Clearwater Canyon Cellars Team
Winemaker & Owner
Coco was 21 years old when she asked her grandfather for permission to rent land for vineyard development on her family’s century farm in Lewiston Idaho. While completing degrees in Microbiology (B.S) and Molecular Biology & Biochemistry at University of Idaho (UofI) the winery and vineyard plans took shape. By 2004 Umiker Estate Vineyard and Clearwater Canyon Cellars were established. Her first commercial vintage was spent juggling winemaking at Clearwater Canyon while working 100 miles away as an enologist at Whitman Cellars in Walla Walla, Washington.
In 2005 Coco began work on her doctorate at Washington State University (WSU) within the Enology and Viticulture Program. Luckily WSU and UofI are only 30 miles from Lewiston! Her Doctoral research focus was on the Factors affecting culturability, viability, and filterability of Dekkera Bruxellensis in red wine. Basically she is a wine microbiologist that specializes in wine spoilage microorganisms. Yup, this topic is a bit of a buzz kill at happy hour so she generally only shares her expertise on this topic at wine industry conferences and consulting gigs.
Coco likes to think of herself as an artist that uses the natural environment and a deep understanding of wine science to craft grapes in to liquid art. She looks to each vintage as an opportunity to explore unique wine characters that are inherent to that year. If asked she always has a few new projects and winemaking techniques she is experimenting with in the cellar.
Vineyard Manager & Owner
Karl grew up in Northwest Arkansas racing mountain bikes and exploring the Ozarks with his musical family. His first job was delivering newspapers while hanging from the side of a VW Bug driven by his father. In-between bike races Karl earned a BS in Chemistry from the University of Arkansas. The natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest and the University of Idaho drew him to Moscow, Idaho. Karl earned a MS in Soil Science from the University of Idaho and was subsequently hired as a Research Support Scientist studying carbon and nitrogen dynamics in soils. He remains active with UI and proudly serves on the Advisory Board to the Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Karl is known as the ‘Vine Whisperer’ and is frequently found (without his phone) walking slowly through Umiker Vineyard observing and taking notes. Karl is committed to continually learning and exploring how different viticultural practices influence wine quality and character. Managing the century old farm that is home to Umiker Vineyard and Clearwater Canyon is an endeavor that Karl approaches with love and respect for the environment.
Certified Sommelier, WSET Level 2
Wine Club Manager
Having spent her formative years working in every aspect of the restaurant business, Sara knew that working in the wine industry was inevitable. She was born and raised in Lewiston, but her passion for wine blossomed during her years cooking in restaurants in Boise and studying Culinary Arts at Boise State University. Sara traveled to the Bay Area to earn her Certified Sommelier pin and shortly after high-tailed it back to the Lewis-Clark Valley. The next 10 years were spent managing restaurants and judging wine competitions. Her long-time friendship with the Umiker’s and her aching to be around wine planted her at Clearwater Canyon Cellars in September 2020. During her spare time, Sara enjoys spending time with her husband, Joe, and their cats, Khloe, Ralphie, and Karl (no relation to Karl Umiker). She also loves to travel, be around family and friends, go to concerts, and talking about wine to anyone who will listen. Her favorite styles of wines are bold & oaky reds or dry & acidic whites.
Cellar Master & Viticulturist
Mike grew up on his family’s cattle ranch along the Grande Ronde River in the Lewis-Clark Valley. He attended Lewis-Clark State College where he earned degrees in welding and industrial mechanics. Many years of working long days in rugged and remote terrain allowed him to develop many skills that are indispensable in the vineyard and winery. Mike helped establish Rock n’J Vineyard on the ranch in 2010 and takes great pride in the beautiful wines that are harvested there each year. Mike officially joined the Clearwater Canyon Team in 2016 when he moved to the ‘big city’ of Lewiston. Mike is always looking ahead and has perfected the art of working smarter not harder in both the cellar and vineyard. We would be lost without him! In his spare time he loves fishing, working in his shop on wood and metal projects, and exploring on his side-by-side. His favorite wine is Malbec!
Tasting Room & Wholesale Manager
Karen hails from the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York. After graduating from Ithaca College, she moved to Pocatello to begin her career as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. From there, she moved to Los Angeles with her now-husband, for him to obtain his PhD. While in California, Karen earned another degree in Sign Language/Interpreting. A teaching position brought them back to Idaho in 2001. Since then, Karen has worn many professional hats here in the LC Valley; as a program coordinator, social service provider, and administrative assistant, to name a few. She brings her administrative, organizational, editorial, and customer service skills to Clearwater Canyon …along with her appreciation for wine, of course! Her favorites are Malbec and Syrah in the winter time, and a cold Riesling in summer.
Jace grew up in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho with his parents, two siblings, and his dog Thor. He has a love for many sports, including lacrosse, which he played all through high school and into his college years. Jace recently graduated from the University of Idaho (Go Vandals!), where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Fermentation Science. After working with us for two summers, Jace joined our team full-time as an enologist in May 2023, where he will be assisting Coco in management of the wines from the vineyard to the bottle, and will join the team in caring for the vineyard. Don't be too surprised if you see him pouring in the tasting room as well!
When he is not working, Jace enjoys listening to his vinyl records, spending time with friends/family, watching movies and sports, and playing lacrosse. You can find him enjoying his favorite wines after work, two of them being Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.