By SHANE RICHARD BELL
Staff writer/Coeur d’Alene Press
Sitting in the passenger seat of a truck headed to the Columbia Valley’s vineyards, she busily types away on her laptop. Despite a bumpy ride, she responds to e-mail, takes a phone call, and simultaneously writes an article while processing company payroll.
The next day, she’s driving a forklift at the Coeur d’Alene Cellars, transporting the grapes they picked up from the Columbia Valley. Each cluster of grapes will be hand sorted. The grapes glimmer with the morning sun. They’re perfectly ripe, delicately sweet on the edge of your tongue. They’re ready to be pressed, fermented and bottled into Viognier wine.
Workers walk by, tasting, chatting, laughing, gesturing, and preparing. It’s a typical harvest morning, and the beginning of the Coeur d’Alene Cellars’ tenth harvest. While Co-owner and Manager Kimber Gates Travis is juggling the responsibilities of running a business, it is family that keeps this winery going between harvests.
The Coeur d’Alene Cellars is a family business in every way.
The Gates family established the winery in 2002 in Dalton Gardens. Today it is operated and managed by the Gates family at their new location, 3890 N. Schreiber Way, in Coeur d’Alene.
Kimber is administrator and co-owner. Her parents, Charlie and Sarah Gates, are the other co-owners. Sarah Gates also makes gourmet meals every Thursday for a friends and family lunch and provides the beautiful watercolor artwork for the wine labels. Kimber’s daughter, Scarlet, 8, hand sorts grapes. Friends and family pitch in to help during harvests. It really is one big family.
“The Coeur d’Alene Cellars is not just the family blood,” said Kimber Gates Travis. “Even those who show up to make wine really become family. It’s very family focused and that’s the most rewarding part of the business.”
The feeling is mutual. “I love this place,” said Coeur d’Alene Cellars employee Ben Anderson. “This place is amazing. These guys have taught me everything. It’s like a family.”
Robin Chisholm has been a part of the winery’s family for eight years. “Robin is as close as family gets,” said Kimber Gates Travis.
“They’re eternal optimists,” said Robin Chisholm referring to the Gates family. “Kimber has great relationships with her growers. She’s consistent, reliable, and has a business plan,” Chisholm said. “And she sticks to it. Kimber’s work ethic and her relationships are the key to the success of this winery.”
The winery is currently producing 3,000 cases of wine per year and has a membership of around 500 members. Three of the Coeur d’Alene Cellar’s wines made it into the top 100 Northwest wines list, according to Kimber Gates.
But with the gifts and contributions of every member of the winery’s family, Kimber wants to continue growing Coeur d’Alene Cellars.
“I want to build,” Gates said. “I want to continue to be one of the best wineries in the region.”