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Local winery sees ups and downs in COVID-impacted year

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As summer wraps up, wineries are starting to harvest their grapes for next year’s bottles.

Williamson Orchards and Vineyards is a local winery in Caldwell that has been through four generations of family, and they say they have never seen a year like this one.

“We’re picking Viognier! It’s one of our first grapes that come off for the season,” Co-Owner Patrick Williamson said.

The bright green grapes on the vineyard rows will be crushed and eventually turned into a bottle of white wine.

[Cream of the crop: 44 North to launch new huckleberry product]

Highs and lows

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Williamson says sales have seen a mixture of high and lows throughout the last few months with COVID-19.

“Sales were depressed a little bit during the shutdown. When we got the release to get out of the lockdown, we did see kind of an increase in sales from the shutdown, but we weren’t at our normal levels. July, we did see a bit of a drop, and we’re not sure if its corona or if people could just go out and do more things.” Williamson says.

Williamson says they are working on increasing their presence in grocery stores to help improve sales.

“People are not going to the tasting rooms, but they’ve got to go to the grocery store, so it’s like ‘oh, I’ll grab a bottle of Idaho wine off the shelf there,'” Williamson said.

Working to boost exposure

Willamson Orchards and Vineyards is not quite big enough to have a distributor yet which they tell us would help get bottles in the grocery store aisles.

“We have limited exposure in those stores right now, but we’re working on it. Part of it is that most stores want a distributor,” Williamson said.

Instead, they rely on consumers to help. If consumers ask for a certain brand, the stores usually listen.

“Just having the consumers go to the grocery store and say, ‘Hey, I want you to have more Idaho Wine, I want you to have more Williamson wine’ is a very big help,” he said..

Since a significant portion of sales comes from their tasting rooms, they fear what the winter months might bring.

“We’re going to be limited to our tasting room space, and our sales are normally really low after or right around Christmas and so it just drops. As everyone gets shut into their homes because of winter, think about your local wineries as well,” Williamson said.

The tasting room for Williamson Orchards and Vineyards is open now, and customers are required to stay six feet apart while tasting their wines.

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Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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