BOISE — A $72,000 grant will be used to provide more educational opportunities for Idaho’s wine grape growers and vintners in an attempt to increase the collective expertise of the state’s wine industry.
Some of the money will also be used to help pay a vineyard consultant who will offer vineyard-specific advice to growers and help them up their game.
Increasing the overall education level of Idaho’s wine industry is important because, “We always have room to improve. None of us knows everything,” said Idaho Wine Commission Executive Director Moya Shatz-Dolsby. “There is always something to learn. There is always room to improve.”
The specialty crop grant was provided to the IWC by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.
It will allow the commission to send 10 members of Idaho’s wine industry to attend wine-related courses hosted by the University of California-Davis, a national leader in viticulture and enology.
Having good, smart growers and vintners who are educated about wine making is critical for the health of the state’s collective wine industry, said IWC board member Michael Williamson, manager of Williamson Orchards and Vineyards.
“In order to be sustainable as an industry and be on par with the world as winemakers, quality is the cost of entry,” he said. “Quality comes from proper education and knowledge of the intricacies of growing grapes and producing wine.”
When it comes to the global wine industry, Idaho is kind of an island because of its geography, said IWC board member and Telaya Wine Co. Winemaker Earl Sullivan.
“Getting growers and winemakers additional opportunities to interact with their peers and get some critical feedback and professional education is important,” he said. “Any opportunity we have to get one step further ahead is only going to help our industry.”
While the state’s wine industry is growing quickly — the number of wineries in Idaho has surged from 11 to 52 since 2002 — it’s important to safeguard the quality the industry has become known for and that comes through education, Shatz-Dolsby said.
According to the IWC’s grant application, the new industry consultant, Anthony Domingos from California, will identify viticulture challenges in Idaho, forecast new vineyard plantings, host vineyard-specific seminars for growers and provide recommendations on techniques for enhancing fruit quality.
Williamson said the recently hired Domingos already gave him some good advice on mitigation strategies for recovering from vine damage caused by the harsh winter, including starting pre-emergent weed control early.
“We’ve had some great success with it,” he said.
The IWC will also bring several industry experts to Idaho to hold educational seminars on various topics, including advanced tasting training, how to create wine clubs and events that increase returning customers and improving the financial health of vineyards and wineries.
The grant money will also be used to create a grower incentive program to encourage growers from out of state and within Idaho to plant grapes.