The way Eric Smallwood sees it, the stigma for Idaho wineries began in 1979. That’s when sneering waiter Steve Martin served Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy a bottle of “sparkling muscatel, one of the finest wines of Idaho,” in “The Muppet Movie.”
“Don’t you want to smell the bottle cap?” Martin asked.
“Granted, Idaho wines were barely getting a start then,” Smallwood says, “so I get the joke.”
Still, Martin’s cameo was in the back of Smallwood’s mind when he created the “kicking” concept for Idawine, a new release from Holesinky Vineyard and Winery in Buhl, Idaho. The bottle’s brash rear label shows the boot-shaped state of Idaho giving a swift kick to Oregon and Washington, states with superior winemaking reputations.
A red blend with a bright bouquet, Idawine is 33 percent syrah, 33 percent merlot, 17 percent cabernet sauvignon, 17 percent malbec — and 100-percent Idaho pride.
“We’ve heard it, we’ve experienced it,” the label says. “We’ve felt it — our neighbors looking down at Idaho wineries as the red-headed stepchildren of the Pacific Northwest. Well guess who is all grown up now, and coming at you loud and proud from South Central Idaho. Totally delicious! Totally Idaho!”
Smallwood, the winery manager at Holesinsky, hopes drinkers appreciate the teasing spirit of the jab.
“It’s not like I have anything personal against those states or wineries in them,” he says. “It’s just I feel we have come into our own as a wine region and can hold our own.”
Holesinsky has already shown potential to play with the big boys from a marketing perspective. The winery’s Blackout, a wine celebrating the eclipse, sold out three weeks after it was released this summer. Blackout was even highlighted on “The Today Show.”
Idawine, which is 13.9 percent alcohol by volume, has all the makings of a popular Idaho stocking stuffer. “Gift-wise, people are loving it,” Smallwood says. It runs about $18 at the Boise Co-op Wine Shop and City Center Wines in Boise, plus A New Vintage Wine Shop in Meridian and Erickson Fine Wines in Eagle.
“You know how people are cutting down wine bottles into glasses now?’ Smallwood says. “I think that’s going to happen a lot with those bottles.”
Will Idawine change perceptions about Gem State wineries? Could the Idaho Wine Commission launch a statewide “kicking” campaign?
“It would be fun,” Smallwood says, “to get Steve Martin out here to do a follow-up cameo celebrating Idaho wines.”
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