June 06th, 2019

If you didn’t already know, June is Idaho Wine Month! It’s not that we need an excuse to celebrate the amazing wine that comes out of this state, but it is important to recognize the significant growth this industry has gone through, and continues to go through, in the last 40 or so years. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of and I really wanted to hear Melanie’s thoughts on the rapid growth of Idaho’s wine industry, so I sat down with her over lunch to discuss—

Idaho Chardonnay

“We’ve all been witnessing the third wave of growth, and it’s been really exciting,” said Melanie. I asked her what she meant by the “third wave”:

“The first wave was in the 70’s and 80’s. The growers were planting things like Cab Sauv, Merlot, Riesling and Chardonnay. They were the pioneers, they were the proof that Idaho can grow awesome fruit.”

The 1980’s really weren’t that long ago, but even while being a young growing region, Idaho now has 52 wineries— compare that to the 11 we had back in 2002, and you can see how quickly this whole “Idaho wine” thing has taken off.

“The second wave was big. That was about 15 years ago, the growers started to explore a little bit more then. This is when they started planting Rhone varietals and introduced Tempranillo to Idaho.”

The Rhone varietals, like Viognier and Syrah, are the main reason why Melanie came back to Idaho to make wine after working as a winemaker in Washington for many years.

Melanie foot stomping her 1st vintage of Cinder Syrah in 2006

She knew that she could make something great out of the fruit that the growers were producing in Idaho, and her faith paid off. Cinder was the first urban winery to open in Garden City in 2006— since then, 7 more have opened their doors.

“We’re now in the third wave, which I would say started about 5 years ago— the growers are starting to hone in on the grapes that grow well here,” she said. “The education of viticulture in Idaho is way more advanced now than it was back in the 70’s and 80’s. They know so much more, and you can see that in the quality of the fruit.”

Those who know good wine know that Idaho produces some world-class wines, but if you were to ask me personally what I thought, I’d tell you that not nearly enough people are aware of the quality products that come out of this state. I asked Melanie if she thought that this third wave would help expand the reach of influence Idaho has in the world of wine, and maybe squash some of the stigma that surrounds Idaho wine.

A few of Melanie’s many award winning wines

“Well, I don’t worry about the opinions of others, I worry about always improving our product— but in the time since the third wave started, the Idaho wine industry has really turned a corner in terms of reputation, sales and demand. This is the part of the third wave that I’m really excited about.”

It’s true, Melanie really doesn’t care to hear the opinions of others, she focuses her energy on creating a product that our Wine Club Members and consumers will love. So far, I don’t think she’s ever had an issue with doing just that. 

Mel got up, the lunch meeting was over, “I will end with this— If you like the wines that come out of Idaho now, just wait.”

So, as we celebrate Idaho and all of its wonderful wine this June, let’s also be sure to raise a glass together and celebrate the amazing grape growers and winemakers that have helped put Idaho on the map for incredible wines. Happy Idaho Wine Month, everyone— Cheers!

-Eliza Mularski