What started out as a passion project for winemaker Will Wetmore is gaining momentum. The Idaho Wine Commission sat down with Will to learn what makes his label, Veer Wine Project, so unique, and how he’s let his curiosity lead the way since day one.
Q: Veer Wine Project is an interesting name. How did this project get its start?
A: I have been part of the winemaking team for Hat Ranch Winery since 2014. In 2016, I started making my own wines under the name Veer Wine Project, which is just a little side label—a way for me to try different winemaking styles and techniques than the wines I was making for my employer. At first, I was mostly selling to friends and family, so I got to experiment with different fermentation styles, different grape varieties, and other things I read about that winemakers were doing and I wanted to try. That's why I called it Veer, which means a sudden change in direction. I wanted it to be a reminder that I can always try something different. And I wanted to call it a project because, in my mind, it was literally a project, not a winery.
Q: What kinds of different styles have you enjoyed experimenting with?
I've started to embrace wild fermentation a little bit more, where you don’t inoculate the wine with any yeast and just let it happen naturally. I’ve also been trying orange wines, which are white wines that you let ferment with red grape skins so they get this nice, dark-orangish color.
Q: Do you have a current favorite wine to make?
A: I like making Rosés a lot. I think they're a fun way to express yourself as a winemaker because you can do them in so many different ways, with different grapes and techniques.
Q: In what other ways do you "veer" from the status quo?
A: This is kind of silly, but the back labels of wines will often say things like, “Oh, this wine tastes like this and pair it with this.” And I did that on my wines at first, too. Then when I held my grand opening, my brother came to visit and said, “Don't put that on the back of your labels. Tell people how the wine was made, or where the grapes came from. Give them more.” And he was exactly right, because that’s what I want to tell people about anyway. I want them to know that I was experimenting with whole cluster and wild fermentation after visiting New Zealand. I want to take them on that journey with me.
Q: Why make Idaho the home of Veer Wine Project?
A: There isn't a preconceived notion of what wines have to be like from here. I like how it feels new. There’s not a long history with wine in Idaho. Ten years ago, there were maybe half the number of wineries as there are now. It’s growing really fast. And it’s a fun feeling to be at the start of something. There are fewer barriers to entry. I don’t need a million dollars to buy a vineyard like I would to start a winery in Napa. It’s like the new frontier of wine. And sharing it with more people is my goal.
Q: And how is the project going?
A: Up until this past year, I was doing maybe just over 100 cases, maybe 200 cases of wine, selling mainly to friends and family. And then this year, back in January, the Boise State University MBA program had a senior capstone project that ended up selecting Veer as a client. They helped me do a business plan, get more of my story on paper, do a little bit of marketing, and update my branding. But the biggest thing they helped me with was filling out the paperwork to get my federal and state licenses. With that taken care of, I was able to rent my own space, get my own permits, and open my own tasting room this past July. I love being able to talk to customers, share some wine with them, then walk them over and show them where it was made. Now I'm getting my wines into more people's hands, and I feel like Veer is starting to become a bit more than a project.
Q: What’s next for Veer?
A: We just opened a tasting room in our production facility, which is one big warehouse. The back of the warehouse looks and feels like a real tasting room, but the other half houses barrels and pallets of wine, plus whatever I’m working on at that moment. I love coming in and sharing wine with people and getting to talk to the customers. We’re only open four days a month right now, so it’s pretty exclusive. The plan is to open up more tasting hours as soon as we can. We also do a wine club that ships to most states. We do two releases a year: a fall release and a spring release.
Q: How did the wine club get started?
A: Well, my friends and family can only drink so much wine! And since sharing our wine with more people was the ultimate goal, the wine club was our logical next step. This was also the first year that I signed contracts for grapes instead of just buying whatever someone had, so now I can actually make a plan for the next three years. If I can grow the wine club large enough, I’ll be able to build a stand-alone tasting room and have all my wine sold before making more. And that will allow me to veer off in any direction that calls to me.
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