Idaho vineyards rush to crush

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- Normally, harvesters in California would pull the grapes around mid-August. But Napa wine maker, Ludovic Dervin, says this unprecedented early start for Napa Valley is due to the weather.

"This year, the entire growing season shifted. We had a pretty warm month in February and the vines started to push early," Dervin said.

He says the drought has some effect. And Idaho wine makers are being forced to harvest early too. Bitner Vineyards normally harvests in October, but owner Ron Bitner expects to start pulling grapes in as early as five weeks.

"As you can see the grapes. By this time last week most of these were green. Now they're changing very rapidly into this purple color," Bitner said.

This is the first time he's ever seen the grapes change this early in the summer.

But he says it's not necessarily a bad thing. Because of Idaho's cool evenings, these grapes still get longer hang time than most.

"In the grape world, the longer grapes can hang helps the intensity of the flavors," Bitner said. "We're fortunate here in Idaho. I wouldn't change my spot for any in the country."

Bitner relies heavily on his employees. The pickers have had to adjust their techniques this year to keep the grapes from getting sunburned. He adds that they've spent more labor protecting the grapes this year, than any year before.

It's all part of the uncertainty that makes wine making as much art as science.

"Until the last day of harvest, you don't know what can come," Ludovic said. "The weather can be too hot, it can start raining before harvest can finish. So many things can happen. That's what makes our job so exciting!"