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His goal: revive the vino

5/13/2011

His goal: revive the vino
·          May 13th, 2011
·          (0) comments
By Joel Mills of the Tribune
UI graduate David McIntosh has plans to turn his dad's wine-making hobby into a business

University of Idaho graduate David McIntosh of Lewiston hopes to cultivate his career in business an... 
 

MOSCOW - If history does indeed repeat itself, David McIntosh may have a winner on his hands.
As part of a business plan competition this semester at the University of Idaho, McIntosh researched the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley's century-old legacy as a fertile home for vineyards.
"Wine grapes were first planted in Lewiston out of the whole Northwest back in 1872," said McIntosh, 22, who graduates with a finance degree Saturday. "They were making wine and selling it not only nationally, but worldwide, and winning these worldwide awards."
The heyday of valley wine making lasted from about 1890 to 1910, he said.
"Then prohibition took it away in 1919."
Now McIntosh wants to bring it back. His post-graduation plans include not only a job as an investment associate in Vancouver, Wash., but starting a small business growing wine grapes in the Lewiston Orchards with his father, Doug McIntosh.
He is a longtime wine lover, but the wine-making bug bit Doug McIntosh in 2004, when he planted a dozen different grape varieties, which are called cultivars.
"It's been a hobby for him," McIntosh said.
Doug McIntosh spends the bulk of his time running the wheat farm that's been in the family for four generations. He got so obsessed with wine making, however, he enrolled at Washington State University, where he earned a viticulture certificate. He researched grape growing, and took numerous field trips to the vineyards of Washington, his son said.
"That really showed him how to tend to the grapes, and exactly how they fully mature," McIntosh said.
Now the 2-acre experimental plot has five thriving varieties of grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Sangiovese and Chardonnay.
His dad's hobby gave McIntosh the idea to develop a business plan with three classmates to enter it in the UI College of Business' Vandal Innovation and Enterprise Works program's annual Business Plan Competition last month.
Kayla Didier of Lewiston, Charlie Chadderdon of Coeur d'Alene and Jerry Wroten of Jordan Valley, Ore., worked with McIntosh to devise plans for a 20-acre startup vineyard in the Orchards. The operation would focus on red wine grapes, because the valley is roughly at the same latitude as the Bordeaux region of France, McIntosh said.
The grapes would be sold to area wineries, and the operation would expand as success allows. The plan for "Lewis-Clark Vineyards" eventually calls for grapes to be grown in various locations over the entire valley.
Buying land and securing water rights would be the major hurdles for the company, not to mention the three or four years it would take to get a salable crop, McIntosh said. But once up and running, the ongoing operation can have fairly low overhead, like water costs.
"It's very minimal," McIntosh said of a grapevine's thirst for water. "They like to be stressed. That's how wine grapes are - the more stress the better."
Whether the businesses plan is executed or not depends on investors. "I have very minimal capital to put toward this project right now," McIntosh said.
But some family members and friends have expressed interest, as did some people who viewed his team's presentation at the competition.
The plan won second place and $1,500 in the small business track, and could have taken first if its profits would materialize sooner than three or four years, McIntosh said.
His partners have all said they are interested in keeping the project going.
"Now, after going into detail with (the business plan) and doing well in the competition, and actually seeing where this could potentially lead, that's something we're looking at," McIntosh said.
But for now, the small Orchards vineyard will remain an experiment while McIntosh gets his career started. His dad also has short-term plans to put in another 21/2 acres of new vines about a half-mile down the road from the existing plot.
And McIntosh will be there to help.
"When I get out of college, I have the pleasure of going out to plant some more grapes."
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Mills may be contacted at jmills@lmtribune.com or (208) 883-0564.