thing of strawberries,” Erskine said.
Scott DeSeelhorst, owner and winemaker at Snake River Winery said the idea to join with Peaceful Belly Farms and Stack Rock Cidery seemed like a “natural fit.”
After owning a tasting room in downtown Boise for more than eight years, DeSeelhorst said Snake River Winery hoped to take advantage of the traffic in the Sunnyslope area and wanted to relocate due to development.
When Snake River Winery decided to move around 2016, Clay Erskine was just starting up Stack Rock Cidery and shared cider-making equipment with the winery.
“It just occurred to me, ‘Hey, let’s do something jointly,” DeSeelhorst said. “We’re glad to be opened finally, we’re glad to be in the Snake River Valley.”
The tasting room
Several varieties of Snake River wines and Stack Rock ciders are available at the tasting room on the farm, which is open from noon to 6 p.m. every day.
“We have some fun varieties that a lot of others don’t have,” Erskine said. “Overall, we have a nice, big tasting menu.”
Vine and Branch’s tasting room will offer some unique varieties for Idaho, along with most state standards like riesling, chardonnay, merlot and malbec, Erskine said.
Stack Rock Cider, also sold at the tasting room, is made entirely of Idaho apples in a traditional style and will soon be made entirely of apples from a Peaceful Belly orchard.
The tasting room also offers seasonal small plate options, made entirely from locally grown ingredients, some of which come straight from Peaceful Belly soil.
Since opening Vine and Branch just over a week ago, Erskine said the community’s reaction has been nothing short of positive.
“The response has been incredible,” she said.
Years of local goods
More than 22 years ago, the Erskines decided to create Peaceful Belly Farm, driven by the couple’s desire to produce local goods for the Treasure Valley and their passion for the outdoors.
On the farm, Peaceful Belly grows nearly 180 varieties of fruits and vegetables, ranging from spinach to pumpkins and everything in between.
“If it can be grown in Idaho, we grow it,” Erskine said.
Whether it’s selling produce and goods at the Boise Farmer’s Market in the summer or providing the community-supported agriculture program, which delivers foods to people’s homes, Erksine said the farm is committed to connecting with the community and the surrounding environment.
“In a lot of ways we are looking to connect in an agricultural way with people and with growing,” Erskine said. “I see a lot of answers to a lot of problems through local, organic food production.”