Smoke Taint, 2016 Edition

As is not uncommon with this time of year, wildfires can spread throughout California.  Last year, the Valley Fire was particularly devastating to Lake County.  This year, many other regions have not fared much better.  Monterey County was hit with the Soberanes Fire (which is still only 60% contained).  Los Angeles has the Bluecut Fire.  Just to name a few.

And now, Lake County has been hit again with the Clayton Fire (which is only 55% contained).  One can only imagine the devastation experienced by those displaced and forever affected by the fires.  In the wine industry, we often get absorbed by the vineyard and wine effects of wildfires.  Will there be smoke taint?  How do we fix it?  Are the grapes at the right phenological stages to avoid the worst of the taint?  Is the wine blowing sufficiently that smoke does not linger in the vineyards?  (Which is not always the best case for firefighters and those at the other end of the wind).  With harvest bearing down on us, and all of the associated stress to get grapes in, fermented, and buttoned-up for storage, not many talk about the winery workers who are displaced by these occurrences.

What about the cellar master who has to find a place to house his family in the middle of harvest?  What about the intern who is from out of the area, or even the country, and knows no one to lean on.  And the harvest temp who can’t get to work because the roads are blocked, and thus can’t pay their bills?  Honestly, there are so many ways wildfires can negatively affect a winery besides smoke taint on the grapes.  It is more often the personal casualties that are the worst.  Thus, during these trying times in a drought-stricken California, we should try to remember that every winery is not just a bottle of wine, but a sum of its human parts.

To those dealing with these disasters, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

feel-the-warmth by Amy Abney


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