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In Virginia's wine country, the hot, dry weather is a welcome guest

It may be making many of us miserable, but winemakers are hoping for a great vintage.

LEESBURG, Va. — Here's one happy side effect from the heat -- it could bring us some delicious wine.

The record temperatures and dry weather is concentrating the flavors in the grapes ripening in Virginia's wine country.

There are just a few clusters are left on the vines at Fabbioli Cellars in Loudoun County after winemaker Dough Fabbioli sweated through the harvest Tuesday.

The grapes ripened faster in the hot, dry weather. 

"By not having the rain, the disease pressure on those sweet berries hanging out there and those tender skins is a lot lower," Fabbioli said. "Those skins will hold up, the flavors will get sweeter, the intensity will be there. Just overall, it's going to be a better year for wine. I think it's going to make for a pretty sound vintage. We're pretty pleased with it."

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President Thomas Jefferson was one of Virginia's earliest winemakers. And he was the nation's original weather observer. Jefferson said Virginia had a climate that was the envy of the world. But it's not clear he sweltered through many 90 degree days in October. And he completely failed to make any decent wine.

"Thomas Jefferson had some challenges," Fabbioli said.

Hard work, science, and carefully chosen grape varietals have finally -- more than two centuries later -- made Virginia one of the nation's top wine-growing regions.

Fabbioli is celebrating his 22nd harvest. 

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"Heat is one of those things we have to dance with," he said. "We dance with Mother Nature."

The smell is already oozing from bins filled with fermenting grapes. But if this year's weather is the sign of more extremes to come next year, and the years after that, Fabbioli isn't sure he's ready. 

"The vines that are in the ground may not be suited for the climate that's coming," Fabbioli said. "So we have to plan ahead, and we don't know where we're going."

For now, we can just rejoice at a good year

Virginia estimates the wine industry generates almost one and a half billion dollars in economic impact -- and more than 8,200 jobs.

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