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Megan Zink worked in partnership with Visit Idaho to create this Travel Tip.

In this three-part series, I sit down with three Idaho women winemakers and learn how they’re making it work. We’ll explore how they fell in love with wine, the obstacles they’ve overcome and lessons winemaking has taught them about life. Oh – and of course, their favorite wine, so you can try it too!

The Winemaker: Carrie Sullivan

The Winery: Telaya Wine Co. |240 E. 32nd Street, Garden City, ID

carrie sullivan
Carrie Sullivan of Telaya Wine Co. Photo credit: Telaya Wine Co.

Carrie Sullivan, owner at Telaya Wine Co. in Boise, Idaho, began her journey in wine in a bit of a unconventional way. Initially from southern Indiana, she went to school at a liberal arts college in Kentucky where she met her now husband (Earl, also owner of Telaya Wine Co.) and then went onto Texas A&M in their fisheries and wildlife department for a master’s in molecular genetics. As a happenstance, she had a stats class in the veterinary school, which taught her two very important things: 1) she wasn’t thrilled about doing research in a lab by herself, and 2) she loved science, animals and camaraderie. She followed this path to Ohio State, where she finished a doctorate in veterinary medicine and began practicing, before she and Earl decided to move to Idaho.

She practiced for another 8 years in Idaho – but as her family grew, decided it was time for a life change. I had the opportunity to speak with Carrie and learn a little bit about the challenges she’s overcome and surpassed in the wine industry, how she balances the profession with having a family and all the life lessons wine has taught her.

Megan: So you moved to Idaho – how did you make it into the wine industry?

Carrie:  I tried to make it work so that I was working part or full-time and still had our kids, but that, in combination with the fact that Earl was traveling extensively – it was just not working for me. I felt like I wasn’t able to be the vet I wanted to be, or the mom I wanted to be, and Earl and I both realized we needed a lifestyle change. We really felt we could work well together and during a trip to Cabo, just the two of us, were able to use that time to look back at our life, find some perspective and make some plans for what we wanted to do moving forward.

We decided we just really needed to do something different – not only for ourselves, but for our kids. We decided that wine was something that was intellectually stimulating for both of us. We’d talked about doing a wine bar, a wine shop – but in the end, we decided that the combination of agriculture, science and a team aspect really worked for us. And most importantly, we’d be able to have our kids with us – we want to teach them the work ethic; we want them to have the idea of what it’s like to grow up in the family business and put in a hard day’s work.

wine tasting at telaya
Tastings are offered nearly daily at Telaya. Photo credit: Megan Zink.

Megan: The agriculture part of wine – that’s a whole different ballgame – and so much hard work. Do you have any tips for balancing the profession with a family?

Carrie: It can be hard – especially during harvest. When I eased into production the first few years after we started, I was definitely more of a part-time participant so I could be at home with my boys. As they got older and grew a little more independent, I was able to work here full-time. We’re in constant contact with them; they’re here at the winery a lot. I still struggle sometimes to find that balance of being home with them all the time, or not being at home where all their friends come over because we have to work. But we’re hoping the positive experiences we’re providing them set them up for success as they go out on their own and get older.

Megan: It sounds like there are ups and downs – but you have a big-picture balance. Specifically, with this process, what was one of the obstacles you encountered from starting in veterinary medicine and transitioning into the wine industry?

Carrie: One of the big obstacles was that I had not been officially trained in winemaking. So, it was a lot of learning on the job, a lot of doing outside reading and honestly, building a lot of my confidence. When I was practicing medicine, I was very confident. I was trained and had experience. I needed to be the one who commanded authority to a certain degree, and I didn’t have that when I came into the cellar. When I went through veterinary school, I was very much a studier. I studied for hours and hours at a time to be able to learn, and I didn’t really have that luxury owning a winery and being a mom, so I had to learn on the fly. Every harvest we go through, every experience, I learn something new every day.

exterior of Telaya Wine Co
Telaya’s tasting room sits along the Boise Greenbelt. Photo credit: Telaya Wine Co.

Megan: Boise is such an incredible city. Where is your favorite place?

Carrie: A couple places. It’s not in Boise, but we love getting away to McCall. We’re lucky to live here in Boise and really, within an hour-hour and a half, you can get out of the city and just be in the middle of nowhere. Here, closer in town, we have foothills that surround the city with hiking trails. Just getting out, even to the fringes of the foothills – just being out and breathing some of that fresh air brings a whole lot of perspective.

fat bike rider in snow in mccall
There’s nothing quite like a weekend getaway in McCall. Photo credit: Megan Zink.

Megan: In terms of wine from Telaya, do you have any recommendations?

Carrie: We’re always so proud of our Turas blend. Turas is Gaelic Irish for journey – and that’s the first wine we made back in 2008, back when we started making wine. We make it with all Idaho grapes, and so it’s something we are really proud of. It’s Syrah-based – and for me, Idaho Syrah is so different from other Syrahs, from other states, other countries. I always describe it as being a little bit dirty – and I mean that in the best way. There’s a lot of tobacco leaf, a lot of cigar box – it’s just delicious. And I think it really shows what Idaho can do really well.

wine barrels at Telaya
Telaya uses French Oak barrels for aging. Photo credit: Telaya Wine Co.

More About Telaya Wine Co.

Telaya Wine Co. was founded by Earl and Carrie Sullivan in Garden City, Idaho in 2008 and specializes in predominately Old World-style reds (along with some whites) that are intended to be aged and produced with grapes from five vineyards in Idaho and three in Washington.

They use exclusively French Oak barrels for aging and offer a suite of educational wine experiences, including tastings ($5 a person, which will go to a purchase during that visit) as well as a more extensive Telaya Experience, which includes a variety of released, sneak peek and vintage wines plus education on the production cycle, barrel/aging processes and a visit from the winemakers. For more information you can visit www.telayawine.com or follow them on Instagram and Facebook! Depending on where you live, you can also sign up for their wine club, or purchase wine for delivery or gifting here.

Don’t forget to check out the Idaho Wines Fly Free program before heading home.

Learn more about Idaho’s women winemakers by reading up on Lesile Preston of Coiled Wines and Melanie Krause of Cinder Wines.

*This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.

Feature image credited to Megan Zink.

Megan Zink is a photographer, writer and strategist passionate about storytelling, visual communication and exploration. In addition to developing guides for her travel journalism website, Moderately Excited, she works as a content marketing manager for a software company in Chicago. Megan recently also founded a media platform called Color & Curiosity, focusing on interviews and stories of women in tech and creative fields in support of ongoing education and discovery. Occasionally she teaches photography workshops for charity and educational programming and speaks at marketing and travel events to put her Second City training to good use.


Published on June 11, 2020