A Bountiful Harvest
Photo: Video by IdahoOnYourSide.com
Another dry, hot summer made for excellent growing conditions for the grapes in Idaho's own wine country, and our recent cold streak isn't causing problems for local growers. In fact, winemakers at Koenig Winery and Distillery say this year was better than ever.
Winemaker Martin Fujishin has been making wine for Koenig for more than seven years. And while weather conditions have been optimal to make superb wine, he says, it's all in letting the grapes be their best.
"Our main job as winemakers is to not get in the way of the wines being what they want to be. So we have to ripeness, bring them in, get them fermented in timely manner, and make sure that those grapes that are coming in get the opportunity to be the best wine that they can be."
It's not a job for the impatient. If you planted grapes tomorrow, you would not get your first harvest for nearly three years. The grapes are handpicked off the vine, then brought in to be de-seeded and pressed. Fermentation is the next step, and that can take anywhere from seven to fourteen days. The wine is then captured in aging vessels, which depending on the type of wine, require another twelve months to three years. Some of the wine in these barrels may be used to flavor other varieties of wine.
"So we do everything from dry whites like Veonnay to big heavy reds like Sirah and Cabernet clear up to ice wine and late harvest wine as well. And the ice wine is one of our particular specialties."
Plucked frozen from the vine and pressed frozen, ice wines are a rich, sweet dessert wine. It requires that the grapes are left hanging on the vine until there is a good hard freeze. After the grapes have been frozen for several days, they are prime. It's the freezing temperatures in the winter and high dessert climate in the summer with it's hot days and cool nights that produce grapes that have bright fruit flavor that is high in sugar but holds onto the acid to create a crisp clean finish. Fujishin says they still have to rely on mother nature for their bounty, but it's a beautiful dance.
"The biggest challenge is that it's still agriculture. But that's also the most fun too. That we get to get a little bit different set of ingredients every year, and every year we get to try and create something beautiful out of that, that's really exciting."
Wine making is obviously something the Koenig crew puts their heart and soul into. They also have a distillery that makes brandy and and even potato vodka. Their tasting room is open Friday through Sunday, 12-5. Due to state liquor licensing restrictions, you can buy the huckleberry and potato vodka, but samples are not available.