California Winemakers Are Racing To Salvage Their Grape Harvests Before Wildfires Destroy Them

Posted: Sep 01, 2020

After four years of worsening fire conditions, California winemakers have been forced to make a difficult decision: salvage what they can before smoke ruins their grapes or lose the crops and hope insurance will cover the losses.

Since August 15, over 1.6 million acres in California have burned — an area about the size of Delaware. Scientists predict this year will likely mark the state's worst-ever wildfire season.

In a normal year, the end of summer would mark the beginning of harvest in wine country. Nearly 15 million tourists visit Sonoma and Napa counties annually — pumping about $4 billion into wineries, hotels, and restaurants, according to state tourism data.

"Right now is the most critical time for the industry and our business and our county," Ross Reedy, the director of winemaking for Truett-Hurst Inc., said.

Reedy has worked in the wine industry for 12 years. He's seen how fires have changed the landscape over the years. He said that 10 years ago, he'd be able to determine when to pick grapes based on their ripeness, now he's at the mercy of fires and wind patterns.

By: Austin Meyer and Daniel T. Allen
September 1, 2020

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