Fujishin Family Cellars' history really began in 2007. Martin Fujishin, the winemaker, was working as the assistant winemaker for Greg Koenig, of Koenig Vineyards and Distillery, moving from his previous position as Tasting Room Manager. He would often make suggestions to Greg about trying different things with his wines, until Greg finally offered his suggestion that Martin should try these things with his own wines. He began to seriously mull this over with his girlfriend (Teresa), who encouraged the leap, and he set about getting it started. Finally, in 2009, the paperwork was completed, wine had been bottled and labeled (the original label design was created with some help from Tammy at Indian Creek Winery), and it was "all systems go." The first releases of Fujishin Family Cellars were a 2007 Merlot and 2008 Viognier on May 1st, 2009.
Their first wines ready to go, Martin and Teresa set about finding a place to sample and sell their products. At the suggestion of Ron Bitner, of Bitner Vineyards, they entered a joint tasting room arrangement with Bitner Vineyards and Vale Wine Company, which was also a new winery (then owned by John and Vickie Danielson). Martin, Ron and John are all graduates of the College of Idaho, so they decided to name the joint tasting room "Coyotes," after the school's mascot. "Coyotes" opened in downtown Caldwell, near the Indian Creek, in the fall of 2009.
Concurrently, the Fujishin's approached the University of Idaho Agribusiness Incubator for a small production space. Working in conjunction with the staff, they assisted in the remodeling of a couple of bays to create climate-controlled spaces; specially designed for start-up wineries. There they could crush grapes, bottle, label and store case goods on a small scale, without the big costs of a regular winery. They quickly began to grow out of the space they had leased and began contemplating the next steps.
In the spring of 2010, they decided to seek a more permanent tasting room and production facility in the scenic Sunny Slope area of Caldwell. Martin approached a well-known fruit ranching family, the Robison's, who were renovating their previously outdated fruit packing shed into an updated fruit retail space. Located along Highway 55 (also known as Sunnyslope Road), it was a beautiful spot amongst the orchards with easy traffic access. The Robison's agreed to allow the Fujishin's some space in the parking lot to sample and sell wine in a tent outside their fruit stand.
This didn't solve their labeling and storage issue, so the Fujishin's continued to rent space at the U of I Incubator. Martin continued his work as Koenig's assistant winemaker to make ends meet, while Teresa took care of labeling and selling the wine. Each weekend, when permitting allowed, they set up their tent at the fruit stand, keeping the bottles in a cooler to protect them from the summer heat. Although they did not have much, all the necessary pieces were finally in place. They continued this schedule in the Sunny Slope Wine Tent until that fall, when an even better opportunity arose.
The manager of the fruit stand, Richard Kincheloe, wanted to retire from the fruit business, but Stanley Robison, his ailing father-in-law and the pioneer of the Fruit Ranch, desired its continuation. Martin and Teresa,, acted on the opportunity and offered to manage the fruit stand, in exchange for some inside space to sell their wines. This led to a phenomenal partnership and a boon for both businesses. The Robison's allowed the Fujishin's to bond the property and move their small winery into the Fruit Stand in the fall/winter of 2010, after most of the fruit had been sold that year. In their immense gratitude for this partnership, the Fujishin's created a second brand (Lost West Winery) just so they could pay tribute to the pioneering spirit of the Robison's, who were instrumental to the growth of Fujishin Family Cellars in its' early years.
In 2011, they were finally able to move out of the U of I Agribusiness Incubator, as they had reached maximum capacity in their bay, and streamlining the fruit and wine storage made the bay unnecessary. They increased their production to 800 cases that year as they began releasing 2-varital blends.
2012 bought about many changes. The Fujishin's hired their first employees, Joe Pickett and Annie Morrison, as Teresa decided to pursue a degree in Information Technology. They received their first gold as a winery, from the Northwest Wine Summit for their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. Then on December 26, 2012, 98-year old Stanley Robison passed away, leading the heirs to begin working on a strategy to retire from the fruit business altogether. In the meantime, the Fujishin's continued to sell fruit as the family finalized the transition and leased their orchard's to Symm's Fruit Ranch. The final bin of Robison Fruit Ranch's apples was sold in the spring of 2014.
All the while, wine production increased to 1000 cases a year, then to 1500 the next year. In touring different wine countries, Martin and Teresa fell in love with lesser-known wine grapes, such as Mouvèdre, Tempranillo, and Petit Verdot. They began focusing on bringing such wines out of the shadows in Idaho, where they contracted with different vineyards to source their new-found passions and encouraged the new plantings of these grapes.
Teresa received her degree in 2014 and went to work for another company, while Martin maintained the business. In November of that year, they unveiled the "Flagon" program; a refillable bottle for wine for fraction of the cost, which has become a staple for many customers. Case production grew to 2500 cases, despite a calamitous climate that year that affected the following harvest in 2015.
In spring of 2016, Teresa returned to helping Martin run the winery full time. They also hired Annie Morrison, who had left the winery after graduation to pursue a full-time position outside the winery in 2013, as their Hospitality Director. To add the awesome changes already in effect, their Signature Room was finally completed as a special place for their wine club members as well as offering Idaho's first seated tastings.
Case production grew to 3000 cases after harvest that year and Fujishin increased their hospitality team as they increased their business hours to 7 days a week. Sometime in 2016, the Fujishin's were contacted that their Amatino Red blend, one of Fujishins' flagship wines, was named as one of the "Top Hottest Brands in America" by Wine Business Monthly. They were featured in a special event held at Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in 2017.
Today, they look forward to continued growth and progress in their wines and the Idaho Wine Industry. One never knows what the pair will come up with next!