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Jovinea Cellars and the power of persistence

Posted by Idaho Wine Commission on Jan 13, 2021

Jovinea – pronounced joe-vinh-Ā-uh (with a long "a," not a long "e") – of Jovinea Cellars, is a combination of two words. The first is "jovial," meaning cheerful and friendly. The second is "Vinea," which is Latin for "Vine." When put together, you get the full meaning of one of the newest wineries in the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA: joy flows from wine.

For co-owners and winemakers Michael and Lisa Grigg, the joy they now feel from fulfilling their shared dream to own and operate a winery has been a long time coming.

"The goal was to start a winery, and we had no idea that life was going to throw so many wrenches and make it difficult for us to get here," Lisa explains.

But as they call out on the website, there's also joy in the journey.

It starts with a story

For Michael and Lisa, the way toward wine started out as it does for most of us: just casually discovering what's out there, one bottle at a time.

"All of our dating and young married life really kind of revolved around wine," Lisa explains. "We just started falling in love with the story of wine."

But it was discovering the science of wine – all the variables to it, all the chemistry of it – where the plot thickened.

"There are so many variables that go on with wine. Variables that people don't even realize," she continues. "It's more than just grapes and what barrel do you use. It's about the temperature. It's about time. It's about the method of how much oxygen, you allow."

For Lisa, all those variables – the sum of all those knowns and unknowns – is what makes winemaking so exciting and also beautifully unpredictable. "No two batches are the same," she says. "If you give the same grapes to two different winemakers and they come out very differently."

The journey begins

At the time, the Griggs were living in Olympia, Washington. And in 2010, the couple started talking about how they could turn their dreams of opening a winery into a reality.

There was just one problem: "Neither of us was really happy being in the Seattle-Portland metro area," she recalls. "Too many people. And the variety of grapes that we could grow, was not the style of grapes that we could really enjoy."

The cooler, wetter climate of Olympia was perfect for Pinot Noir. But their tastes ran more full-bodied. They wanted to be where Rhone and Petit Verdot could prosper. For that, they'd need to find a dryer, warmer – even Mediterranean-like–climate.

The search for more fertile ground began.

They settled on the Lewis-Clark Valley, which at that time was a very different place. "There were only three wineries operating in the valley," Lisa remembers. The nascent Idaho wine industry was nowhere it is today. Lisa could see all the elements were there.

"Just reading about the soil and the climate – and just coming in and seeing the area – it was a fit, not just for the wine side but also our lifestyle," she recalls, adding "Having some space and some recreation, and a place to raise children, it just worked on all levels."

But building a winery doesn't just happen overnight. First, they would need to fund their dream.

Adapting to change

To help build the capital they'd need to get their winery up and running, the Griggs bought a property management company in Moscow in 2011. They were now in a period of transition between their old lives and the life they wanted.

At the time, neither had any idea how long it would take to get there. Like wine itself, the road toward starting a winery from scratch is rarely a straight line.

It would be another two years before they moved permanently to the area, and another five years before opening the winery in 2018. The tasting room came just in 2019.

"Property management businesses take up so much time," she explains, "So, that was how we got ourselves here. But there was no way that we could function doing a winery while being on call 24-7 as property managers."

Even so, they never gave up. If winemaking had taught Lisa anything, it was how to adapt to changing conditions. "So, the goal has been there, and we've been steady on the goal but as far as achieving, the goal has changed," she notes. "The vineyard is still to come. That's still the unfinished project here."

A dream fulfilled

Establishing a winery has been as much a test of patience and finding the right timing as the process of making the wine itself. Despite all the delays, the Griggs persistence is finally paying off.

Not only are they living their dream, but they also managed to place their tasting room in the midst of a mini renaissance in downtown Lewiston.

"For a long time, Lewiston was a kind of rough-and-tumble town," Lisa explains. "And there's been a big move to bring interesting businesses and traffic downtown. You can feel the energy."

And Jovinea fits right in. "It's a small cozy space – about 400 square feet," Lisa estimates. "But the building has so much character and it just doing wonderful as far what we envisioned our style. And even now I walk in and I just love the character of it."

Although, there is one lingering concern: the building used to be a bordello. "It's supposedly haunted by the Lady in Blue," Lisa admits. Although, despite the small space, she has yet to meet her.

She continues, "But I have talked to so many people that have felt her presence that I say 'hi' every once in a while when I walk in. I just try to be congenial."

Seek joy

Today, Lisa represents a vanguard of female winemakers in Idaho. And while she's aware of her unique position, she doesn't see herself as an icon. "Winemakers come in all flavors," she maintains.

If anything, she, along with her husband, is just happy to be finally in the mix.

"It's been a dream for about 10 years for us and we're so excited to finally be doing it, and humbled to be a part of it. And there's a lot of camaraderie that goes on and I really appreciate that," she notes, adding, "I've had people offer me barrels and bottles and things when I needed it. I hope that spirit never goes away because that's where we're at now."

So for now, she's just happy to continue honing the story of Jovinea and its joyful wines. And continue to fall deeper in love with the science, of course. "The science is beautiful in the fact that I am always learning, and enjoying learning," she explains. "I don't think there's gonna ever be an end to learning in this process."

After all, wine has already taught her life's biggest lesson: how to adapt and, more importantly, persevere.

She offers this analogy: "Even if I did the same thing two years in a row, my wine would not taste the same. Because there are external factors winemakers have to adapt to. So sometimes we have to plan for what we're doing, but when those grapes actually come in, that plan changes. You have to be prepared."

Otherwise, your dreams may never come true.

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