Wine Talk

Snooth User: rckr1951

Wildfires in Cali & Portugal

Posted by rckr1951, Aug 19, 2016.

Wildfires Threaten Wine Regions in California, Portugal

Wildfires are again ravaging California, threatening the vineyards and livelihoods of many in notable winegrowing regions. South of Carmel Valley, the Soberanes fire has been blazing since July 22, burning more than 79,000 acres. The fire is still only 60 percent contained, but has not threatened the area's vineyards or wineries, with one exception: Big Sur Vineyard owner Lenora Carey lost her house, which included a small estate vineyard. As harvest nears, however, Carmel Valley vintners are growing concerned about the possibility of smoke taint. Matthew Shea, vineyard manager for Bernardus Winery, told Unfiltered that almost everyone in the area was affected by smoke taint during the 2008 fires in Monterey, adding, “We plan on doing preharvest samples and sending grapes to labs for analysis to see what we're looking at before harvest.”

Last year, Lake County, north of Napa Valley, battled three major infernos, including the Valley fire, which burned 75,000 acres, killing four people and destroying more than 2,000 buildings; the third-worst fire in California history based on total structures burned. This year’s Clayton fire has already claimed 175 structures and burned 4,000 acres in less than a week’s time. Lake County vineyards and wineries have largely been unaffected by this blaze, but Terrill Cellars and Tuscan Village Winery were destroyed when the fire ripped through downtown Lower Lake. Gov. Jerry Brown has issued a state of emergency for Lake County, where nearly 4,000 people have been displaced. County officials arrested Clearlake resident Damin Pashilk Monday morning on 15 counts of arson, including the Clayton fire. He’s being held at the Lake County Jail on $5 million bail.

Meanwhile, Paso Robles vintners are on edge as soaring temperatures and high winds have helped fuel the named Chimney fire, north of Paso Robles’ Adelaida District. Since its start on Saturday, the fire has scorched 8,300 acres and is pushing closer to the Adelaida District, which is home to Justin Vineyards, The Farm Winery, Tablas Creek and more. The Farm Winery cofounder Jim Madsen told Unfiltered that the blaze is moving southeast toward them, but that they are still about 4.5 miles from the fire. And while its too early to be concerned about smoke taint, they have started to see ash falling in their Malbec vineyard.>

Courtesy of The Farm Winery
Wildfires are approaching The Farm Winery's vineyards in Paso Robles.

Several regions of Portugal, including the island of Madeira, are suffering the worst forest fires in a decade. So far, wineries and vineyards have suffered minimal damage, but producers are concerned. The bells rang out to announce a major fire last week in urban Funchal, Madeira's capital city. Several houses were destroyed and there was panic among local inhabitants and tourists. According to Ricardo Freitas, Barbeito’s CEO and chief winemaker, the areas affected did not include any wineries or aging warehouses. However, he worried that vineyards might be affected by heavy ash falling over the area. Paula Cabaço, from the Madeira Wine Institute, reported that most of the fires struck pine forests, sparing vineyards.

On the mainland, the blazes were larger. Central regions such as Dão and Bairrada lost 170 000 acres of forest in a week. Pepe Soares, head of CVR Bairrada, reported no damage in the vineyards. In Dão, vintnerJúlia Kemper saw how quickly the blaze could move. “I called the fire department to report a far-off forest fire," she said. "One hour later, the fire had crossed the distance and was on the outskirts of our vineyard. I called again to ask for an air attack, only to be told that it was impossible, as more than 240 fires were active in Portugal at the time." Air help finally arrived, saving the vineyards, but she lost a house on the property. Osvaldo Amado, chief winemaker of Dão Sul, reported the loss of 10 acres of old vines in Santar.

This was taken from a Wine Spectator e-mail I received today - you may know this already, but I thought it was interesting.



Reply by EMark, Aug 19, 2016.

Yes, Rckr, we are pretty aware of the fires, out here.  My wife's cousin was evactuated the other day. Fortunately, that one had a happy ending.  So many others have not been so fortunate.

I was aware of the Madeira fires, but was unaware of the ones on the Portuguese mainland.

Reply by dmcker, Aug 19, 2016.

RCKR, when lifting verbatim in this manner and at this volume would be good if you could provide a link to the original. Forums like Snooth's operate pretty much in a grey area when it comes to reposting original content. Particularly when established media are involved, if we provide links then no one will likely complain. Obviously the photos we repost also exist somewhere in that grey area.

Poor Portugal, doesn't even warrant an article of its own. Guess CA 'forest' fires are so commonplace they can have other places stuffed in together with them, too.


EDIT: Here's the link, though it looks like A-Rod's mid-season retirement (oh so different from Jeter's) overshadows thousands of burnt acres, houses, animals, wineries, relocations and the like across major regions.

Reply by rckr1951, Aug 19, 2016.

DMCKER - Thanks for the heads up - didn't know that's why I credited it to them.  Next time.

Reply by Dale8372, Jul 8, 2018.

Does any1 know if the bottles ended up with smoke taint from these fires I am looking for bottles with smoke taint for my wife. 

Reply by GregT, Jul 8, 2018.

You want bottles WITH smoke taint? What did your wife do to you?

I would just get her a corked bottle and leave it at that.

Reply by rckr1951, Jul 9, 2018.

Dale - I've been looking at your request for a couple of days and I have both a thought and a question.

Normally producers weed out - either by declassifying a vintage, throwing out the juice, etc.  Now with the idea that smoke taint is bad many, a large majority don't even let the grapes in.  Can you imagine the advertising?

"We are proud to release our 2017 Smoke Tainted Chardonnay,  Just a little whiff will do ya."

Most producers had there grapes picked and the rest were judiciously watching their product.  Their may be some that gets through in a minor way - but that'll be research on your part.

The question - Are you sure it was smoke "taint"?  Was it a red or white? Just for the hell of it I pulled the latest Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast mags.  I read through dozens of reviews in both - with many having "smokey..." or "smoke" in the descriptors.

May that have been what she had, a wine aged in barrels that gave it a smokey nuance?

Reply by Dale8372, Jul 10, 2018.

Thank u for taking the time to think of my pesky little problem here. Come to think of it now I'm curious about what we had because I swear it did have a forest fire taste to the stuff and it was enjoyed. I really do mean it was like a forest fire could it be that one bottle got through on the conveyer belt? It was a red wine a pinot noir. Whats a good example of a smokey wine not smoke taint that you recommend?

Reply by rckr1951, Jul 10, 2018.

Most were reds, most were syrah - I'll look them for and see which I'd buy - there are some producers that do smokey oak well and I do enjoy.  Also, something for to check out is chardonnay fermented and aged in new oak barrels - the smokey oak comes out in those if aged for 12-14 months.

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