CALDWELL, Idaho — The Idaho Wine Commission will use a $138,000 specialty crop grant to boost awareness of the state’s fast-growing wine industry.
The grant, provided by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, will allow the IWC to continue its ongoing and strategic marketing and promotion efforts, said Michael Williamson, an IWC board member and manager of Williamson Orchards and Vineyards.
“Other than the growing part, marketing is just about the most important part of the wine industry,” he said. “If you can’t sell it, it’s just a fun hobby and you won’t be around for long.”
Idaho’s 52 wineries and 56 wine grape growers have proven that good wine grapes can be grown here, Williamson said.
“That’s where marketing comes in — letting other people know that,” he said.
The IWC has received several marketing related specialty crop grants over the past seven years and they have allowed the commission, which has an annual budget of about $500,000, to stretch its limited dollars, Williamson said.
“For a little industry, we’re able to make a pretty big splash” because of the grants, he said.
Telaya Wine Co. winemaker Earl Sullivan, an IWC board member, said that for Idaho’s emerging wine industry to continue to grow, it needs to be able to get its name in front of people on a large scale, and that’s what the grants are helping accomplish.
“Great wine is being made in Idaho,” he said. “We just have to get some brand awareness. The specialty crop grants are pretty important and provide a lot of opportunity for getting our wine in front of people.”
This year’s grant will allow the commission to expand its ongoing promotion and marketing efforts, said IWC Executive Director Moya Shatz-Dolsby.
For example, while the commission will continue its wine country tours for journalists, this year’s grant money will be used to also provide individual tours for seven targeted journalists.
The commission hired the public relations firm Fahlgren Mortine to coordinate those tours.
“We’re finding that some journalists don’t want to go on a group trip; they want to go by themselves,” Shatz-Dolsby said. “It takes a lot of manpower to get the logistics of that figured out, and the cultivation of the relationships, so that’s why we have hired a PR firm to help with that.”
The grant provides $40,000 for media tours, which the IWC’s grant application said resulted in 29 favorable articles in the past year alone from journalists who have attended them.
“The media tours are expensive but we are finding that we have a lot of success with them,” Shatz-Dolsby said.
Fahlgren Mortine will also coordinate a major social media advertising campaign that will use the IWC’s existing video, “The Story of Idaho Wines.”
The commission will use some of the grant money to completely redo its website, including adding a designated education section for industry members.
The grant will also be used to create a digital, mobile-friendly version of the IWC’s tour brochure.