Sean Ellis/Capital Press
BOISE — The success of Idaho Wine Month — which takes place in June — reflects how rapidly Idaho’s wine industry has grown over the past 12 years.
Idaho wine sales increased 32 percent last June and there’s no reason to believe there won’t be a major increase this year as well, said Idaho Wine Commission Executive Director Moya Shatz-Dolsby.
There are hundreds of special promotions, tastings, sales and displays at restaurants, major retailers and wineries throughout the state in June.
“Every year it keeps getting better,” Shatz-Dolsby said.
Idaho Wine Month was first proclaimed by Gov. Butch Otter in 2009 and since then it has grown to become the busiest time of the year for Idaho’s fast-growing wine industry.
“We’ve had restaurants calling us and wanting Idaho wines, our wines, because people are asking for them,” said Bitner Vineyards owner Ron Bitner. “For years, we had to beg them to take our wines. Now they’re calling us.”
Hat Ranch Winery owner Tim Harless said June has become a good month for those in the industry because it has created excitement among consumers for Idaho wines and that has translated into more demand.
“It’s been a real good way to get people thinking about Idaho wine,” he said.
The list of wine-related events and specials that occur during the month is too great for even the IWC to track but it is in the hundreds.
Hayden Beverage alone built 150 Idaho wine displays around the state last year and that doesn’t include the hundreds of other tastings and events that occur throughout Idaho.
“The traffic during Idaho wine month is quite a bit more than we normally see because of all the events,” said winemaker Martin Fujishin, owner of Fujishin Family Cellars.
According to the IWC, Albertsons grocery stores sold 907 cases of Idaho wine last June and increased their Idaho wine business 47 percent. Ste. Chapelle, Idaho’s largest winery, increased its sales by 15 percent last June and three wineries saw triple-digit growth.
The increased sales during June reflect the rapid growth of the Idaho industry in general. There were 11 wineries in 2002, 38 in 2008 and 51 today.
“When I started in 1981, there were two wineries in Idaho,” Bitner said. “I think in the next five years, just between my place and the river, we will see six or seven new wineries.”
But for the industry to increase even more will require more vineyards to be planted, Shatz-Dolsby said. “We need more vineyards because wineries really can’t grow and up their case production because we’re using almost all the grapes that are planted right now.”
Fujishin said there is a shortage of some grape varieties in Idaho.
“We need (either) more grapes in the ground … or we need to see another big winery make the shift to Idaho and start putting some serious acres in the ground here to push the industry forward,” he said.