Smoke From California Wildfires Could Sour Grapes Awaiting Harvest, Wineries Say

Posted: Aug 26, 2020

While hundreds of lightning-sparked wildfires burning in California seem to have spared wineries so far, vintners say smoke and evacuations still pose a risk the fall wine harvest.

“I think there’s a better chance than not that we make almost no wine this year,” said Noah Dorrance of Reeve Wines in Healdsburg in Sonoma County, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“There’s always a concern about smoke taint when it’s around,” said Jesse Fox of Amici Cellars in Calistoga in Napa Valley, Food and Wine reported. “But wind direction and flow are most important. The mornings have been crystal clear and cool, and that prevents the smoke from settling low. The smoke is staying in the upper atmosphere and not falling on grapes.”

But Dorrance fears smoke from the Sonoma County wildfires has damaged grapes from the vineyards his winery uses, giving them “unpleasantly smoky aromas and flavors,” The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Smoke from wildfires in 2017 damaged grapes still on the vines, giving them an ashy taste, The New York Times reported.

One option for vintners worried about smoke damage may be rosé wines, which use less of the grape’s skin, The San Francisco Chronicle reported in another story. The skin is what absorbs most of the damaging compounds from smoke.

By Don Sweeney
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