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Smoke Damage Worries For Vineyards Near Sand Fire

  Photo courtesy Yubanet.com

Auburn Fire Strike Team on the Sand Fire.

Photo courtesy Yubanet.com

Cal Fire says the Sand Fire in El Dorado and Amador counties destroyed 19 homes. The fire near Plymouth is 80 percent contained and has burned 3,800 acres.

The fire burned near several wineries - many owners now waiting to get a closer look at their vineyards. On Capital Public Radio's Insight Tuesday morning, Rob Campbell of Story Winery says he talked to a fire official about the retardant used.

"And I asked him about the effect on plants and all this, and he says they use a new retardant now that essentially will just wash off with water," says Campbell.

While the retardant can be washed off but smoke can cause serious damage. Winemaker Justin Boeger, Boeger Winery, says the smoke from the Sand Fire comes as the wine grapes are ripening.

"When the grapes are most susceptible to smoke taint and especially in red wines because the compounds that form the aromas in the wine are concentrated in the skins and then of course, red wines are fermented in the skins," says Boeger.

He says red wines are most at risk. But determining whether the grapes are damaged isn't easy -- you can't tell by biting into the fruit. And, treating or getting rid of the smoky compounds isn't a certainty.

"There are some areas where you can actually filter out some of the compounds but the precursors that turn into the smoke taint are still present in the juice and so it will come back in the wine even though you've removed the initial smell that you had," says Boeger.

Boeger says the amount or volume of smoke necessary to cause "smoke taint" in wine isn't clear.  

Map information: Amador Vinters Association and El Dorado Winery Association