CALDWELL, Idaho — In the heart of Idaho's wine country, on the historic Sunnyslope Wine Trail, lies Williamson Orchards and Vineyards, featuring over 11 decades of history and family traditions.
“I think there is more dirt in our veins than blood we just can't help it,” Beverly Williamson, Williamson Orchards and Vineyards co-owner, said.
From cherries and apples to Syrah, the Williamsons have grown it all over the past 111 years.
"Lillian Williamson Gannon and her husband George Gannon so Lillian is our great aunt to the fourth power. She came from Abbington, Virginia in 1909 through the Homestead Act to essentially buy some land here in Idaho," Beverly said. "They got two 80-acre parcels for a steal of a deal. I think it was, like, $200 dollars per 80-acre blocks."
At that time, the land was all sagebrush. Lillian and George had to dig a well and build a windmill in order to get water so they could survive.
"Let's be honest, Idaho is a desert, and if you don’t have access to water, you are not going to make it so the fact that they got the well dug and that windmill built meant that they were going to last and they did," Beverly said.
They were one of the first farms to start growing fruits in the area, including cherries and apples.
Lillian and the windmill are often featured on Williamson's products today.
For the family, those two represent perseverance.
“We were raised with this attitude of perseverance, hard work will pay off, and planning for the eventuals that could happen," Beverly said. "That is where Lilly and her husband George or her younger brother Henry, their ingenuity, perseverance, and their idea of sticking to it, I think that is how we keep them alive today."
As time went on the family grew and so did their family business.
Now, four generations later, siblings Mike and Beverly Williamson, along with their cousin Patrick Williamson, transformed their family's orchard into an award-winning vineyard.
With their family's background in growing fruit, Williamson wine tends to be fruity.
“Think fruit-forward wines. That does not mean sweet. It means you are going to taste acidity in the wines, but it is going to be very well balanced with oak expression, meaning the tannins and the oaky, woody flavor or sometimes a smoky, earthy flavor," Beverly said. "All are going to have elements of very smooth and silky mouth feels or sometimes very clean and refreshing mouth feels with very intense fruit flavors."
If you ask her to choose a favorite wine, she'll say all of them. She was able to narrow it down to a couple of new wines and a fan favorite.
- 2020 Albariño:
- “Our 2019 Albariño won some very big awards. At the Idaho Wine Competition, we got "Best of Show Double Gold" and "Best in Class," Beverly said. "It sold out so fast, but I am so happy it’s back in our 2020 vintage. It's a Spanish white. It’s dry, crisp, and clean and has pretty exotic flavors like lemongrass and pineapple. When I drink this, it takes me somewhere tropical. "
- 2020 Dry Rosé:
- "This is the first time we have done a blend, so we have got Temperino, Cinsaut, and Carmenere in this blend," Beverly said. "It's really dry, but the flavor you get some really nice strawberry notes, hints of pineapple, and even a little bit of tart apple. So refreshing on during our hot summer days!"
- 2018 Sangiovese:
- "This is the fan-favorite. The one we are most famous for is our Sangiovese because we were the first vineyard in the state of Idaho to plant the grape," Beverly said. "Ours is one of our lighter reds, and the flavor you get off of this is going to be some bright acidic notes, so think like cranberry or pie cherry, and then it rolls into this earthy and smokey flavors."
To check out more of their wines, click here.
You can also visit their tasting room inside a remodeled barn, next to a rustic house that was converted into an event room and office space.
Even as Williamson has evolved and expanded, one thing that's remained the same is their way of life. It's something Beverly calls their "farm-charm," and it's reflected in their tasting room.
“We know we are not going to be fancy. We are not going to be your polished Napa or Sonoma tasting room, and we don’t want to try and be that," she said. "We are going to be ourselves and ourselves include a little bit of dirt and sometimes it might be we tell a slightly inappropriate joke maybe. I don’t know, but every time you step in here, you are family."
A unique experience mixed with handcrafted wine which goes along with their farm's motto of mixing old-world growing practices that have been in the family for over 11 decades with new-world technology.
“We are always looking for new technology that will help us do something that we have been doing for a long time, but do it more efficiently. But, there are things that we won't ever be able to get away from. Growing practices that have been with us forever," Beverly said.
Something that's taken on a whole new meaning throughout the pandemic. They've found ways to get creative and still connect with customers.
But after all these years, what would the original founders, Lillian and George, think?
“I have wondered about that myself. What would Lilly and George think or what would Henry think? What would Grandpa Jack think? I think they would be very, very happy that we were still farming," Beverly said. "Everything they taught us was about making sure that all the perseverance, ingenuity, hard work was still focused around how to make a living off the land while still being a good steward of the land, so we continue to pass on the land to the future."
And the future is looking bright at Williamson Orchards.
"There is a fifth-generation on their way up," Beverly said. "But just like we weren't pressured to take over, we aren't going to pressure them, but I think they would really want to."
Although a lot of Williamson's focus is on their vineyards, they still maintain their orchards.
If you don't like wine, are looking for a family-friendly activity, or just love fruit, they open their orchards for U-Pick events. You can stop by from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 25 or June 26 and pick cherries from the orchard.
They provide the buckets, and teach you how to pick!
For more information on this event, click here.
To learn more about the family's history, their wines, fruit, and everything else Williamson Orchards and Vineyards has to offer, visit their website, willorch.com.