The Idaho wine industry is growing as fast as the grapes they rely on and no one knows it better than one local family evolving their business to meet industry needs for more than a century.
The Williamsons have been harvesting crops on the same plot of land since 1909. Originally a dairy farm, the family has thrived as a 700-acre fruit orchard growing cherries, peaches, apricots and plums, but now their focus is grapes.
The family business is now operated by Beverly Williamson, her brother Michael and cousin Patrick, and as Beverly has learned, it’s a full-time hands on commitment.
“Driving a tractor? Fork lift? Sure!” Beverly said laughing. “But I'll also greet you in here and pour some wine!”
When it comes to the finished product, in order to make great wine you need great grapes, and the crop relies heavily on logistics for temperature, soil type and sunlight.
“We’ve got some award winning wines that can compete with California,” Beverly said. But in Idaho, “you're not going to be inundated by hundreds and hundreds of tourists! It feels more authentic here still.”
The Williamsons planted their first batch of grape vines in the late 1990’s as the Idaho wine industry first began to blossom.
“I think we made one of the best moves possible at that time!” Beverly said. “We've had to expand the vineyard I think three times now!”
The family now harvests 50 acres of vines, growing more than eight types of grapes for more than a half dozen wineries in the state.
While the fourth generation of Williamsons is technically in charge, Beverly says it’s hard for the older Williamsons to step away from the family business. Her parents even built a house on the hill above the vineyards to keep a close eye on operations.
“My dad is retired, but you almost can't keep him out of the vineyard,” Beverly said. “He'll sneak down there with his cup of coffee, check on my brother and my cousin and the pickers and just see how everybody's doing.”
Over the next decade, the Williamsons hope to expand their vineyard a few acres each year to help keep wine glasses across the Gem State full of fresh, local Idaho wine.