Many people have multiple careers over a lifetime. Few people embody that as well as Earl and Carrie Sullivan, owners of Telaya Wine Co. in Boise. Before breaking into the world of wine, Earl was the COO of a pharmaceutical company and Carrie was a veterinarian. While they were both successful in their own fields, they weren’t happy with how much time they had to spend away from their family because of work. So they decided to take a leap of faith, pursue their passion and start a winery.
Earl and Carrie raised their children on the values of integrity, hard work, accountability and perseverance. They’ve applied those same principles to how they run their business, which is why they started their Sip to Give program. Through this initiative, on the first Friday of each month, 10% of all sales go to a local charity chosen by Telaya’s employees.
Like many businesses across the nation, Telaya had to shut down operations when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Having opened the winery during the 2008 recession, Earl and Carrie are familiar with adversity. And while they were able to pivot to curbside service and expand their outdoor seating, they credit much of their success during these difficult times to the Boise community’s enthusiastic support of local businesses.
Telaya Wine Co. started working with Columbia Bank at the beginning of the pandemic because Earl and Carrie recognized the emphasis the bank places on supporting small businesses. Similarly, when Columbia Bank heard about the Sip to Give program, they knew they’d found the perfect partner for the Pass It On Project. So, with Columbia Bank picking up the bill, Telaya Wine Co. will open a pop-up restaurant on its property to host a dinner from which all proceeds will go to the Women and Children’s Alliance. In Earl and Carrie’s eyes, this is their way to assist women and children suffering from abuse, who need more help than ever.
Pacific NW Magazine
9. Telaya Wine Co. 2018 Turas Journey red wine, Snake River Valley, $34: Year after year, Earl Sullivan’s syrah-based blend ranks among the Northwest’s best. It’s reminiscent of blackberry, plum, cured meat and herbs, as its well-managed tannin structure adds up to a smooth finish.
Earl and Carrie Sullivan at Telaya Wine Co., can make a claim for their Syrah-based Turas Journey as the Snake River Valley’s top red wine project, using their expression from the 2018 vintage to win the award for Best Red Wine at the Idaho Wine Competition for the second time in three years. It was one of three gold medals this year for Telaya, which was recognized for its 2018 Scoria Vineyard Malbec and 2019 Carrie’s Select Chardonnay.
There are more than 8,700 wineries in the United States and around 250 recognized wine regions, or American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). Some are known around the world (hello, Napa) while others remain obscure to all but a small group of locals and wine experts.
While it would take half a lifetime to properly see all of the country’s wine regions, a select number stand out as exemplary of American wine’s past, present, and future. These regions span from coast to coast and reach just as close to the country’s northern border as they do to the southern border. Today, with international travel close to non-existent, Americans who travel with wine on the mind are looking inward. The most enlightening (and, in the current era, safest) way to experience the diversity of wine is the great American road trip.
The first vineyards in the Pacific Northwest were planted in Lewiston in the 1860s and, although Idaho viticulture has had its ups and downs, the region is pumping out loads of delicious wine. All people have to do is get out and give some a try.
Taking a tour of the Idaho wine country can be done in a variety of ways. People could spend a day or more visiting local wineries and some are even located in Garden City making a tour of Idaho wines possible for anyone who wants to try some out. All of the wineries have ample space for social distancing, are mostly run by Idaho families, and many allow dogs and kids.
Located in Garden City, Telaya Winery is a name derived from The Tetons and la playa, the Spanish term for “beach,” because these are the owner’s, Earl and Carrie Sullivan’s, favorite places. They wanted to start a business where they would feel intellectually stimulated and be able to spend more time with their family.
“As an urban winery our benefit is more accessibility,” said Earl. “We’re right on the Greenbelt, we have our production space here and people can tour the facility. We focus on high-end product and hospitality.”
Telaya has a lot to offer an urban wine enthusiast (“oenophile”). The winery has tastings and tours called the “Telaya Experience,” where people can try wines with a guide. Due to COVID-19, Telaya is now hosting “micro-events,” small events with wine and food pairings that teach people about wine and incorporate another business in the community.
The winery currently sells around 13 wines with some only available to club members. Earl and Carrie take a scientific approach to wine, and Earl said it’s all about chemistry. They blend the best grapes they can find in Idaho, and as their operation has grown, even designating plots in other vineyards for their winery.
During the shutdown, the winery also expanded its conference room to allow for business events, and has found a way to offer the “Telaya Experience” virtually. For this, the winery bottles up mini versions of the wine people can pick up or have delivered, and set up the tasting virtually through Zoom.
“We want to make wine accessible and approachable,” said Earl. “It’s not a white collar thing; there’s a wine and a price point for everyone on earth, and Idaho wines can stand up to the rest of the world.”
GARDEN CITY, Idaho — Idaho’s $200 million wine industry is struggling during COVID-19, and local wineries are finding innovative ways to keep sales going.
The Idaho Press reports that with changes to farmers markets, weddings and other outdoor spring and summer events, wineries are relying on individual sales and wine club memberships to get by during the outbreak.
Telaya Wine Company in Garden City typically uses the spring and summer months to hosts several big events and event series. Those have been canceled.
“That is $20,000 to $30,000 a month in events that we can’t do now,” said Earl Sullivan, owner and winemaker at Telaya Wine Company.
When I shared that Riley and I were heading out of town to visit Idaho for a long weekend, nearly every single person (there were about 5-6, give or take) said something along the lines of, ‘Idaho? What’s in Idaho?’ It turns out a lot, actually.
Maybe it’s just the fact that I am from the Midwest and ‘west’ to me only equals Seattle or California – but I just have to start this guide by saying Idaho is downright incredible. Fun fact – it is home to over 130 soak-able hot springs (eat your heart out, Iceland!) PLUS wide open spaces… and oh yeah, mountains too. Whether you’re in the mood for some outdoor recreation, tasting the best of the region through unique chef’s preparations or catching up on some culture, wine tasting and nightlife in Boise, you should visit Idaho and consider it a hidden gem for a weekend getaway.
Husband and wife duo Earl and Carrie Sullivan named Telaya Winery for their two favorite places – the Tetons and the beaches of Mexico (playa(s)). Both coming from the medical/science fields (Carrie has her masters in molecular genetics and doctorate in veterinary medicine and Earl used to be the COO of a global pharmaceutical company and is a biochemist, no big deal), the two have found joy in the intellectual stimulation of wine. They wanted something that would teach work ethics and something they could do together.
They specialize in predominantly red (also some white) European styles of wine – wine that is intended to be aged – and bring in grapes from 5 vineyards in Idaho and 3 in Washington. And they use exclusively French Oak barrels for aging (which FYI, is very expensive and very precise, compared to the more cost-effective steel tanks). Out of all the wineries I’ve ever been to, I have never learned so much about the barrel making (cooperage), storing or aging process as I did at Telaya Winery. It was FASCINATING. And yes, you can join the wine club and get wine shipped to you (depending on where you live)
For you dog and wine lovers out there, what could be better than sipping a fine Merlot or Chardonnay while hanging out with your pooch? Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Well, those aren't just daydreams any longer, as many wineries across the U.S. are now inviting four-legged guests to visit. Some are even going above and beyond when it comes to welcoming pooches!
Idaho’s capital has a lot more going for it than potatoes. (Don’t skip the potatoes, though.)
My Uber driver doesn’t want you to come to Boise. “I really wish you wouldn’t,” the previously cheery dad says when our small talk reveals I’m in town to write a travel piece. “Then people will visit, then they’ll want to move here, and it will get out of control. We’ll lose what makes this place special, and everything will be crowded and expensive. I don’t want this to become Denver – or Phoenix, look how big you guys are!”
“We get to expose people to different wines on a regular basis and show them that it isn’t just Cabernet and Chardonnay,” Earl Sullivan says. “[We] take that mystery out of it and make it much more approachable.” It’s working: Telaya’s 2016 Turas, a Syrah-based blend, won Best Red in the 2018 Idaho Wine Competition.
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