Northern California wildfires are causing some concern for the wine industry once again this year as several fires continue to burn. Cal Fire has indicated that it has been the busiest fire season in almost ten years. There have been 3,770 fires already this year, up from 3,440 fires that the state experienced to this point in 2017. Wineries are paying close attention to the status of the fires as some growing areas are beginning to experience veraison.
The Mendocino Complex fires have collectively burned more than 153,000 acres and destroyed more than 40 residences. So far there have not been any reports of direct damage to wineries, but several have been forced to close temporarily. Detailed damage assessments will be coming soon, but preliminary reports indicate damage to vineyards as being minimal thus far. The fires have spread into Lake County and officials have declared the fires about 39 percent contained as of August 3.
The largest individual fire currently burning is the Carr fire. The fire has destroyed over 1,000 homes, burning more than 131,000 acres in Shasta County. As of August 3, the fire is only 39 percent contained. Governor Jerry Brown has issued a state of emergency again this year because of the severity of wildfires for Lake, Mendocino and Napa counties.
The Northern California wildfires have created a tremendous amount of smoke that has been covering areas of Napa and Sonoma counties, causing concern for vintners in the area. Many growers have reported that their vines are in the veraison process, which is most vulnerable time for grapes to be tainted by smoke. The industry is remaining optimistic about the timing of veraison and the progress being made on the fires.
In a joint statement issued by the Lake County Wine Grape Commission and the Lake County Winery Association it was announced that while only a few areas are beginning to experience veraison, “growers in the impacted area are proactively monitoring the status of their vines and will be testing their fruit over the coming days.”