Newcomers and visitors to Idaho are often surprised to discover a flourishing wine industry. In the late 70s Idaho had one winery that I know of. Now there are over 50 wineries around the state, many clustered in the southwestern region near Boise.
Many of the wineries are small and must think creatively to keep costs down. One way to boost loyalty and defray labor costs is to invite the public to participate in wine making chores like grape stomping and planting.
One of my favorite local wineries, thanks to their hospitality during my Sideways by Bike tour many years ago (and, by the way, the subject of my first blog post), is one such small winery. Indian Creek Winery has been showcasing splendid Pinot Noirs and a host of other varieties and blends for 34 years. In that time, vines grow old and unable to resist pests and diseases. When their productivity declines, it’s time to replace them.
This year, the owners purchased a batch of Malbec and Tempranillo plants from Washington. It’s imperative to get those little guys into the soil as soon as possible. Planting thousands of plants is daunting. But even a black thumb like me can learn the basics.
Finally, winemaker Mike McClure replaces the drip irrigation lines, ensuring that each plant is lined up with an emitter. A finished row looks like this:
Conveniently, at lunch time, the roiling clouds that had been chasing each other across the sky opened up. A light drizzle became a downpour. We hustled back to the storage area adjacent to the tasting room where founders Bill and Mui Stowe greeted us with one of Mui’s famous, delicious lunches.
Mui is constantly on the move. When she’s not in the kitchen cooking up batches of food for hungry workers, she’s tending the extensive gardens of the winery grounds, or she’s helping with whatever else is going on grapewise. I hear she’s a force to be reckoned with on bottle labeling days.
The rain gave up while we were eating. After a few more hours in the field, we ran out of grapes vines to plant!
My efforts were generously rewarded with two bottles of wine of my choice.