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New leader hopes to bolster Idaho wine industry

CALDWELL, Idaho — The incoming director of the Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers Commission hopes to make Idaho a wine destination for tourists, much like the wine regions of California, Washington and Oregon.

Sherise Jones, a consultant with five years of experience touting Idaho agricultural products, has been hired as the commission’s new private contractor-director.

“They really wanted someone with a marketing background and focus to help them really put Idaho wines on the map nationally, to raise awareness for the quality of wines that are being produced here,” Jones said.

Tourists could be directed to Idaho’s wineries through a proposed Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway that would include signs and maps to the local viticultural areas, Jones said.

The Department of the Treasury last month declared the Snake River Valley in southwestern Idaho and southeastern Oregon as an American Viticultural Area. The designation is for grape growing regions that produce wines with a distinctive style and taste, stemming from factors ranging from climate to soil composition to geography.

The Snake River Valley is the first such area for Idaho’s growing wine industry, and encompasses 15 wineries and 46 vineyards stretching from Twin Falls into Oregon.