Fujishin Family Cellars has a unique niche in the Idaho wine community—turning people onto something new by growing new grape varieties. For them, it’s what keeps winemaking fun. We sat down with co-founder Martin Fujishin (pronounced, aptly, like “magician”) to hear why growing lesser known varieties is worth the work, and how he and his partner and co-founder Teresa Moye continue to develop their passion for grape growing and winemaking.
Martin Fujishin is no stranger to a farm. “I grew up in agriculture and spent most of my childhood farming on both sides of the Idaho/Oregon border. We focused mostly on specialty seeds.” After studying business and organizational behavior at the College of Idaho, he found himself back in the fields—this time, working weekends in Koenig Vineyards while hustling on his own farm—and fell in love with the winemaking process. Little did he know that all of these experiences would one day lead him to open his own winery with Teresa.
Martin had the opportunity to work in California but was always committed to the idea of making Idaho his home for winemaking. “If I had chosen to stay in California, I would probably still be working in a regular nine-to-five job in a winery. Whereas here, we were able to start our own. Land prices are accessible. There's a community here that supports other wineries.” Martin also loves growing in Idaho because of the unique climate conditions. The diurnal shift in the high desert—meaning warm days and cool nights—creates big, beautiful flavors and aromatics not found in more temperate places. But that is only part of what drew him to start his business here. “We ended up in Idaho because of the culture and the people and the welcoming community,” he said. “The fact that it happened to be a fantastic place to grow grapes was just an added bonus for us.”
Fun, flavor, and family
At Fujishin, they keep things fun by focusing on interesting grape varieties. After all, there are hundreds of places that can make a Cabernet or a Chardonnay—and Fujishin does that too—but it takes a lot of work (and a bit of bravery) to perfect the growing practices of lesser-known grapes. That doesn’t deter Martin, who says that “part of the fun of winemaking is introducing people to something new and telling them about a variety they haven't seen before,” like Petite Syrah, Graciano, and Tempranillo—Martin’s current favorite, which originated in the Basque region of Spain. Boise, Idaho, happens to be the city with the largest population of Basques outside of Spain. “Tempranillo is a little bit more difficult from a growing perspective, but it's in many ways Idaho's answer to Pinot. It’s a slightly lighter red, but it has a lot of that same character.” Derived from the Spanish word “temprano” which means “early,” Tempranillo is an early-ripening variety that thrives in the rich, volcanic soils of Idaho. “We’ve been fortunate to work with growers who helped us expand the portfolio of grape varieties grown here,” he said.
One of the reasons Martin loves growing different grape varieties is experimenting with flavor—something that runs in his family. “My grandmother was a cook, and my great-grandfather had a restaurant way back in the day in Boise, so we've always had a real love affair with food. And wine and food are intricately tied together. Winemaking is just like cooking in so many ways, except every year, you get different ingredients to work with. You get different amounts of sun, rain, wind—you never know what Mother Nature's going to throw at you. She gives you a different set of tools to work with every year, and your job is to make those into something beautiful.”
Coming full circle
Martin Fujishin takes incredible pride and ownership in the entire lifecycle of a bottle of wine. “It’s the most diverse, fully integrated agriculture business I’ve ever been in,” he said. “Not only do we grow the grapes, but we make the wine, we package it, we market it, and we're actually going a step beyond that and handing that wine to the final consumer.” While that hand-to-hand delivery may be the final step, it’s being a part of the entire cycle that keeps things infinitely interesting for Martin.
This desire for complete creative control is what ultimately led him and Teresa to develop Windseeker, their new estate vineyard just outside of Wilder, Idaho. Located on a big ridge line with plenty of wind, southern exposure, and air drainage, Windseeker is to be the new home of Fujijshin’s high-end red varieties, with some production on site as well. It’s an impressive undertaking—but they didn’t do it alone. “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a family to run a winery,” Martin said. “Three years ago now, a number of Fujishin employees went out to Windseeker to help dig holes and get plants in the ground. And to see that same group of employees come and harvest those very grapes this fall, help us produce the wine, and eventually hand that bottle of wine to a customer has been completely fun and enriching for us, as a couple and as a family.”
This massive passion project is a culmination of everything Martin loves about what he does—from getting his hands dirty to sharing something new and uncommonly delicious with people he cares about.
“Every once in a while, we’ll see a photo of a bottle of our wine pop up on social media with somebody having it with their friends and family for dinner. I still marvel at that. It’s one of the things that still blows my mind every time I see it.”
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