A grape that Jovinea Cellars co-owner Lisa Grigg describes as a diva is playing an important role in the debut of her winery’s tasting room at Morgan’s Alley in Lewiston.

Two of the white wines on Jovinea Cellars’ tasting menu feature viognier, a lesser-known grape with a reputation for being difficult.

The yields of viognier vines are erratic, following no apparent pattern. And once the grapes ripen, they have to be harvested within a few days or they can become overly sweet, “flabby and very imbalanced,” Grigg said.

Despite those challenges, viognier is one of her favorites.

“They just have this perfume, but they’re also full-bodied (white wines) with so many flavors that pair well with so many foods,” she said.

Grigg’s willingness to pull the best from viognier grapes reflects the approach she and her husband, Michael Grigg, are taking at their winery, one of the newest in the region.

They plan to showcase more obscure grapes, like viognier, and better known ones, such as chardon-nay and merlot.

“Our goal is just to let the expression of that grape come through and present it an artful way,” she said.

The Griggs have been developing their knowledge of wine since they met when they both lived in western Washington.

He was an infantryman in the Army, and she was a financial analyst who helped invest millions for the retirement funds of Washington state employees.

When they dated, they went to wine tastings and began helping winemakers, which led them to decide they wanted a winery of their own.

With that goal in mind, they moved to north central Idaho in 2011 and purchased Allied Home Management in Moscow to have a source of income.

“We like the soil,” she said. “We like the climate. … We also like the fact it’s a young wine industry here.”

But running the property management business left them almost no time outside of work, because they were responsible for fielding tenant calls around the clock.

In 2017, the Griggs sold the business and their home, using the proceeds to purchase equipment and inventory from Carter Clary, of Woodie Cellars in the Lewiston area, who was retiring.

Lisa Grigg interned with Clary as part of the deal, and they started Jovinea, selecting the name of their business because it is a combination of jovial and the Latin word for vines.

“It’s been our dream for 10 years, so we wanted a name that reflected that (joy) of kind of kicking up your heels up in the vineyard and jumping for joy,” she said.

Skills they learned in their previous jobs are helping them run the business.

He attended culinary school and worked full time in the hospitality industry before burning out and joining the Army.

“He has a lot of the blending palate,” she said. “He’s also a general contractor, so he’s great with tools and with his hands.”

They are taking a conservative financial approach to the business, operating without debt. They’re making wine on her parents’ property near Lenore with grapes they purchase. Some are from the Lewis-Clark Valley American Viticultural Area, a federally designated grape-growing region of north central Idaho and southeastern Washington, but most are from other parts of Washington. Soon they hope to invest in their own vineyard to produce estate wines.

“It’s been a very educated jump into this industry,” she said. “Rather than pay for a lot of equipment, it’s a lot of hands-on for us. … That’s OK, because there’s some of us that goes in every bottle.”

Williams may be contacted at ewilliam@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2261.

Jovinea Cellars Tasting Room

Where: Morgan’s Alley, 301 Main St., Suite 106, Lewiston.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Phone number: (208) 718-8650.

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