Business

Prolific Idaho winemaker is selling his Koenig brand. No, not to a California company

One of Idaho’s premier winemakers has announced he will sell his 24-year-old winery in the Sunnyslope area west of Caldwell and shift his focus to small-batch reserve wines.

Greg Koenig and his wife, Kristen, are selling Koenig Vineyards to Sydney Weitz-Nederend and her husband, James Nederend, of Scoria Vineyards.

The sale price was not disclosed. The deal, which is effective June 1, includes the Koenig brand, its 17,000-square-foot production facility, tasting room, contracts to produce wine for other wineries and 10 acres of vineyards. The winery produces about 7,000 cases of its own wine annually.

The sale does not include Koenig Distillery, which produces vodka, Seven Devils Whiskey and fruit brandy. It is owned and operated by Greg Koenig’s brother, Andy Koenig. Its products will continue to be sold at the Koenig Vineyards tasting room.

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Sydney Weitz-Nederend and James Nederend stand in a vineyard at Koenig Vineyards. The couple, who own Scoria Vineyards, is buying Koenig from Greg and Kristen Koenig. Provided by Sydney Weitz-Nederend

Sunnyslope is part of the Snake River Valley Appellation, one of three American Viticultural Areas in Idaho. The designations are used to identify the origins of wines. Under federal law, wines identified by an AVA must contain at least 85 percent of grapes grown in that area.

Today, Koenig and his assistant, Martin Fujishin, produce most of Scoria’s wines. To help with the transition, Koenig will remain as winemaker for two years. James Nederend, who grew up working on his family’s 90-employee dairy farm near Marsing, will work under them to learn the wine-making business.

“That will keep the tradition going and keep everything as-is,” Koenig said.

In a news release, Weitz-Nederend, who was not available Friday for further comment, said Koenig worked hard to build strong relationships and partnerships in the wine industry.

“I’m honored that he’s entrusting James and I to continue the Koenig winemaking tradition,” she said in the release.

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Italian influenced architecture of the tasting room area at Koenig Vineyards in Caldwell. Statesman file photo

Farming family tradition

Scoria, founded by Sydney and her father, Joe Weitz, planted their first grapes in 2014. The Malbec and Petit Verdot varieties both originated in France.

She grew up in a farm family that for four generations and nearly 100 years has farmed the Snake River Valley. She spent a year working for Koenig at his tasting room when she was 20. The job came after her family planted the wine grapes and needed help putting in a trellis system. Koenig showed them how and later hired Weitz-Nederend.

Moya Schatz Dolsby, executive director of the Idaho Wine Commission, said she’s pleased to see Koenig “carrying on a legacy of mentorship and growth for the Idaho wine industry.”

“The Koenigs have been actively involved in the growth and promotion of the industry — as is evident in their expansions and participation as IWC commissioners over the years,” Dolsby wrote in an email to the Idaho Statesman. “Now it is wonderful to have Greg pass that along to a young winemaker who is hungry to continue that collaboration and success.”

Idaho’s premier winemaker

Besides his own label, Koenig also produces wines for 3 Horse Ranch Vineyards, Williamson Vineyards and Bitner Vineyards.

Seven of the wines he produced won gold medals at the 2018 Idaho Wine Competition. They included Koenig Vineyards’ 2014 Riesling Ice Wine and 2017 Riesling, along with Scoria’s 2016 Petit Verdot.

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Picture of the exterior of the new tasting room at Koenig Vineyards in Caldwell. Statesman file photo

The Koenigs plan to launch a winery focused on Cabernet Sauvignon at the nearby Fraser Vineyard. The couple bought the storied 4-acre vineyard last fall, after leasing it from Bev Fraser since 2014.

Fraser Vineyard was known for outstanding Cabernet wines and was named 2011 Idaho Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest magazine. The winery ceased production after its 2012 vintage, after Bev and Bill Fraser divorced.

Greg Koenig approached Scoria’s owners in February, seeking their interest in buying his winery. He said he didn’t want to put the winery on the open market and have a big winery from California or investors looking to make a quick profit scoop it up.

“We were reluctant to put it on the open market because we were afraid someone would come in, a big corporation or someone from out of state, and take over here and alter the relationship with the growers, our clients and employees,” Koenig said. “We couldn’t wrap our minds around handing it over to someone that was not going to continue the traditions and the relationships that we’ve been building here.”

The sale was first reported by Great Northwest Wine.

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Reporter John Sowell has worked for the Statesman since 2013. He covers business and growth issues. He grew up in Emmett and graduated from the University of Oregon.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.
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