ZILLAH, Wash.--Cherry growers in the Yakima Valley may not have reason to celebrate this year, but winemakers are raising their glasses high.
"Once the fruit is set, the rain actually doesn't bother the grapes like it does the cherries," said James St. Clair, the winemaker for Silver Lake Winery. "They don't crack or split when the rain hits them."
"Got through the mildew pressure and that challenging part, and this warm weather has been fantastic," said Patrick Rawn, Co-Owner of Two Mountain Winery. "Everything looks to be ahead of schedule and it looks to be another great year."
Winemakers said warm temperatures allow grapes to stay smaller in their clusters, which produce a higher quality of wine. Unlike a couple of years ago in 2010 and 2011, when the vintages weren't so great.
"2010 to 2011 both vintages, just low summertime temperatures, short growing seasons and the fruit just didn't accumulate as much sugar as we were looking for to make the high quality wines," said St. Clair. "So you get a lot more green flavors in your wine, higher acid."
"2011 was challenging because it was so cool," said Rawn. "So this is sort of the anti-2011."
Local winemakers said having two back-to-back warm seasons has given them two years of top quality wine. The fruit has plenty of time to ripen on the vine and winemakers said they're even a week ahead of schedule.
They said it seems like perfect timing. Just as the economy is picking up, they're producing some of the best quality wines they've had in years.
"I think everybody around the valley is seeing more foot traffic through the tasting rooms, and we're seeing more sales both on this side of the mountains and the Westside as well, and I think that is driving us to make more wine," said St. Clair. "We are producing more than we had the previous two vintages."
Winemakers said they're excited to see the reviews after two years of great conditions. They said it can only improve the Yakima Valley's reputation for having some of the best wine in the world.