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CALDWELL -- June is Idaho Wine Month and experts say the Idaho wine industry is growing. That's why the Idaho Wine Commission is doing everything it can to promote flavorful reds and whites made right here in the Gem State.

From Chardonnay to Cabernet, wine is helping put Idaho on the map.

It's been a fun industry to watch grow, said Ron Bitner, owner of Bitner Vineyards in Caldwell.

Bitner planted his first grapes on a south-facing hillside above the Snake River back in 1981. He used a background in bees to help his 15 acres flourish.

Because I'm an entomologist, I plant a lot of ground covers for beneficial insects, said Bitner.

Bitner Vineyards is one of a growing number of places where people can buy Idaho-made wines.

When I first got here there was 32 wineries and that was in 2008, said Moya Dolsby, executive director of the Idaho Wine Commission. Today there's 51.

But what makes the Gem State such a great place to grow?

It's the climate, it's the soils, but primarily because we have some of the highest elevation vineyards in the U.S. in this valley, said Bitner. We can grow as good a quality of fruit as anybody in the country.

Another winery produces Bitner's blends, which he mostly sells from a tasting room right next to where he grows his grapes.

Bitner's wines are part of an industry with an impact of more than $70 million dollars in Idaho. They're winning awards nationwide.

This is a blend of Cabernet and Shiraz grapes, he said as he poured a glass in the tasting room. It's what I call my Australian blend.

Idaho Wine Commission employees told us people are drawn to Idaho wineries from across the U.S.

The industry is very approachable. It's very affordable, Dolsby said.

And growers are banking on that appeal.

Idaho Wine Month is one way to promote the blends being made here. Throughout the month of June, wineries, restaurants and grocery stores planned special promotions to plug Idaho wine.

You're not in this industry to get rich, you're in it because you're passionate about it,, Dolsby said. Yes, you can make money in this industry. It's hard work.

Bitner got into the business because he loves the entire process. He believes Idaho's wine industry is just getting started.

We're going to continue to grow world class grapes here and have a lot of young winemakers here, said Bitner. The growth spurt is just about to come.

Employees at the Idaho Wine Commission agree. Dolsby told us she predicts the number of Idaho wineries could jump up to 75 in the next five years. It's an exciting prospect for wine lovers and business owners alike.

For more information about Idaho Wine Month and to check out a list of events, click here.

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