Yakima Valley wineries benefiting from hot weather

ZILLAH, Wash. -- While the summer heat is uncomfortable for some, Yakima Valley wine growers say it's good for the billion dollar industry.

To some, the hot summer sun can be unbearable. But for Gail Puryear, the owner of Bonair Winery and Vineyards, he loves the heat.

"This is ideal. It's in the low 90s it's perfect, you couldn't ask for better temperatures," said Gail.

Gail says the warm weather is great for wine grapes. He says the heat helps ripen them sooner. It's because the heat stunts the canopy's growth, putting all the plants energy toward the grapes. That means better tasting wine.

"When they ripen when they're warm they have better flavors, they have bolder flavors. If you're trying to ripen grapes in October then they tend to have more vegetative flavors instead of fruit flavors," said Gail.

Gail says while the heat is good, the sun is not. If the grapes are exposed they could get scalded, which detracts from good flavors. But the vine's leaves naturally shade the grapes.

People visiting the winery agreed the shade is the place to be.
"I'm really only good for ten to fifteen minutes out in the sun like this," said Cecelia Dance, a visitor to the winery.

That heat is what has made the Yakima Valley home to one third of all Washington's vineyards.

More than 200 thousand tons of wine grapes were produced in all of Washington last year. Up 12 percent from 2012. Gail says this year is looking good too. Especially for the quality of wine.

"It's a banner year for Washington wine. I think you're going to see some really top notch vintages come out of this year," said Gail.

And that keeps visitors coming back. Most are willing to endure the sun for a good bottle of Wine.

Bonair Winery says harvest typically starts in mid-September, but with the hot weather, it could start in the first week.