Forecast temperatures closing in on all-time records will likely advance the Okanagan's grape harvest.
Picking of the earliest-ripening varieties could begin within the week and growers are expecting one of the best harvests ever.
"Reports from all across the Valley indicate people say this crop will be outstanding in terms of its overall quality," Ed Schiller, a board member of the BC GrapeGrowers Association, said Monday.
Schiller, who has a small vineyard in East Kelowna, said the growing conditions this summer have been nearly ideal.
Only six millimetres of rain fell in the Kelowna area in July, and long stretches of hot and dry weather were perfect for the grapes' development.
"The amount of sustained heat we had on the vineyards was something a lot of people had never seen before," Schiller said.
With plenty of warm days still ahead in September, this season could eclipse 1998 as the year with the greatest number of heat-degree days, says Jim Wyse, owner of Burrowing Owl Winery in Oliver. "We're in the running for the hottest one," he said.
Harvesting times depend mainly on the variety and the fruit reaching the desired sugar content. The ripening will be hastened with a forecast that calls for daytime high temperatures of 29 C every day this week, or about seven degrees warmer than is usual for mid-September.
"The wet system we had last week has finally moved off, and we've got another ridge of high pressure establishing itself over B.C.," said Environment Canada
meteorologist Doug Lundquist.
The record temperature for Sept. 11 was 32.9 C, set in 1973. Other record marks for dates this week are all around 32 C as well.
"I don't think we'll quite see any records this week, because you usually need a bit of wind to mix things up and we're expecting fairly calm conditions," Lundquist said.
Overnight lows are expected to be around 14 C, considerably above the normal mark of 6 C for this time of September.
About 27,000 tons of wine grapes with a cumulative value of just under $60 million were harvested in B.C last year, in what was described as an above-average growing season.
In 2011, which had less advantageous growing conditions, less than 23,000 tons of wine grapes were taken from vineyards.
Merlot, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris are the three most widely-planted wine grapes. Vineyards cover just under 10,000 acres of land in B.C., up from about 5,000 acres a decade ago.