CALIFORNIA—While some wineries across Napa and Sonoma counties have been spared from the wildfires, some wineries say that the smoke could sour their grapes, and affect the taste of wine produced this year.

Wineries have been affected by the fires in multiple ways. Widespread evacuations across California could hinder harvesting season, which happens between August to October, with not enough workers available to harvest and process the grapes. The smoke could taint the grapes and sour the wine produced from them. Some wineries, such as DuMOL winemakers in Sonoma, had been left with no other options but to harvest early, which could also impact the taste of wine. 

“Despite the current conditions, I expect many of us, myself included, to work tirelessly to pull out as much as we can this harvest. I am grateful to everyone in the emergency services working the fires right now, and I hope we get out of this pattern next year,” winemaker Rob Hunt from Anderson’s Conn Valley told Food and Wine Magazine.

“Of course, we’ll be vigilant, and if there is smoke taint in any lots of wine, they will not be bottled. You can fix high sugar or high alcohol in wine, but you can’t fix immature flavor,”  Hunt added.

Other Napa wineries have a different approach, believing that the smoke may not affect the wine as much as speculated: 

“There’s always a concern about smoke taint when it’s around. But wind direction and flow are most important. The morning 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,” winemaker Jesse Fox, from Amici Cellars, pointed out to Food And Wine Magazine.

“Harvest is moving forward in #NapaValley. Follow #NapaHarvest for updates. Dealing with the remnants of the #wildfires, but encouraged to hear of more containment by @CAL_FIRE & lifted evacuation orders for our community,” Napa Valley Vintners stated via Twitter on August 25. 

While smoke taint of grapes remains a concern for wineries, it’s too early to determine if the smoke will impact the 2020 vintage. Wineries will continue to monitor the status of the fires, provide updates about the process and the production this year.