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VIEW's Vino on the Vine

By Karen Hunt

David McIntosh knows that time and patience are what makes a good glass of wine.

Watching his father plant and care for a two-acre plot of grape vines, McIntosh wanted to create a business where local wineries could chose from a variety of red grapes.

McIntosh enlisted the help of fellow University of Idaho seniors Kayla Didier, Charlie Chadderdon and Jerry Wroten to create a Vandal Innovation and Enterprise Works – or VIEW – business plan for what they would call the Lewis-Clark Vineyard. While vineyards in southern Idaho grow mostly white wine grapes, the Lewis-Clark Vineyard would grow red grapes.

“We would be the largest vineyard in North Idaho producing ultra-premium red wine grapes,” says Chadderdon.

Lewis-Clark Vineyard would sell the premium grapes to wineries across Northern Idaho and Washington. For the local wineries that travel a great distance to buy red grapes, it would cut the cost of travel expenses and allow the wineries to begin production within hours, instead of days.

The vineyard is set to be located in the Lewiston and Clarkston Valley, where rich soil and a temperate climate creates an ideal growing season.

“The Lewiston Valley is a very unique location in Idaho,” says Chadderdon. “It has more growing degree days than Walla Walla.”

The climate isn’t the only reason that Lewiston is ideal for starting a vineyard. The average acre in the LC Valley costs $1,900, compared to $16,000 in Walla Walla, Wash., and $85,000 in Napa Valley, Calif.

“The land cost is definitely a big advantage for us,” says Didier.

This wouldn't be the first time a vineyard was planted in the LC Valley. In 1872, two French immigrants and one German immigrant planted the first vineyard in Lewiston, long before any vineyards in Washington or California were planted. Lewiston soon became the wine capital of Idaho, known for its award-winning wines. But by 1919, all wine production stopped, due to the prohibition era.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that vineyards began to make their appearance in Idaho again, this time in the Snake River Valley.

“Wine consumption in the U.S. has more than tripled since the prohibition,” says Didier. “If it continues to climb, the industry could boom.”

The wine industry is certainly doing just that. In the state of Idaho, it has become a $73 million industry, according to a Boise State University study. In 2010, there were 43 wineries and nearly 1,600 acres of grapes planted in Idaho.

“Vineyards are starting to spark in Lewiston, too,” says McIntosh. “The Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers Commission is planning to propose an American Viticultural Area in our designated growing region. It would give the wineries and vineyards a lot more credibility and name recognition as well as a competitive edge against vineyards in the Snake River Valley.”

The team would hire McIntosh’s father to manage the vineyard. They also would hire three workers to care for the vines in the initial three-year growing process. When the first harvest comes, three additional workers will be hired.

“We’re really blessed to have David’s father as a mentor on this,” says Didier.

With two of the group members from Lewiston and McIntosh’s father being the manager, the team hopes to spark interest in local wineries and people within the community who enjoy making red wine.

“We’re excited to be working with the local community,” says Wroten. “Our number one goal is to get the local community involved.”

“We’re excited to show people and investors our idea,” says McIntosh.