Wine Buzz: Area grapes likely unaffected by Rim fire’s smoke

Published: Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2013 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2013 - 9:48 am

“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” may be the title of a classic song, but it’s one of the last things winemakers want to deal with during harvest season.

Many areas in Northern California have been saturated with smoke given the Rim fire, which has scorched approximately 400 square miles since Aug. 17. While some of that lingering smoke has seeped into the greater Sacramento area’s wine country, the good news is the region’s 2013 vintage will likely be unaffected.

The story was much different in 2008, when wildfires in the Anderson Valley area of Mendocino County lasted for about a month and blanketed that area’s vineyards and beyond in smoke. While a touch of smokiness is sometimes deemed a positive flavor attribute in pinot noir and other wines, Anderson Valley winemakers scrambled to eliminate overwhelming smoky flavors from their wines, with varied success.

Smoke has been hanging over the Sierra foothills for weeks, but its presence hasn’t caused much concern among area vintners.

“I can still smell smoke in the case room and barrel room, but it’s not heavy,” said Chris Chinco of Driven Cellars, who also is executive director of the Amador Vintners Association.

Chinco and his Amador wine colleagues have been checking their grapes regularly and haven’t found any evidence of smoke contamination.

The situation was different in 2007, when smoke seeped into Amador wines.

“That was some heavy smoke for three weeks and it was hard to breathe,” Chinco said. “Our ... primitivo had a little smoke taint, but it was fabulous. It was a great barbecue wine. I wish I could reproduce that. Right now, (the smoke) isn’t even a minor factor.”

Lodi’s wine country, the state’s largest with approximately 100,000 acres of wine grapes, also looks to be fairly unaffected by Rim fire smoke. Given the early harvest season that’s about 10 days to two weeks ahead of schedule, most white grapes are already off the vine. The red-grape harvest will likely wrap up by mid-October, and as in Amador County, all’s looking and tasting good so far.

“As far as I’ve heard, (smoke taint) has not been an issue in Lodi,” said Stuart Spencer, program manager for the Lodi Winegrape Commission. “We didn’t get too much smoke down here when the fires were going strongly.”

Call The Bee’s Chris Macias, (916) 321-1253. Follow him on Twitter @chris_macias

Read more articles by Chris Macias

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