For me, it began with a “light bulb moment” during a September 2013 presentation by Melissa Sanborn, owner of Colter’s Creek Winery & Vineyard and a commissioner with the Idaho Wine Commission. She showed a map entitled “Idaho Growing Regions” with three circled areas in the state of Idaho. Melissa said the Snake River Valley has official American Viticulture Area status, the Lewis Clark Valley is working on AVA status, and the area around Riggins and White Bird has potential. While her presentation focused on the Snake and LC valleys, my mind kept going back to the idea that the Riggins/White Bird area has wine grape growing potential.
Could the wine industry positively contribute to the local economy and community? In the end of 2013, Morgan Stanley issued a report showing the global supply of wine barely exceeded demand in 2012 and a shortage is on the way in coming years: global consumption of wine grew by 3.24 percent between 2008 and 2011, while global wine production grew by only 2.9 percent. In 2012, U.S. wine sales had an estimated retail value of $34.6 billion. In neighboring Washington State, wine contributes more than $3 billion to their economy. In 2008, BSU studied the Idaho wine industry finding it contributed $73 million dollars to the state’s economy including 625 jobs and $19 million in wages. All of this easily convinces one that the industry has merit, but would local residents be interested in pursuing it?
In November of 2013, Kelly Dahlquist of CEDA and I arranged a meeting in Riggins to determine public interest. More than 25 people attended the meeting, asking questions and offering information that there is non-commercial viticulture already taking place in the local area. The meeting included a presentation on the wine market, how wine contributes to the Idaho economy, the value the industry can have for communities and the key elements necessary for growing wine grapes. An initial vision for the Salmon River Wine Initiative includes growing grapes for wine production, selling wine made from those grapes, and a tourism based concept of promoting local sales of wine made from locally grown grapes. (Note: Wine tourists spend approximately 2.5 times as much as the average tourist at their destination!) The meeting concluded with a decision to arrange a second meeting in January to bring experts and resources to the community to further explore the wine industry.
The Salmon River Wine and Viticulture Conference will begin at 9 a.m. (MST) on Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the Riggins Community Center, 121 Lodge St., Riggins. The conference will include experts in viticulture, fruit crop production (Pomology), wine making, wineries, soil, water, business and finance as well as other resources and upcoming events. The conference is sponsored by the Salmon River Chamber of Commerce and its business members. To register for the event or view the conference agenda you can visit our website at www.ida-lew.org/projects/salmon-river-wine-initiative or contact me, Melisa Bryant, at 983-8302 or email@example.com.
Melisa Bryant is the economic development specialist for the Ida-Lew Economic Development Council.