Regional Wine Industry Entrepreneurs
Palouse and Lewis-Clark Valley Wine Industry
Regional wine entrepreneurs in the Palouse are building vibrant and diverse businesses that span state boundaries. Prime wine-producing areas abandoned during Prohibition are thriving again. Seven different local winemakers are producing award-winning products marketed far outside the Palouse and Lewis-Clark Valley. In the U.S. vineyards describe the pedigree of their wines using an Appellation of Origin. Appellations are defined either by political boundaries (county or state) or federally-recognized growing regions called American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).
The third and most recent Idaho AVA is the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA, authorized in May 2016. Centered along a 40-mile-long strip of canyons, low plateaus and bench lands formed by the Snake and Clearwater Rivers totaling 306,658 acres. It spans seven counties in Idaho and Washington and includes the cities of Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington. Set in a region of the Bitterroot Mountains, this area was a premier wine grape growing area in the early 20th Century. Following Prohibition, hundreds of acres of vineyards were abandoned, and many facilities fell into disrepair. Today it contains 16 vineyards, 20 unique varieties and five wineries.
The Palouse region encompasses the hills and prairies north of the Snake River, and north of the Clearwater River, centered along the Palouse River. It extends north along the Washington and Idaho border, south of Spokane. It does not include Camas Prairie and Walla Walla County. The Palouse wine industry, however, utilizes grapes from Eastern Washington vineyards as well as the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA.
Launched in 2004 by winemaker Patrick Merry, and an inaugural vintage of 400 cases, Merry Cellars now produces over 5,000 cases annually. Its wine club offers discounts and special shipping. A unique “wine tap” refills from taps at their Port of Whitman County, Henley Court facility in Pullman. Their grapes are handpicked from vineyards in the Columbia and Walla Walla valleys.
The oldest bonded winery in Whitman County. Wawawai Canyon Winery is family owned and operated. It was the first commercial vineyard planted in Whitman County since prohibition. Beginning in 1994 with a test block of twelve different varietals, they bottle and sell Cabernet Blend, Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, and Ittero Alli Rossi.
Extreme heat, marginally fertile soil and steep, steep slopes characterize the Canyonlands at Wawawai. Newly established vines may take up to five years before coming into production. An acre in the Wawawai Canyon will only yield about 1-2 tons of fruit during a good year. In contrast, most commercial vineyards yield 3-5 tons per acre. Berries grown in the Canyon are notably small, and flavors tend to be intense and concentrated. High acid levels also contribute to making these earthy wines.
Lewis-Clark Valley AVA Wineries
Started by Karl and Coco Umiker after joining a 2002 brainstorming group about starting a winery in the valley, Clearwater Canyon Cellars the Umikers and three other couples founded Clearwater Canyon Cellars. Their first commercial wine was “2004 Renaissance Red”. In 2010 the Umikers assumed sole ownership of the Clearwater Canyon Cellars with vineyards in Lewiston Orchards, Idaho and Clarkston, Roosevelt, Alderdale, Rattlesnake Hills, and Rogerburg Washington producing seven different wines. Dr. Coco Umiker spoke about Image and Branding at the 2016 “Be The Entrepreneur Bootcamp”.
Located in Lewiston, Idaho, Lindsay Creek Vineyards bottled their first vintage in 2009 from an original planting of 150 sticks of mostly Bordeaux varietals. Expansion continued to 15 acres as founders Art and Doug McIntosh went back to school at Washington State Univeristy. Art earned a Certificate in Enology (winemaking) and Doug got his in Viticulture (growing grapes). In 2013 a loan for an official winery building was obtained and 18 tons of fruit was crushed. They bottle Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Riesling.
During the late 1800’s, wineries from the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley won awards using locally grown grapes, until Prohibition. Basalt Cellars began in 2004 using grapes grown locally at our estate vineyard along with grapes from other quality growers around the Columbia Valley AVA ( Sagemoor’s Wienbau, Dionysus and Bacchus Vineyards, Dwelly Vineyard in Walla Walla, Verhey Vineyard near Union Gap, Willard Family Farms near Prosser). Basalt Cellars has gathered multiple gold medals on vintages of Merlot, Syrah, and Lemberger with the 2006 Lemberger and 2007 Merlot both awarded a Platinum Medals!
Established in 1983, North Idaho’s Oldest Winery is located in Bovill, Idaho and open seven days a week from noon-6pm. Wines are made using regionally grown grapes, fruits, berries and honey to make classic dry reds, crisp lightly sweet whites, and dessert wines. A selection of award-winning Meads are also available:
- Palouse Gold (honey and water)
- Strawberry Mead (ripe strawberries and honey)
- Huckleberry Mead (ripe wild huckleberries and honey)
Located in Juliaetta, Idaho, Colter’s Creek Winery has been crafting wines from their estate vineyard, along with vineyards in the Snake River Valley and Clarkston, WA, since 2007. In addition to an onsite tasting room, Colter’s Creek also operates a restaurant.
20-30% of their low-pressure drip irrigation systems are solar pumped, which eliminates the need for batteries. All vine trimmings, grape must, and pomace, are composted and re-applied to the vines. Winery processed water is collected in settling areas to reduce the biochemical oxygen demand (amount of dissolved oxygen required to decompose organic matter in liquid waste).
The winery building and barrel storage areas are super-insulated. Ground-sourced heat pump regulates the temperature. The cellar is housed in a concrete bunker dug into the hillside to minimize the need for additional energy.
Located in Lewiston, Idaho, Vine 46 is a boutique winery featuring a variety of red wines and a small sampling of white wines. At Vine 46 we deliver premium wine production from our two lead winemakers, Mike and Jeff.
Vine 46 wines come from Rosebud Vineyards which lies in the Wahluke Slope AVA in Washington. The family owned and operated farm has been producing excellent fruits for three generations. Their vineyard location is one of the driest, warmest sites in Washington. The land, climate, and expertise of the family who farms the land offer a wide variety of fruits including an amazing assortment of vineyards. Beyond the delicious fruits produced by Rosebud Vineyards, the family believes in working closely with winemakers.