Grape harvest

Farm workers harvest wine grapes near Caldwell Nov. 1. The Idaho Wine Commission will use a $315,000 grant to promote Idaho wine.

BOISE – The Idaho Wine Commission received a $315,000 grant this year to promote and market Idaho wine.

The funding was awarded through the Idaho State Department of Agriculture’s specialty crop block grant program, which awards funding to projects designed to help Idaho’s specialty crop industries.

The IWC, which represents Idaho grape growers and winemakers, has received several of those grants over the past decade.

The IWC’s regular annual budget is about $500,000 so the additional grant money enables the commission to accomplish a lot more, said IWC board member Michael Williamson, manager of Williamson Orchards and Vineyards in Caldwell.

“Those types of grants allow us to do a lot of things we otherwise couldn’t do, such as bring in an industry vineyard consultant to provide hands-on expertise to our growers,” he said. “They have also allowed us to fund projects like the Idaho Wine Quality Initiative, which has helped us really raise the bar for Idaho wine quality.”

This year’s grant funding will be used to develop an 18-month marketing campaign, with the guidance of public relations firm Fahlgren Mortine. The campaign will include advertising, developing relationships with national and Idaho media and a major social media campaign.

The end goal is to strengthen and increase consumer and media knowledge of the Idaho wine industry, which has grown rapidly in recent years.

Since 1976, when there was one winery in Idaho, the state’s wine industry has grown steadily, increasing from 11 in 2002 to 52 now.

Idaho’s wine grape growers produce about 200,000 16-bottle cases of wine each year and according to a study commissioned by the IWC, the industry has a $169 million impact on the state’s economy annually.

While the marketing campaign will target consumers in major markets, it will also focus on people living within Idaho, which is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation on a percentage basis.

“So many people are moving to Idaho and we want to educate those people about Idaho wine,” said IWC Executive Director Moya Shatz-Dolsby.

Shatz-Dolsby said she’s still amazed by the number of life-long Idaho residents who don’t realize that wine country is half an hour away from Boise.

“There is still so much work to be done to raise awareness of Idaho wines among people who have lived here a long time,” she said.

The ultimate goal of the marketing campaign, she said, is to expand sales of Idaho wine and wine grape production within the state.

The marketing campaign will continue and expand previous IWC promotion efforts.

“The more the IWC grows their national footprint, the greater the need to maintain those essential media relationships and keep positive momentum about the wine industry growing,” the application states.

The IWC has targeted key media in New York, San Francisco and Sonoma, Calif., in recent years. The new marketing campaign will target media members and influencers in Seattle.

The largest percentage of people who visit Idaho are coming from Seattle, “so it’s logical that we go to Seattle and talk to those journalists and influencers there about the Idaho wine industry,” Shatz-Dolsby said.

The campaign will also include a major social media push that will include educational videos about different aspects of the wine industry, including grape growing, harvest and bottling.

“We’ve never had a really good social media push (because) that’s expensive,” Shatz-Dolsby said. “The goal is to increase our followers and get them to come back to our website and interact with us.”

According to the grant application, in a 2018 focus group, the IWC learned that wine enthusiasts are driven to support a winery after connecting with its story. The commission plans to create short videos of 10-12 Idaho wineries that include stories about what makes them unique.

The videos will be used for content on social media, the IWC website, email marketing and paid promotions.

According to the application, 15 national journalists visited the state in 2018, which led to stories in USA Today, CNN and Wine Enthusiast.

“As a result of a concerted marketing effort last year, the IWC and the (Idaho) wine industry had over 224 million unique media impressions,” the application states. “When the IWC makes significant investments in marketing and advertising, the industry grows.”