The ABCs of the IWC

So, you get our emails, read our blogs, and love Idaho wine. But how much do you know about us and the work we do? And more importantly, how can YOU help us help grow the popularity of Idaho wines? If you read last week’s blog, you already know our Executive Director, Moya Dolsby, and how she helps aspiring winemakers start down the path of success. But there’s a lot more that happens behind the scenes.

In the beginning

It all started 13 years ago when a fresh-faced girl from Seattle moved to Boise to take the reins of a fledgling Idaho Wine Commission. Moya was young, but not inexperienced. She had already made a name for herself at the Washington Wine Commission, where for nearly five years she was doing everything to put Washington wines on the map.

“When I first got here, it was just me,” she remembers. Now, she manages a staff of three and holds the purse strings to an enviable amount of green. Originally, “we had a budget of $200,000. Now our budget’s almost a million dollars,” she adds.

But staff and budgets weren’t the only things to grow. “There were just 38 wineries in 2008,” she says. “And now there are 69.”

This type of success doesn’t happen on its own. It takes a bottomless reservoir of time, energy and dedication to grow an industry from the ground up.

A is for Awareness

“I often say that we're walking billboards,” Moya explains.

That means singing the praises of Idaho wines to anyone and everyone who will listen—including journalists, legislators, restauranteurs, hotel management, aspiring winemakers, established winemakers, friends, friends of those friends, out-of-towners, Uber drivers, etc.

Literally anyone.

When asked what a typical day is like, her answer is quick. “I don’t necessarily know what I’m walking into. Every day is different,” she answers.

While the means may change, the end is firm. First and foremost, “we’re here to market and grow all Idaho wineries and growers,” Moya explains. “What that means is providing them education (bringing in speakers, sending them to conferences, asking what they need) and providing consumers education—like doing events to raise awareness, traveling with and talking to journalists from around the country and also dealing with legislative issues.”

She continues, “I try to tell their stories—just raising awareness and pushing people to them. I can't make you open a wine. But I can get people excited.”

And believe us, behind every winemaker is a fascinating story bottled up just waiting to be poured out. In fact, we’ve already captured quite a few of them in this very blog.

Just like all things these days, social media is a big part of our success. So is our email subscription list, of which you may already be a member. If you’re not, sign up today for the latest news, special offers and other exclusive content.

B is for Bureaucracy

When Moya first started, “I didn't realize the job would be as political as it is.” But as she’s always done, she just dove into the fray wholeheartedly, working alongside politicians to change laws so they’re more conducive for wineries and growers.

One recent legislative success that just went into the books in April is House Bill 232, which is… complicated. But in very simplified terms, it has to do with how taxes (known as excise taxes) are generated from the sales of wine and beer and distributed across state agencies. A change to the tax was going to slash our budgets by nearly half.

“It’s a chunk of change that would have been going away,” Moya explains. “And we use the money to pay for staff, rent and hard costs. We worked with legislators to separate the beer and wine tax.”

Because of COVID-19, the commission lost more than $200,000 of revenue in 2020.

“Legislative successes like the passing of House Bill 232 help secure our budget,” Moya shared.

Another recent hot-button issue getting plenty of attention is land preservation. “Due to the growth of Idaho, agricultural land preservation has become an issue” she explains.

C is for Community

The final piece of the puzzle is where you—our beloved community of Idaho wine lovers and ambassadors—come in.

As Moya puts it, “I want the locals, real Idahoans, to be our support. I want them to drink Idaho wines and not think twice about it."

Not everyone gets it. So, sometimes you just need to help them see the big picture. Like the hotels. “When you’ve just checked in, I want that hotel person to say, ‘Have you been to an Idaho winery?’” Moya explains. “That doesn’t happen all the time.”

Same with restaurants. Some of the same restaurants that sing the praises of eating local don’t have any Idaho wines on the menu.

Sometimes they just don’t know where to buy them, Moya says. “Call your distributor. Call your winery. There are ways to get anything if you really want it,” she adds. But other times, the response is much, much stronger. “Sometimes, I’m told, ‘Oh, there’s no good Idaho wines,'" she says. “So, then it’s my job to educate that restaurant buyer.”

One popular way to convert naysayers into believers is our Idaho Wine Bootcamp, which happens each Spring. Only at this Bootcamp it’s all sipping, not sweating. “That’s been a big success for us,” Moya says.

What's next?

In the 13 years that Moya has been at the IWC, the Idaho Wine industry has grown not just in size, but also in reputation.

“Definitely the perception of Idaho wine has changed,” Moya notes. "We used to have to beg people to try Idaho wine and that's not the case anymore. People want it and are asking for it.”

But there’s a long way to go.

“Right now, we’re not top of mind,” she states. “I want to be top of mind.” She continues. “I don’t want to cram it down your throat, but I want Idahoans to be our support. I want them to drink Idaho wine and not think twice about it."

And until we get there, Moya’s not going anywhere.

“I’m never satisfied. It’s never enough,” she declares. “I get fired up about it. That's why I'm still here. Because our work is not done.”

Be an IWC devotee

As we say on the website, the easiest way to support Idaho Wines is by drinking and enjoying them. But if you’re looking for other ways to get involved, here are just a few…

  • Wear "I Support Idaho Wine" swag
  • Volunteer your time working IWC events
  • Become an Idaho wine advocate
  • Host an Idaho wine tasting party
  • Ask for Idaho wine at local restaurants and grocery stores

What else can you do?

“Tell your friends to try to Idaho wine.” Moya says, adding, “That's the best tool for us. And if you're going to a restaurant, ask for Idaho wine—even if you don't want wine.

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