If you have always thought of Idaho as good potato country…well, you are correct. However, thanks to a far-reaching partnership involving Sage Community Resources, the Caldwell/Canyon Economic Development Council, the Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers Commission, USDA Rural Development and the University of Idaho (and $9,000 in funding from the 2009 Recovery Act), state officials believe a new facility – complete with a winery incubator – installed in Caldwell (in Canyon County) could make the area the Mecca for industry start-ups, right in the heart of the state’s viticultural region, according to an October 29 posting on idahopress.com.
The city of Caldwell is known by locals as the ”Treasure of the Valley,” whose motto, “More to Offer,” certainly fits, as the new facility offers smaller wineries access to climate-controlled storage coupled with industry-specific technical assistance. This project also offers space for Treasure Valley Community College’s new viticulture program, currently offering 21 courses in their curriculum.
Within the past two months, Davis Creek Cellars and Fujishin Family Cellars have already moved into the complex, with more expected to join, soon.
“This incubator is key to industry growth,” said Ron Bitner, owner of Bitner Vineyards near Caldwell. “This is an exciting time for us.”
The incubator eliminates high costs for newer wineries required to store wine under federal regulations — a major stumbling block for beginners.
28 years ago, there were but 2 wineries in Idaho; today there are 40 and according to Bitner, the number and acreage of wineries has doubled in the past year alone.
While the project is expected maintain and create new jobs, the overall goal is to support industry efforts to expand Idaho’s wine industry and attract tourism dollars.
Gina Davis, who started Davis Creek Cellars just 2 years ago with a tasting room in Marsing, moved into the complex in mid-September, having since moved all of her manufacturing operation (sans bottling and filtering), to the new Caldwell facility.
“Prior to this new facility, we stored our wines in 4 different counties; it took an hour-and-a-half drive to get to all of them,” said Davis, who produces 1,000 cases of wine annually.
Another benefactor of the new incubator is Martin Fujishin, who, in May, began producing his own wine under the Fujishin Family Cellars label, and intends to open a tasting room in downtown Caldwell in the next few weeks.
“It’s a natural fit,” Fujishin said. “And there’s the potential to bring in additional wineries. Camaraderie is key (in this industry); we’re small, and we need to keep moving forward.”
David Ferdinand, Canyon County Commissioner and chairman of Sage Community Resources, said projects like this are imperative for the expansion of the agriculture industry in a county like Canyon.
“Canyon County is ‘Ag County,'” Ferdinand said. “We have so much of it going on here, but we still need to work to expand and change that.”