Study suggests climate changes will impact the US wine industry

BENTON CITY, Wash. -- A federal agency report in 2009 found that average U.S. temperatures could increase 2 to 4 degrees by 2020 compared with the 1970s' average.  Within 30 years, the areas where California can grow fine-wine grapes could shrink because of climate change, while little-known growing regions such as Seattle's Puget Sound and Oregon's Willamette Valley see growth, according to one controversial study.

"Washington state is currently number two in total wine production, second to California. we have about four percent of the national market for wine," says Ryan Pennigton with the Washington Wine Commission.  He says because we have such diverse climate all over the state,  we can handle the warming if it happens. 

"The diversity of our growing regions I think would enable us to adapt to any significant change in climate," says Pennigton.

Jim Holmes has grown grapes at Ciel Du Chavel in Benton City for 40 years.  He says, the few degrees of change are not detrimental.

"The natural changes from year to year, that mother nature throws on us, will be much bigger than the few degrees that folks are predicting for a global climate increase.  We have so many other worries as farmers.  We worry about the cold winters that come down, that's our biggest problem" says Holmes.

Holmes says the studies are flawed because they look at the earth as a whole instead of region by region, meaning anything can happen anywhere, one part can warm up while a different region can cool down.

In fact, he says the last few years have been colder than usual both in Washington and in California.