Koenig Winery Wins Big at China Wine and Spirits Awards

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Koenig was awarded “2013 USA Wine Producer of the Year” along with individual awards for two vintages, says Idaho Commerce.

The STEP Grant is a wonderful tool available to small businesses like us. The process to apply is straightforward and not at all complicated and Idaho Commerce was always available to help with questions I had along the way

Koenig Distillery and Winery, located in Caldwell, recently returned from the China Wine and Spirits Awards with the highest honor – 2013 USA Wine Producer of the Year. The wine competition is one of the largest international competitions in the world and was held the first week of March. While there, Koenig also won a double-gold medal for its 2012 Riesling Ice Wine, and a gold medal for its 2011 Riesling Ice Wine.

Koenig Winery was founded in 1995 by Kristen and Greg Koenig in Idaho's Snake River Valley with the idea of producing fine varietal wines from grapes grown exclusively in Idaho. A couple of years later, Kristen’s brother, Andy, began Koenig Distillery, where he produces European-style brandies, along with potato and huckleberry vodkas.

The idea for the distillery and winery stemmed from the siblings’ time spent living in their father's hometown in Austria where they were exposed to the great culture of local, artisan wines and spirits. Their mother grew up in southwestern Idaho, and during many visits to their grandparents' farm in the Snake River Valley, the two realized the area's great potential for growing world-class fruit and grapes.

The Koenigs purchased property in the Sunnyslope district in 1994 and began planting vineyards and orchards the following year. While the businesses have grown much larger over the past 18 vintages, the family remains committed to craft production and has garnered many awards over the years.

By working with the Idaho Department of Commerce and the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, the Koenigs made contacts in Taiwan and mainland China. With these contacts established, they were able to use State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) grants to further the relationships by visiting Hong Kong and Taiwan. They also did market research during their visits to ensure that these new partners were a good fit for the business.

“For such a small business as ours, the grants allowed us access to markets we would otherwise not have attempted to approach,” Kristen Koenig said. “The STEP Grant is a wonderful tool available to small businesses like us. The process to apply is straightforward and not at all complicated and Idaho Commerce was always available to help with questions I had along the way.”

The STEP grants, as well as the guidance by the State agencies, were vital to initial orders from importers. Besides these Southeast Asian markets, Koenig also sends products to Canada, Brazil and Denmark.

Koenig wines are primarily sold to consumers in Idaho as it is difficult to distribute to other states – especially California, Washington and Oregon – which have their own wine industries. However, Koenig has been able to export wines to Taiwan, China, Denmark and Canada over the past two years, largely due to help from STEP grants and logistical assistance from the Department of Agriculture.

Koenig produces around 3,000 cases of wines and 2,500 cases of spirits annually. While it does not plan to expand its product line at this time (Koenig currently has 14 wines, five brandies and two vodkas), it would like to increase production and sales of existing products. This likely will be achieved by continuing its efforts in the export market.

To learn more about Koenig Distillery and Winery, visit its Web site here: http://www.koenigdistilleryandwinery.com/

To learn more about the STEP Grant and Idaho Commerce’s export services, visit our Web site here: http://commerce.idaho.gov/international/

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Megan Ronk
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