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How to Make a Winery from Scratch

Today I’m excited to have guest poster Crystal Potter of Wine Workouts and Whippersnappers! This is Crystal:crystalpotter2

Thank you Crystal for agreeing to write for my blog – take it away…

Yes, the title of this post is absurd. Welcome to my world. Absurdity aside, I think the title is appropriate for two reasons:

  1. Here at WineDineDIY Michelle does a great job of focusing on Idaho wine, in-the-kitchen experiences and tackling home projects. I thought my guest post today should celebrate those themes.
  2. I really do feel like my winemaker and I have built a winery in Idaho from scratch. We started with nothing but a vision and some sweat equity (we filter the sweat out of the wine before we bottle, so no worries).

So to honor this creative female’s blog I’m intruding upon, I’m going to teach you how to make your own winery from scratch!

Step 1: You become newly unemployed which gives you the time it takes to hone a new skill/craft such as winemaking.

This is where it all begins. It’s true what they say – one door closes and another one opens, you just don’t know it yet. My winemaker didn’t have the foresight to know that he would be good at making wine one day. All he had was time on his hands, a wino for a wife and a $!@# ton of grapes. Read, educate yourself, get messy, drink a lot of wine, make a lot of wine, watch a lot of wine explode in your garage…your spouse won’t even notice your lack of a job because they will be so thrilled they have unlimited wine to drink any time of day.

Step 2: You constantly think up insane ideas.

“Jalapeno wine? Seriously?” This was my initial response to my talented winemaker after he had made quite a few great batches of conventional wine already and he wanted to try something new. I couldn’t believe he wanted to go rogue on me. I couldn’t fathom what that would entail. Then I tasted this crazy idea nine months later and couldn’t wait to tell people about it. Dream it up, friends. People are manufacturing and selling powdered alcohol for crying out loud! Pretty sure your idea possibly has potential, not to mention a niche. Go with it until you know better.

Which leads me to…

Step 3: You don’t know any better.

One thing I believe every great entrepreneur has in common is the inability to think that they can’t do something. My husband is one of those people. He doesn’t know he can’t do something. He doesn’t think about that ahead of time, he just goes for it. Many of us think too much and psyche ourselves out – “I’m not going to be good at that” or “I’m worried I’ll embarrass myself.” One big step in making your own winery is to think you really will make it work. You don’t know the how or the when of it, you just go for broke (some years even literally!). As someone who owns two businesses, I can tell you that your stubborn gene (the one that’s too much of a jerk to admit it’s not good enough) will keep you afloat when the going gets rough. Plus, when the going gets rough – you always have wine!

Step 4: You enter competitions.

You start with amateur competitions at the state fair, for one. Maybe you win a few and shock the judges because they have no idea who you are. Then you move on to professional ones. You just immerse yourself into the competition culture because, quite frankly, why the $#@! not? What do you have to lose? You have everything to gain, especially as a lowly winery that started from the bottom. You let these competitions fuel your motivation, not your ego or your attitude towards other wineries. You win a few medals and put your head down and get back to work.

Step 5: You partner up with someone who craves entrepreneurship at all costs and maybe even majored in marketing and communications once upon a time.

So you don’t know squat about the business and marketing world. No biggie, just find someone else who does and make them your partner. For my winemaker, this was me. I’m a third generation entrepreneur-aholic. I don’t know any different and I hate working for other people. I will do whatever it takes to call my own shots. I’m a terrible accountant and I hate paperwork. Guess what I hate more – not being my own boss. Suddenly I’m a QuickBooks sponge and an expert at filling out a ridiculous amount of forms. (I do mean ridiculous – you should know now that if you’re planning to be in the wine industry that half of your time will be spent at the computer filling out silly reporting forms and you will hate it. But you will love that if you want to cry it out over a glass of wine before you finish that damn excel spreadsheet, you can do that without some anal retentive HR department firing you for drinking on the job.) As with all self-employment, you will find out what you are good at and what you are not. In the wine world, if you aren’t the one making the wine then know thy place is in the office, on the phone, and running the business side of things. In our case I gladly accepted this role because quite honestly, I stink at making wine.

Step 6: You work your arse off.

You will drink a lot of wine in this business but you will sweat it all out between crushing, fermenting, bottling, labeling, corking, selling, marketing, and reporting it. Doesn’t owning a winery sound romantic when you read the magazines or watch movies? It is romantic at times, especially when the Syrah you’ve been aging for two years comes out better than you could have imagined. But 80% of the time you will feel underappreciated and overworked. And you will wake up to do it all over again every day because somehow, this is exactly what you really want.

Syrah Crush

Crusher Destemmer

Von and Crystal Potter

Step 7: You lean on others.

Because you have so adequately carried out Step 6, you will need to pay special attention to Step 7. You will need a super support system in place to be in the wine industry. You will need grandparents, siblings, friends, baby sitters, cousins, aunt and uncles, and neighbors. You will need to find like-minded entrepreneurs who completely get it. You will lean on farmer’s market organizers, industry associations and people who love what you do and what they do and want to collaborate. You will need to listen to your customers and know what they like, where they eat and what their hobbies are. You will build your own network of the right people, not the one that worked for your best friend who owns the carpet installment business. All of these people will fuel your fire, make what you do possible and many of them will be super fun to drink with.

Step 8: You educate yourself constantly.

I have no idea how my husband knows the things he knows about making wine. But I do know he’s constantly teaching himself things, reading things, trying new things and learning. Just as I am constantly figuring out procedures, learning how to do something more efficiently and fine-tuning my organization skills (always an area for improvement!). We both get to learn a lot about wine and most recently I attended a sensory seminar that just blew my over-active mind. You think you’ve heard all there is to know about wine? Keep your head in the game; you’re just warming up.

Step 9: You enjoy farmer’s markets and community events.

Even if you don’t know that you love these things yet, you will. These things will be your home base. They will be what lifts you up to get you where you want to be. You want to develop a solid customer base and community support? Head to the streets, my friend. Farmer’s markets and community events have been our tasting room for the last two years and it will continue that way until we build our own tasting room. The people at these events are quality and they’re looking for you. So love them.

Step 10: You remain humble.

I really do think there is a stigma when it comes to wineries – at least when I tell people we own one and they immediately tell me they can’t wait to see our tasting room and I’m wondering if in their mind they’re thinking dollar signs. That could just be my own stigma of what comes to mind when you hear the words “I own a winery.” Nevertheless, I actually am quite proud to tell people we don’t have a tasting room yet. We’re not rich. We’re making a winery from scratch. We don’t know everything about wine. We also like gin and whiskey. We’re just two business owners who are also raising two tiny humans, just like many of you. We’re going after the American dream much like everyone else. We are super humble (I have even been known to cry “uncle” now and then). Humility is the key to success, in my opinion. This is coming from the woman who has been known to change her son’s nuclear bomb of a diaper in the farmer’s market parking lot. Keep it honest, folks.

Crystal PotterCrystal Potter lives in Boise, Idaho with her winemaker Von and two little humans, Lila and Luke. She owns Poise Health & Fitness, co-owns Potter Wines and when she isn’t building forts for her children she blogs about wine, fitness and child-rearing. Visit Crystal:





My Shabby Chic Coffee Table(2)

My Shabby Chic Coffee Table

Just before Christmas I painted and distressed my grandparents’ old brown mid-century coffee table.

Here is how it turned out:

Coffee table  close up

Coffee table leg

Coffee table front

Coffee table side

Coffee table top

My Shabby Chic Coffee Table

The tutorial for how I distress furniture can be found here.   However, on the coffee table I used a 120 grit sandpaper sponge block to give it a more well-loved look.

I think it turned out great!

Have you distressed furniture before? What tips and tricks do you recommend? Tell me in the comments.


Valentine’s Day at Idaho Wineries

Valentine’s Day is this Saturday and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than at an Idaho winery!

Are you spending the day with that special someone? Take your sweetheart to events during the Chocolate and Wine Weekend on the Sunnyslope Wine Trail.

Single? Get your friends together and go urban wine tasting in Garden City.

Here is a breakdown of the winery events statewide:

Garden City

Coiled & Telaya

  • February 14, 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
  • Valentine’s Day Dance!  Commemorative wine glass, live music and a pasta truck will be on-site.
  • $10 per person.

Split Rail Winery

  • February 14, 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. 
  • Pouring 3 wines, each paired with a sweet treat.
  • $7 per person.

Sunnyslope Wine Trail

HAT Ranch Winery and Vale Wine Co.

  • February 14 and 15, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Wine pairing with specially prepared chocolates including chocolate dipped berry truffles.

Hells Canyon Winery & Zhoo Zhoo

  • February 13, 14 and 15, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Wine tastings, sweet treats, discounts on bottle and case purchases.
  • $7 per person, $5 wine club members.

Huston Vineyards

  • February 14-15, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Release of 2014 Chicken Dinner White  and 2012 Private Reserve Petit Syrah.  Paired with chocolates and s’mores!

Sawtooth Winery

  • February 14, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Wine, gourmet cheese, chocolate and live music. 
  • $20 per person, $15 wine club members.

Ste. Chapelle Winery

  • February 14, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Wine tasting, chocolate fountain with pretzels, angel food cake, marshmallows and a wine glass.
  • $10 per person.

Williamson Orchards & Vineyards

  • February 13-14, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. 
  • Pouring 12 different delicious wines paired with chocolates and caramels. Buy 3 bottles of any red wine and get a bottle of Late Harvest Viognier free.
  • Free photo booth!


Indian Creek Winery

  • February  14, 12:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 
  • Valentine’s Bazaar includes blending station, wine tasting, chocolate, wine glass, crafts, live music and a taco truck will be on-site.
  • $10 per person, $5 members 

Coeur d’Alene

Coeur d’Alene Cellars

  • February 13-14, 6:00 p.m.
  • 3 course dinner with wine pairings.
  • $60 per person, $55 wine club members
  • February 13-14, all day
  • Valentine chocolate and wine tasting experience.  3-wine flight and 3-truffle pairing.
  • $15 per person, $12 wine club members


Colter’s Creek Winery

  • February 13-14, 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
  • Four course meal with wine flight option.
  • $50 per person, reservations required.

Lindsay Creek Vineyards

  • February 14, 5:00 p.m.
  • Dinner, wine and after dinner dancing to live jazz band.
  • $75 per couple, reservations required.

Please drink responsibly and find a designated driver whenever necessary!

For more information on any of the wineries listed, please see the Idaho Wine Commission website.

Food Hack Friday - Turning Leftover Spaghetti Sauce into Chili

Food Hack Friday – What to Do with Leftover Spaghetti Sauce? Chili!

At our house I’m cooking for two, and sometimes it’s impossible to make a dish that doesn’t leave tons of leftovers.  I freeze them, I box them for lunch, and on occasion I hack them by turning last night’s dinner into today’s brand new meal!

I think everyone, regardless whether they’re feeding just themselves, or four people, or fourteen, ends up with leftover spaghetti sauce. We manage to get the noodles right, but somewhere during the process the sauce triples itself.  After one such occasion it dawned on me that all the sauce might work well as a chili base.  I’m happy to say that it did, and even better it works with pretty much all types of spaghetti sauce.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Here's what you'll need!

Leftover spaghetti sauce
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1 can chili beans in sauce
1 can black beans, strained
1 can tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp chili powder
½ tbsp cumin
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground mustard
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp ground pepper

Let’s hear it for spices!  They are the key to this hack.

Here’s how you hack:

In a large pot soften bell pepper and jalapeno in olive oil over medium heat.

Diced yellow bell pepper and jalapenoIn a large pot soften bell pepper and jalapeno in olive oil over medium heat.

Add chili beans with the sauce from the can and the strained black beans.

Chili beans in sauce and strained black beansAdd chili beans with the sauce from the can and the strained black beans.

Mix the spices in a small bowl (brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, ground mustard, ground pepper, salt).

Mix the spices in a small bowl

Pour them in the pot, stir, and let them cook with the beans and veggies for 5 minutes over medium heat.

Pour spices in the pot and let them cook with the beans and veggies for 5 minutes over medium heat.

Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf and water.

Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf and water.

Throw in the leftover spaghetti sauce!

Leftover spaghetti sauceThrow in the leftover spaghetti sauce!

Stir it up nicely and cover!

Reduce the heat to low-medium and cook for one hour stirring occasionally.

Stir, cover and cook chili for one hour

Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream and corn chips!

Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream and corn chips!

As I mentioned earlier any type of spaghetti sauce works.  I used a ground turkey based sauce, but could have gone with chicken spaghetti or vegetarian and the chili would still be delicious.

What do YOU like to do with leftovers?  Please let me know in the comments!

An Introduction to Idaho Wine

An Introduction to Idaho Wine

When people’s thoughts turn to American wine regions, they usually think of Napa Valley and other California American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) such as Sonoma or Lodi.  Outside California, other sites like Walla Walla in Washington and the Finger Lakes AVA of New York make the list.

I’m guessing that unless you’re an Idaho resident or a total wine nerd you probably haven’t heard of the Snake River Valley, which is Idaho’s first and only AVA.

As someone lucky enough to live (and drink!) in the great state of Idaho, I’m going to let you in on a little secret:  Idaho wine is kind of a big deal.

Why? Because the pieces that could motivate wine lovers enough to get the Gem State on the map are coming together right now.  First come the growers, then the winemakers, then the ever-growing customer base.  People start drinking, talking and writing. Awards and acclaim follow.  This IS happening and it’s an exciting time!

So let’s talk about Idaho for a minute.  The following is an excerpt from my blog post about terroir:  “It’s in the Pacific Northwest, but it’s not a coastal state. We experience four full seasons.  Weather in Idaho can be kind of weird, cloudy morning, sunny afternoon or vice versa.  We can have warm days and cool nights.  Summer months are H-O-T! Rain and snow levels tend to be moderate (mountains excluded).  Huge swaths of the state are maintained as arable land to support numerous farming operations, while other geographic areas have been clearly marked by a history of volcanic activity.  Lots of rivers and lakes can be found, as well as a vast flood plain.”

In other words it’s ideal for grape growing.

Last September Idaho held its 5th annual Idaho Wine Competition, held by Great Northwest Wine at Ste. Chapelle Winery in the heart of the Snake River Valley (to see a complete list of winners please go here.

I’d like to share a few of my favorites that claimed top awards.

Huston Vineyards 2012 Malbec

Huston wine

Winner Best Red and Best in Show.  Huston Vineyards 2012 Malbec is 14.3% alcohol.  Fruit, spice, and earth revealed on the nose.  These transfer nicely on the palate with warm tannins and a spicy mouthfeel.  Lingers on the tongue well after the swallow with a solid finish.  An A wine (see how I rate wine here).

Coiled Wines 2013 Dry Riesling

Coiled wine

Winner Best White Wine. Coiled 2012 is 13.1% alcohol by volume and has less than 1% residual sugars, making it dry by definition.  It has floral fruity scents, particularly melon and citrus.  That fruitiness translates to the flavor which is wonderfully tangy with just a bit of acidic bite.  The strong finish clinches my A rating.

Sawtooth Estate Winery 2013 Classic Fly Series Cinsault Rose’

Sawtooth wine

Winner Best Rosé.  Sawtooth Cinsault Rose’ is 13.30% alcohol by volume, 95% Cinsault and 5% Muscat Blanc.  This is a dry delightful Rosé with a sweet strawberry-peach smell and vague floral notes.  Though it has definite fruit flavors, it is quite dry with a crisp mouthfeel and smooth finish, an A wine.

I hope this inspires you to buy Idaho next time you are pursuing the wine aisle!

*This article first appeared as a Guest Post for The Desert Wine Guy.