GARDEN CITY, Idaho — Eight years ago, wine lover Hailey Parsons began her journey to become winemaker Hailey Minder during a trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
As a result, she and her husband Marshall named their young sparkling wine house - the first in Idaho - 3100 Cellars.
We wanted to look at this as the joining of two loves we have Idaho wine and Idaho rivers, she said.
There are 3,100 miles of frothy whitewater found throughout the Gem State, and the logo of 3100 Cellars features the underlay of a topographical map.
There are lots of ways to build a brand, but I really like sparkling wine and no one was dedicated to it in Idaho, so we thought we could make that our brand, Minder said.
Last year, the Minders rhymes with cinders made a splash as the 2014 Whitewater méthode Champenoise won silver medals at the Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition and the Idaho Wine Competition. The showing for the inaugural commercial bottlings has prompted Wine Press Northwest to name 3100 Cellars as its 2018 Idaho Winery to Watch.
We spend a lot of time working on this during the evenings and weekends, she said. Our friendships have definitely suffered, but it has helped us shaped our priorities. And these days, we dont make as many plans to go on river trips.
It was love at first sight when Hailey met Marshall on the Middle Fork during a special summer 2010 trip for her grandmother.
She wanted to float the Middle Fork one last time, Marshall was the guide, and my parents and grandparents were chaperones that week, she said. The next week in the mail he sent me a package that had a bouquet of wildflowers that he had picked.
Their path to wine took a number of twists and turns.
On the river, he likes gin and tonics, and so do I, but he was a beer guy when I met him, she said.
Hailey, a third-generation Idahoan, grew up in Caldwell and graduated from The American School in Switzerland before matriculating to Lewis & Clark College in Portland.
Her true introduction to wine came in 2010 after early graduation when a trip to Europe led her to a life-altering visit to Spumante Peruzzi in the Italian community of Monte Roberto. She rewrote her itinerary to spend time in the cellar and organic vineyards of sparkling winemaker Liana Peruzzi.
I knew I was really fascinated with the wine industry after I left her place, she said. Her approach was less about the science and more about the farm-to-table aspect.
She tucked away that experience but began to think about it more often after a series of frustrations as a grade-school teacher.
Here I had these great liberal arts degrees and my parents couldnt understand why I couldnt find a job, Minder chuckled. I said, I applied for 10 jobs today.
Her mother, while attending a winemakers dinner in Boise for Sean Boyd of Rôtie Cellars, approached the Walla Walla vintner about helping her daughter land a winery job. While he didnt have a position open at his winery, Boyd arranged for Minder to meet Mike Moyer, then an assistant winemaker for famed Figgins Family Wine Estates.
I didnt do my research very well, Hailey admits. I was wearing high heels, but I should have been wearing Carhartts because it was a harvest position.
She got the job, and that 2011 crush experience at Figgins included Leonetti Cellar, Doubleback and the familys Lostine Cattle Co. The time with perhaps the Northwests most famous winery family got her a job back home with Earl and Carrie Sullivan of Telaya Wine Co., in the Boise bedroom community of Garden City.
I dont know how many applicants Earl and Carrie had, but I got the sense that set me apart from the other applicants, Minder said.
Her studies within Washington State Universitys viticulture and enology program have allowed Minder to grow into the role of Telayas assistant winemaker. The Sullivans allow her to work on the 3100 Cellars wines at Telaya.
Marshall works in the tech industry for Ross Lamm, who is married to Coiled winemaker Leslie Preston, producer of the dry sparkling Riesling called Rizza.
Marshall and I have learned a lot the last couple of years, she said. We keep coming back to make sure the acid levels are high enough to handle more sugar and handle it beautifully. I dont want to have a sweet sparkling wine.
In 2016, they spent six weeks at British sparkling wine house Langham Wine Estate, learning more about their craft.
I really felt like my time at Lianas (in Italy) pushed me down a path that I normally wouldnt have gone down, she said.
The Minders rely on local fruit for 3100 Cellars drawing on Bitner Vineyard in the Sunnyslope Wine District for both the blanc de blanc Whitewater (Chardonnay) aged 30 months on the lees, and Runoff Rosé (Syrah, 26 months). Both are finished bone-dry, and everything is done by hand.
Marshall is the disgorger, she said. My thumbs arent big enough to be as fast and effective as he is.
In the near future, 3100 Cellars will include an estate program. Her parents bought 10 acres of land in the Eagle Foothills American Viticultural Area, where theyve established Finca Besada Vineyard with 4 acres of Chardonnay, 1 acre of Syrah and an acre of Malvasia Bianca. The Weitz farming family behind Scoria Vineyard has shared some expertise with Dr. Lee Parsons, an OBGYN with designs on retirement soon.
My dad has been falling in love with working the land and flushing badgers, Minder said.
If all goes well, those first estate bubbles will hit the market in 2022, but there will be a more important celebration this spring with the Minders expecting their first child. That new addition may well slow their plans to grow from 400 cases to 2,000 cases and offer tastings beyond by-appointment.
We borrow equipment from Leslie Preston, and the time we spent at Cinder (Wines) with Melanie Krause and Kat House was really a good learning experience for me, Minder said. We definitely feel like theres been a lot of support for us in the Idaho wine community.
Eric Degerman is co-founder and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.