Jim Mitchell, winemaker for Idaho’s Miceli Vineyards, dies

By on January 25, 2014

Jim Mitchell, owner of Miceli Vineyards and Winery in Nampa, Idaho, passed away.

Jim Mitchell, right, crushes grapes with the help of his dad, Chris. Mitchell, owner of Miceli Vineyards and Winery in Idaho’s Snake River Valley. died last week. (Photo courtesy of Miceli Vineyards)

NAMPA, Idaho – The Idaho wine industry is mourning one of its own.

Jim Mitchell, a longtime winemaker and grape grower, died Jan. 16 at his home in Nampa. He was 70.

Mitchell was the owner of Miceli Vineyards and Winery, which was the first winery in Owyhee County.

Mitchell got into winemaking in 1998 in California’s Paso Robles region. It started as a hobby when he got enough grapes from a neighbor to make 10 gallons of Cabernet Sauvignon in his guest bathroom. In 1999, he and his father planted Zinfandel vines, and he began taking winemaking classes at the University of California-Davis. As he progressed as a winemaker, Mitchell began winning awards for his wines.

He and his wife, Michele, then purchased a 60-acre vineyard in 2002 in Canyon County. He grew Chardonnay and Riesling grapes, which he sold to Ste. Chapelle, Idaho’s largest and oldest winery. They sold their home and vineyard in Paso Robles and moved to Owyhee County in 2003. After selling their vineyard, they moved again, planted another vineyard and launched Miceli Vineyards and Winery.

Miceli Vineyards and Winery named for grandfather

Francesco Miceli is featured on the label of Miceli Vineyards and Winery's label in Nampa, Idaho.

Jim Mitchell’s grandfather, Francesco Miceli, is featured on Miceli Vineyards and Winery’s label. Francesco is wearing his uniform for the Bersaglieri, the Italian army. (Courtesy of Miceli Vineyards and Winery)

The winery was named for Mitchell’s grandfather, Francesco Miceli, who was born in 1888 in Sicily. He emigrated to the United States in 1905 but was drafted into the Bersaglieri, a corps of the Italian army. He returned to the United States in 1912, settled in Pennsylvania and raised a family of eight children.

Miceli, who changed his name to Frank Mitchell, was a home winemaker, buying grapes that were sent by train from California. He died in 1975.

Jim Mitchell followed in his grandfather’s winemaking footsteps. He produced three wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a fortified dessert wine using classic red Portuguese varieties.

“He has truly been a good friend,” said Gregg Alger, owner of Huston Vineyards in Caldwell. “We will miss him a lot.”

Alger said Mitchell sold his vineyard and closed the winery so he and his wife could move closer to town

“I kind of think he knew his health was declining,” Alger said.

Alger said Mitchell kept his winery bond and continued to make a little bit of wine.

“He was very private about his health,” Alger said. “It was a shock to hear that he passed away.”

Mitchell’s service will take place at 11 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Nampa.

About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is the editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine. He is a third-generation journalist who has worked at newspapers since the mid-1980s and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Eric Degerman and served as its editor-in-chief for 15 years. He is a frequent judge at international wine competitions. He is the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books. He writes about wine for The Seattle Times. You can find him on Twitter and .

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