CALDWELL, Idaho — Martin Fujishin has been on quite a run in the past two years, and now he’s got best of show at the 2018 Idaho Wine Competition to add to his history.
The winemaker who grew up in the Snake River Valley community of Adrian, Ore., topped the field of 143 entries with the 2017 Riesling that he made under his consumer-minded Lost West Winery brand.
“I always felt that when we tasted that wine that the acid balance was really nice, right from the beginning,” Fujishin said. “That’s from a 37-year-old Riesling block, so that’s old, and it’s from the second-highest point in Canyon County, so it really came through that (2017) winter pretty well. We felt really fortunate to even get Riesling last year, let alone have it be best of show.”
Fujishin also received the award for the best sweet of the competition with his Fujishin Family Cellars 2017 Late Harvest Riesling.
This spring, Wine Press Northwest magazine named Fujishin Family Cellars as its 2018 Idaho Winery of the Year. In 2017, Wine Business Monthly, a California-based publication, profiled Fujishin among its Hot Brands among the likes of Amavi Cellars and Sleight of Hand Cellars in Walla Walla and Illahe Vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Fujishin Family Cellars was just the second Idaho winery to earn that honor. Cinder Wines in the Boise suburb of Garden City was the first in 2009.
The ninth annual Idaho Wine Competition represented 39 of the 52 wineries in the state. The judging panel included Mike Dunne, wine writer for the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee; Lane Hoss, wine buyer for Anthony’s Restaurants; Bill Ward, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s James Beard Award-winning wine writer; and Sheri Sauter Morano, a Master of Wine from Durham, N.C.
“Once again, I was very impressed by the overall quality and the direction of the Idaho wine industry,” Sauter Morano said. “While there still is a lot of work to be done to spread the word about the industry here — the number of times I have had to say, ‘No, I’m not going to Idaho to judge potato wines’ – oy — I do think there is tremendous potential for the industry, and I look forward to seeing what the next year will bring.”
Telaya Wine Co. 2016 Turas selected as top red wine
The Telaya Wine Co., 2016 Turas emerged as the competition’s best red wine. The Garden City producer has come to rely on fruit from famed Skyline Vineyard and longtime viticulturist Dale Jeffers for its flagship wine.
“Turas embodies the spirit of Telaya,” said co-owner/co-winemaker Earl Sullivan. “It means journey in Irish. Our first wine was a Syrah-based blend, which was the start of our wine journey.
“Now, we pay homage to that journey by blending a new Turas each year that represents the best of the vintage,” he added. “Built on the back of Dale’s Block 46 Syrah, this vintage was one of the most fun we have had to date.”
The Sullivans also earned a gold medal for their 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, which they source from acclaimed Quintessence Vineyards on Red Mountain, arguably the most prized growing region in Washington state.
Sauter Morano was eager to return this summer to Idaho to survey the Gem State’s emerging wine region. In 2003, she was only the second woman in the U.S. to qualify for entrance into the Institute of the Masters of Wine. She accomplished that at the age of 28, making her the youngest American woman to do so.
“I am surprised more people have not started to pay attention to this area – if nothing else for the sheer enthusiasm I see here and the visible commitment to developing the industry and building relationships between producer and consumer,” she said. “I think one of the things that speaks volumes for a region is when there is genuine interest in hearing about the success of one’s neighbors. It was clear that this area subscribes to the theory of a rising tide raises all boats.”
Dunne has served as an Idaho Wine Competition judge three times in the past four years. Those experiences have provided him with a prism into one of the most exciting regions in the United States.
“The unusually high proportion of gold medals at this year’s Idaho Wine Competition validates the state’s continued emergence as a source of fine wine,” Dunne wrote via email. “What’s more, the strong showing of non-mainstream varieties like Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, Riesling and Malbec shows that Idaho is carving out its own distinctive place on the American wine scene.”
Huston Vineyards rakes in 6 gold medals
Gregg and Mary Alger of Huston Vineyards on Chicken Dinner Road entered seven wines into the judging and earned a gold medal or better with six of them, a showing that included the best rosé, best Cabernet Sauvignon and a rare unanimous double gold medal for its Chicken Dinner White Wine blend.
Second-generation Indian Creek Winery in Kuna earned five gold medals, all for red wines, including its bargain Star Garnet Red Blend ($15) and its reserve Mourvèdre, which it labels as the Spanish synonym Monastrell.
The talented winemaking of Greg Koenig was behind seven gold medals at this year’s judging. In addition to gold medals for his 2017 Riesling and 2014 Riesling Ice Wine, he also served as the gold-medal winemaker for the Bitner Vineyards 2015 Erlexte Tempranillo and 2017 Dry Riesling, the Scoria Vineyards 2016 Petit Verdot and the Williamson Vineyards 2014 Syrah and 2014 Reserve Petite Sirah.
Last year, Melanie Krause used a Dry Riesling under her Cinder Wines brand to claim best of show at the Idaho Wine Competition, and she remained a force in this year’s field of entries with the best Syrah and a gold for her 2017 Dry Viognier. The product of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates also consults on the red wine program at Huston Vineyards.
Leslie Preston at Coiled Wines, who operates two tasting rooms in the Boise area, earned four gold medals, including the award for best sparkling wine with her 2016 Rizza, a play on the Australian nickname for Riesling.
Lewis-Clark Valley producer Clearwater Canyon Cellars in Lewiston earned two gold medals, include a best of class award for its 2016 Renaissance Red.
Fujishin among leaders of Idaho wine industry
There’s a wealth of talent in the cellar at Koenig Vineyards, where Fujishin is the assistant winemaker, and Tuesday marked the second time in three years that a Riesling from that production facility was voted as the state’s best wine. In 2016, the Koenig Vineyards 2014 Botrytis Single Berry Select Late Harvest Riesling emerged No. 1.
“We make our living with red wines and use Riesling to win awards,” Koenig quipped.
Fujishin’s Riesling came from a block leased long-term from Ron Bitner, who first began planting grapes on the Sunnyslope in 1981. Fujishin managed Bitner’s vineyards prior to launching Fujishin Family Cellars.
“Last year was somewhat of a pause in the trajectory of the winery that we weren’t able make that many wines because of the vintage,” Fujishin said. “We went from 3,000 cases of wine to about 1,200 cases. Last year was a weird year, so we had more time to spend on the winemaking.”
The growth pattern, prompted by demand, is for Fujishin to produce 4,000 cases from the 2018 vintage. Vines in Idaho are enjoying a bounce-back growing season after winter and weather damage Idaho vineyards suffered in 2017, and winemakers are giddy about of the health and size of the crop.
This week marked the third consecutive year and fourth time in the past six years that a winemaker used the noble grape of Germany to win best of show at the competition, which is orchestrated by Great Northwest Wine on behalf of the Idaho Wine Commission.
The judging was staged at the showpiece Koenig Vineyards in the Sunnyslope Wine District near Caldwell. Each year, that vinification facility produces about 22,000 cases of wine.
2018 Idaho Wine Competition results
Best of show, best white wine
Lost West Winery 2017 Riesling, Snake River Valley $14.95
Best red wine
Telaya Wine Co. 2016 Turas Red Blend, Snake River Valley $32.00
Huston Vineyards 2017 Chicken Dinner Rosé, Washington $19.00
Best sweet wine/double gold medal
Fujishin Family Cellars 2017 Late Harvest Riesling, Snake River Valley $19.95
Best sparkling wine
Coiled Wines 2016 Rizza, Snake River Valley $28.00
Best of class/gold medal
Bitner Vineyards 2015 Erletxe Tempranillo , Snake River Valley $32.99
Cinder Wines 2016 Syrah, Snake River Valley $30.00
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2016 Renaissance Red, Lewis-Clark Valley $23.00
Huston Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Snake River Valley $32.00
Double gold medal
Huston Vineyards 2017 Chicken Dinner White, Washington $16.00
Bitner Vineyards 2017 Dry Riesling, Snake River Valley $16.99
Camas Prairie Winery NV Raspberry Mead, Idaho $14.00
Cinder Wines 2017 Dry Viognier, Washington $23.00
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2017 Crawford Vineyard Albariño, Yakima Valley $22.00
Coiled Wines 2016 Black Mamba Red Wine, Snake River Valley $30.00
Coiled Wines 2016 Sidewinder Syrah, Snake River Valley $28.00
Coiled Wines 2016 Translations RED, Walla Walla Valley $24.00
Cold Springs Winery 2016 Tempranillo, Snake River Valley $30.00
Hat Ranch Winery 2015 Hat Trick Red, Snake River Valley $26.95
Hells Canyon Winery 2014 Estate Lava/100 Black, Snake River Valley $58.00
Huston Vineyards 2015 Merlot, Snake River Valley $27.00
Huston Vineyards 2015 Petite Sirah 50% Cabernet Sauvignon 50%, Snake River Valley $44.00
Huston Vineyards 2016 Malbec, Snake River Valley $29.00
Indian Creek Winery 2016 Merlot, Snake River Valley $20.00
Indian Creek Winery 2016 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Snake River Valley $32.00
Indian Creek Winery 2016 Reserve Monastrell, Snake River Valley $26.00
Indian Creek Winery 2016 Sangiovese, Snake River Valley $26.00
Indian Creek Winery 2016 Star Garnet Red Blend, Snake River Valley $15.00
Koenig Vineyards 2014 Riesling Ice Wine, Snake River Valley $25.00
Koenig Vineyards 2017 Riesling, Snake River Valley $12.00
Lindsay Creek Vineyards 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Washington $15.00
Par Terre Winery 2017 Rosé of Syrah, Washington $18.00
Scoria Vineyards 2016 Petit Verdot, Snake River Valley $28.00
Telaya Wine Co. 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain $40.00
Williamson Vineyards 2014 Reserve Petite Sirah, Snake River Valley $35.00
Williamson Vineyards 2014 Syrah, Snake River Valley $28.00
Bitner Vineyards 2013 Mi Terra Reserve Red Wine, Snake River Valley $75.00
Bitner Vineyards 2013 Terrosa Red Wine, Snake River Valley $28.99
Cinder Wines 2016 Tempranillo, Snake River Valley $30.00
Cinder Wines 2016 Valentina Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot-Malbec, Snake River Valley $30.00
Cinder Wines 2017 Chardonnay, Snake River Valley $23.00
Cinder Wines 2017 Dry Rosé, Washington (Columbia Valley) $23.00
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2015 Coco’s Reserve Malbec, Washington $38.00
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2015 Louis Delsol Cabernet Sauvignon, Lewis-Clark Valley $32.00
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2015 Umiker Vineyard Estate Syrah, Lewis-Clark Valley $28.00
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2016 Carmenère, Horse Heaven Hills $32.00
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2016 Merlot, Lewis-Clark Valley $25.00
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2016 Verhey Vineyard Malbec, Washington $28.00
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2017 Lochsa Chardonnay, Lewis-Clark Valley $15.00
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2017 Lolo White Wine, Lewis-Clark Valley $18.00
Coiled Wines 2016 Chablis, Snake River Valley $19.00
Coiled Wines 2017 Evergreen Vineyard Dry Riesling, Washington $19.00
Cold Springs Winery 2016 astr/ology Merlot, Snake River Valley $25.00
Cold Springs Winery 2016 carp/olgy Syrah, Snake River Valley $25.00
Cold Springs Winery 2016 chron/ology Merlot 38% Syrah 22% Cabernet Sauvignon 40%0, Snake River Valley $30.00
Frenchman’s Gulch 2014 Ketchum Cuvée Red Wine, Washington $19.00
Fujishin Family Cellars 2015 Amatino Red Wine, Snake River Valley $26.95
Fujishin Family Cellars 2016 Chardonnay, Snake River Valley $14.95
Hat Ranch Winery 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Snake River Valley $26.00
Hat Ranch Winery 2015 Petit Verdot, Snake River Valley $29.95
Hat Ranch Winery 2017 Dry Rosé, Snake River Valley $16.95
Huston Vineyards 2017 Chicken Dinner Red, Snake River Valley $18.00
Indian Creek Winery 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Snake River Valley $20.00
Indian Creek Winery 2016 Gild the Dahlia Reserve Petit Verdot, Snake River Valley $30.00
Indian Creek Winery 2016 My Best Friend Malbec, Snake River Valley $24.00
Indian Creek Winery 2016 Touriga Naçional, Snake River Valley $30.00
Indian Creek Winery 2017 Dry Rosé, Snake River Valley $16.00
Indian Creek Winery 2017 White Iris Sweet Gewürztraminer, Snake River Valley $18.00
Jovinea Cellars 2016 Mel’s Victory Red, Walla Walla Valley & Columbia Valley $24.00
Koenig Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah, Snake River Valley $28.00
Krauser & Schnerr Family Cellars 2017 Laissez Faire Red Wine, Washington $18.00
Krauser & Schnerr Family Cellars 2017 Laissez Faire Sauvignon Blanc, Washington $18.00
Lindsay Creek Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Franc, Washington $36.00
Lindsay Creek Vineyards 2014 Merlot, Washington $22.00
Lindsay Creek Vineyards 2014 Mourvèdre, Washington $24.00
Lindsay Creek Vineyards 2014 Petite Sirah, Washington $28.00
Lindsay Creek Vineyards 2015 Tempranillo, Washington $24.00
Lindsay Creek Vineyards 2017 Riesling, Washington $15.00
Parma Ridge Winery 2016 Dry Rosé of Merlot, Snake River Valley $16.95
Parma Ridge Winery 2016 Joshua Storm Red Wine, Snake River Valley $32.00
Parma Ridge Winery 2016 Parma Ridge Vineyards Estate Viognier, Snake River Valley $16.50
Parma Ridge Winery 2016 Parma Ridge Vineyards Merlot, Snake River Valley $28.00
Parma Ridge Winery 2016 Storm Red, American $35.00
Pend d’Oreille Winery 2016 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley $22.00
Pend d’Oreille Winery 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley $22.00
Pend d’Oreille Winery 2016 Merlot, Washington $22.00
Sawtooth Estate Winery 2016 Classic Fly Series G.S.M. Red Wine, Snake River Valley $35.00
Sawtooth Estate Winery 2017 Classic Fly Series Sauvignon Blanc, Snake River Valley $20.00
Snake River Winery 2014 Arena Valley Vineyard Late Harvest Riesling, Snake River Valley $16.00
Snake River Winery 2016 Arena Valley Vineyard Malbec, Snake River Valley $19.00
Snake River Winery 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Snake River Valley $16.00
Split Rail Winery 2014 The Bearded Quixote Tempranillo, Snake River Valley $29.00
Split Rail Winery 2015 The Laser Fox Cinsault, Snake River Valley $25.00
Split Rail Winery 2017 Exploding Mirror Marsanne, Columbia Valley $21.00
Ste. Chapelle Winery 2016 Open Air Red Blend, Snake River Valley $22.00
Ste. Chapelle Winery 2016 Panoramic Idaho Malbec, Snake River Valley $27.00
Ste. Chapelle Winery 2016 Panoramic Idaho Syrah, Snake River Valley $25.00
Two Bad Labs Vineyard 2017 Dry Riesling, Lewis-Clark Valley $15.00
Vale Wine Co. 2016 Syrah, Snake River Valley $27.00
Veer Wine Project 2016 Mataro, Red Mountain $30.00
Veer Wine Project 2017 Soigné, Red Mountain $20.00
Vine 46 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Washington $16.00
Vine 46 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington $32.00
Vizcaya Winery 2013 Tempranillo, Snake River Valley $29.00
Vizcaya Winery 2014 Malbec, Snake River Valley $27.00
Vizcaya Winery 2014 Windy Ridge Red, Snake River Valley $28.00
Williamson Vineyards 2017 Chardonnay, Snake River Valley $16.00
3100 Cellars 2015 Runoff Rosé, Snake River Valley $36.00
Camas Prairie Winery NV Huckleberry Mead, Idaho $15.00
Camas Prairie Winery NV Palouse Gold Mead Wine, Idaho $14.00
Cold Springs Winery 2016 Ge/ology Pinot Noir, Snake River Valley $25.00
Fujishin Family Cellars 2015 Tempranillo, Snake River Valley $24.95
Holesinsky Vineyard and Winery 2017 Della’s Ghost Riesling, Snake River Valley $12.00
Holesinsky Vineyard and Winery 2017 Unicorn Rosé of Syrah, Snake River Valley $12.00
Holesinsky Vineyard and Winery NV IdaPeach Peach Sangria, Snake River Valley $12.50
Indian Creek Winery 2017 Reserve Chardonnay, Snake River Valley $24.00
Koenig Vineyards 2016 Estate Merlot, Snake River Valley $28.00
Koenig Vineyards 2016 Scoria Vineyard Malbec, Snake River Valley $30.00
Lindsay Creek Vineyards 2016 Chardonnay, Washington $18.00
Par Terre Winery 2016 Merlot, Snake River Valley $24.00
Par Terre Winery 2017 Sèmillon, Washington $18.00
Parma Ridge Winery NV Quattro White Wine, Snake River Valley $17.95
Scoria Vineyards 2016 Malbec, Snake River Valley $32.00
Spiral Rock Vineyard 2017 Riesling, Lewis-Clark Valley $18.00
Sweetbriar Vineyard & Winery 2014 Rattlesnake Red Red Wine, Idaho $22.00
Vine 46 2015 Petit Verdot, Washington $38.00
Williamson Vineyards 2014 Sangiovese, Snake River Valley $18.00