The story of Fujishin Family Cellars is ever evolving along the Sunnyslope Wine Trail in Idaho, but you’ll never believe how it got to this point.
Though co-owner Martin Fujishin was an aspiring vintner dating as far back as the turn of the century, chances are he would not be where he is today had he not spent considerable down time beyond the vineyards and barrel rooms hanging out in the twilight world of online gaming.
“Tino” was his screen name when inside the vast fantasy domain of “World of Warcraft,” as he gradually developed a crush on another player, “Amalinda” — a.k.a. Teresa Moye of North Carolina. You’ve heard of “Romancing the Stone”? Well, this was all about romancing the gnome, or the elf, or the priest or hunter.
Along the way Tino and Amalinda became unmasked and got to know each other a bit in the real world, finally meeting in Dallas in 2007. Ever since they’ve been forming the kind of alliance in real life that online gamers only fantasize about — and the wine world is the beneficiary.
Teresa moved to Idaho in 2008. Under Martin’s gentle guidance, she has abandoned some of her early lower-shelf, higher-sugar wine leanings for the good stuff. She and Martin are engaged to be married — and heavily engaged in nurturing the Fujishin and Lost West labels.
When I asked Martin what the signature wine in the group was, he did not hesitate. Amatino is a blend of syrah, petite sirah and viognier, as well as a blend of their Warcraft screen names: Amalinda and Tino. How’s that for a wine and life pairing?
Though I’ve just recently met Teresa, who manages the brick and mortar and business sides of Fujishin — including creating some really cool labels — I’ve gotten to know Martin a bit more over the past couple of years.
He got my attention with his 2015 gewürztraminer, a dry style of the varietal that has brought me around to what he and Teresa are trying to do.
“I think what is unique about our winery is that it is still small, still family, and it’s a winery that is not afraid to experiment,” said Martin, who grew up in Oregon, where a brother still raises blueberries. He says he owes a lot to wine industry mentors Greg and Andy Koenig, and Ron Bitner of Bitner Vineyards.
“A lot of people when they go out to a winery they are expecting to see the regular Cab and Merlot — and that’s awesome,” Fujishin said. “But at the same time we like to do wines that are a little bit outside of the norm. There are a lot of our wines that we just fell in love with personally, not because they are guaranteed to be a huge commercial success — though we hope they will be.
“Things like mourvedre, things like dry gewürztraminer, they’re wines we make because we enjoy them. That’s something for us that is fun and exciting and keeps it fresh for us.”
At about 3,000 cases produced annually now, Fujishin would like to grow production to at least 5,000 cases. He foresees the Lost West label, which sources grapes from mostly outside of Idaho, expanding into varietals such as pinot gris, albarino and perhaps vermentino.
But for now stock up on the winery’s output of Amatino (that red blend), tempranillo, petite sirah, gewürztraminer and even a beautiful rosé.
Robert Ehlert: 208-377-6437
My go-to Fujishin wines
2014 Amatino, $25 (they were out during my visit but should be stocked very soon). This is a red blend of syrah, petite sirah and viognier.
2015 Gewürztraminer, $15, a wonderful dry-style version of this German varietal that will make you forget about chardonnay for a while.
2016 Rosé, $19, made from tempranillo. Better hurry, this is one of my top five rosés I tasted from around the world this spring and summer and it is in limited supply.
Fujishin Family Cellars/Lost West Winery, 15593 Sunny Slope Rd, Caldwell. Call (208) 649-5389 or visit ffcwine.com.