Posted: Monday, December 31, 2012 2:24 PM
By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- The Idaho Wine Commission's "I Support Idaho Wines" campaign is the group's latest effort to increase local support of the state's booming industry.
About 6 percent of the wine consumed in-state is from Idaho and the commission believes the industry can significantly increase that market share.
While 6 percent is not bad compared with some other states, it pales in comparison to the in-state market share of about 40 percent that the Washington wine industry enjoys, IWC Executive Director Moya Shatz-Dolsby said.
"We have an opportunity to do better than (6 percent), by far," Helen Harless, co-owner of Hat Ranch Winery, said.
The "I Support Idaho Wines" campaign is designed to encourage state residents to take pride in their local wineries by highlighting their successes, Shatz-Dolsby said. The campaign will also make it easy for residents to support the industry by joining the "Crush Club" in return for exclusive wine tours and unique offers.
Donations will be used to market and promote Idaho wines and to help convince Idaho restaurant employees and distributors to increase the number of Idaho wines on their menus.
The number of Idaho wineries has increased from 32 to 49 in the past four years and Idaho's total wine production has risen by 50,000 12-bottle cases during that time.
Convincing more Idaho wine drinkers to support their local industry provides a significant opportunity for more growth, said IWC board member Gregg Alger.
"Why not focus on our 1.5 million-plus customers right here in this state?" he said. "It seems that's the easiest fruit to pick, no pun intended. There's a huge growth opportunity for us right here with our own residents."
The commission used a recent $41,000 specialty crop grant awarded by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture to place billboards touting the Idaho wine industry along Interstate 84. The billboards are on the eastbound and westbound sides of the busiest stretch of highway in Idaho.
The grant will also be used to hang large banners in downtown Boise during Idaho Wine Month in June.
IWC board member Maurine Johnson said the commission wants to significantly increase the in-state market share of Idaho wines. That's one of the reasons the IWC will spend $57,900 on advertising and marketing this fiscal year, double what was spent last year.
"We'd like to get that up to 30 or 40 percent, at least," said Johnson. "There's lots of room for growth; we just have to get people to notice that we're here and to know that we make good wine."
Idaho has a lot of transplants from major wine-producing states such as California and Washington and many of them have had little exposure to Idaho wine, said Idaho winemaker Martin Fujishin.
"If they can be exposed to Idaho wines and see what the quality level is now, I think that will bring them into the fold of Idaho wine drinkers," he said.