BOISE, Idaho – Next month, Executive Director Moya Dolsby will orchestrate her eighth Idaho Wine Commission annual meeting, and while the agendas get longer and more complex, it’s become easier to attract speakers to the Snake River Valley.
That’s because while there are only 51 wineries, there’s a growing fascination with the Gem State’s wine industry from beyond its borders. In many respects, Idaho remains perhaps the final viable frontier of the West Coast wine industry in this country.
“I was hired in September 2008, and my first annual meeting was in February 2009,” Dolsby said. “That year, we probably only about 50 people attend, but this year we’ll have double that. And we will have 10 speakers who are from outside of the Boise area.”
World-renowned climate expert Greg Jones from Southern Oregon University headlines this year’s lineup of speakers, but the Feb. 24-25 meeting at the Riverside Hotel and Conference Center in Boise includes other wine industry scientists and researchers from throughout the Pacific Northwest.
“We’re still seen as the little brother so there are still people in the industry willing to help us out,” Sara Dirks, marketing and grant manager for the Idaho Wine Commission, said with a chuckle. “But our meeting also offers something for the speakers who have never been to Idaho wine country before — a chance to see and hear what other people in the industry are talking about.”
Oregon professor no stranger to Idaho wine industry
In 2011, Dolsby arranged for Jones to research the Snake River Valley and develop a suitability analysis for the Idaho Wine Commission. Two years later, he worked with Martha Cunningham of 3 Horse Ranch Vineyards on the petition for the Eagle Foothills American Viticultural Area, which was established by the federal government last fall.
“His presentation will cover how things have changed over the past seven years and forecast how things could change and what directions the industry can go,” Dolsby said.
On the first day of the annual meeting, the commission will discuss the ongoing wine quality initiative that’s been spearheaded by Washington vintner Bob Betz, the only Master of Wine in the United States who is a winemaker. Charles Edwards, a professor from Washington State University in Pullman, will lead a wine chemistry seminar. Another WSU researcher, Michelle Moyer, presents her findings on how vineyard management affects cold hardiness in certain varieties.
“This year, we’ll have more people attending the meeting who are not a part of the industry now but will be in the future,” Dolsby said. “It’s good that they do as much fact-finding as they can now before they start a winery or plant a vineyard.”
And the industry reception will toast the opening of a new vinification facility for award-winning Telaya Wine Co., which will share its space along the Boise River and adjacent to the Riverside Hotel with Coiled Wines.
The final day of the meeting brings a crop management seminar with vineyard experts Dave Minick of Precept Wine in Seattle, Kari Vanbeek of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Woodinville and Patti Skinkis of Oregon State University. Also on the agenda is Jones’ presentation; an update on the proposed Lewis-Clark Valley AVA; research on soils of the Sunnyslope Wine District by consultant Alan Busacca, a vineyard owner in the Columbia Gorge and retired WSU geology professor; and a panel discussion on working with distributors.
“We are hoping the AVA for the Lewis-Clark Valley will become official in early spring, but we haven’t heard anything,” Dolsby said.
Some members of the Idaho wine industry regularly attend the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers annual convention, more than half the state’s wineries — which are spread out over more than 600 miles from Sandpoint in the north to Twin Falls in the south — send at least one representative to the Boise convention.
“If someone hasn’t been to our annual meeting before, this would be a wonderful year to come,” Dirks said.
Idaho Wine Commission annual meeting agenda
Wednesday, Feb. 24
8:30-noon – Vintage tasting for winemakers and growers. Taste and discuss Idaho’s 2015 vintage with peers.
Noon-1 p.m. – Lunch. Idaho Wine Commission year in review. What does the IWC really do?
1-1:30 p.m. Wine Quality Initiative overview – recap of key findings from Bob Betz’s most recent visit.
• Gregg Alger, Huston Vineyards
• Melissa Sanborn, Colter’s Creek Vineyards
• Mike Williamson, Williamson Vineyards
1:35-2:35 p.m. seminar: Wine chemistry, making the most of Idaho fruit
• Charles Edwards, Washington State University
2:40-2:55 p.m. – break
2:55-3:55 p.m. seminar: Cold hardiness. Explore how varietals in the Northwest are affected by vineyard management
• Michelle Moyer, Washington State University
4-5 p.m. Research updates. Hear from industry researchers on their latest findings and research projects
• Alexander Karasev, University of Idaho
• Jungmin Lee, USDA
• Krista Shellie, USDA
5:15 p.m. – Industry reception at Telaya Wine Co. Enjoy the company of peers while sharing a glass and toasting to the Idaho wine industry.
Thursday, Feb. 25
8:15-9 a.m. Legislative update. Hear what legislative changes are underway that impact you and your business.
• Roger Batt, Idaho Wine Commission Legislative Educator
9:05-10:05 a.m. Panel: Crop management. Does Your Vineyard Measure Up?
• Dave Minick, Precept Wine
• Kari Vanbeek, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
• Patty Skinkis, Oregon State University
• Moderated by: Melanie Krause, Cinder Wines
10:25-11:25 a.m. Climate report. An update on the regional climate perspective
• Greg Jones, Southern Oregon University
11:30-12:15 p.m. Regional reports
• Proposed Lewis-Clark AVA: Melissa Sanborn, Colter’s Creek Winery
• Eagle Foothills AVA: Martha Cunningham, 3 Horse Ranch Vineyards
• Sunnyslope Wine District: Bev Williamson, Williamson Vineyards
• Destination Caldwell: Keri K. Smith-Sigman, Destination Caldwell
• Urban wineries: Earl Sullivan, Telaya Wine Co.
12:15-1:15 p.m. lunch – Tourism update. Idaho tourism and the wine industry work closely throughout the year. Learn how this affects you and how to take advantage of this relationship
• Amy Rajkovich, tourism specialist, Idaho Department of Commerce
1:15–2:15 p.m. What’s the dirt on the dirt? Sunnyslope’s soils exposed. Early results of soil/climate study in southwestern Snake River Valley.
• Alan Busacca, Vinitas Consultants, LLC
• David Wilkins, Boise State University
2:30–3:30 p.m. panel: Sales Relations, getting the most from your distributor. Learn how to effectively handle multiple relationships with distributors, on-premise clients and off-premise clients.
• Dodds Hayden, CEO, Hayden Beverage
• Pat McClaskey, regional sales manager, Precept Wine
• David Boyle, general manager, Chandler’s Restaurant
• Gaspar Calamia, liquor sales manager, Albertsons
• Moderated by Shelley Bennett, community relations manager, Idaho Wine Commission
3:35-4:35 p.m. – Question and answer with Idaho State Police. Clarifications and answers on all your pressing issues.
• Capt. Russel Wheatley, alcohol beverage control, Idaho State Police