The impact of Idaho's growing wine business

Make room, potatoes. The numbers are in, and one thing is clear: you're not the only thing in the ground people associate with Idaho.

As the awards for Idaho wines stack up (Idaho can boast 25 gold-medal-winning wines), so does the popularity and reputation of the product. Here at the Idaho Wine Commission, we've pored over the data, and poured a few glasses, to see what it means.

At the end of it all, we published our Idaho wine industry findings in our most recent economic impact report. Here are some of the highlights. 

Idahoans love their wines

As of the end of 2019, Idaho purchased more wine per capita than anywhere else in the nation, continuing an established trend. Wine sales from all sources (domestic and international) have been increasing dramatically in the state—up 51% between 2013 and 2017—and topped out at nearly 2 million cases from 2011-17. Of all these bottles sold, 10.5% were produced in Idaho. 

For every bottle sold, a wine excise tax is collected (exactly $0.45 per gallon) and reinvested back into the state. The total amount collected in 2017 was $5.8 million. Of that, 83% was allocated into a General Fund for future use, 12% for Substance Abuse awareness and 5% for growth and promotion of the Idaho wine industry. 

New wineries keep coming

In 2019, the number of wineries in Idaho reached 60 with Kerry Hill Winery, which opened its tasting room in the scenic Snake River Valley AVA and produces beautiful, nuanced wines and a whole bunch of other stuff—including native plants.

Already this year, SCORIA Vineyards added an additional location in downtown Boise. (wine club members were granted early access in 2019). And tucked away in the rugged Eagle Foothills, Dude DeWalt Cellars have recently completed their build, where they're creating wines that embodies the spirit of the land and the pioneers who came before.

Wine = jobs

Wineries are more than places where you go to enjoy a glass or pick up a bottle. They're also job engines, employing any number of talented and passionate people—from the farmhand to the cellar master.

In Idaho, wine accounts for about 2,320 jobs, with steady year-over-year growth (since 2011, the winery workforce has increased from 200 people per year to nearly 300 people in 2018).

The tourists are coming

Enotourism. Oenotourism. Vinitourism. These are all just fancy ways of saying wine tourism—a relatively new category of tourism that caters to enthusiasts who wish to experience all the sights, scents and scenery of their favorite makers on the spot, in person. For wineries, it's an essential activity for growth that end in more on-site sales and (more importantly) more meaningful, personal relationships with loyal customers.

And each year, Idaho's reputation as a must-visit destination grows. In 2017, more than 744,000 out-of-towners visited Idaho wineries—pumping nearly $109 million into the local economy, an average of $347 per person.

The bottom line and the road ahead

When you add it all up, Idaho wines brought in an additional $209.6 million to the state in 2017. That's no small potatoes! While our recent successes are cause for celebration, that was before the quarantine. Like other small businesses, our wineries still need our support—now more than ever.

No one knows how this great period of uncertainty will impact our industry or next year's report. But if there's one thing the numbers have taught us... every bottle counts.