It ain’t over yet but for wineries in El Dorado County who have been threatened by the Caldor fire, there is some good news.
There hasn’t been much good news about this fire that has forced the evacuation of more than 30,000 people, including across the Nevada border. But here is a small good thing: the fire has largely turned away from threatening El Dorado County wineries, which are mostly to the west of it as the wind spreads the huge blaze to the east.
For several days, those wineries were in the direct path of the fire. This shift in the wind is not good news for South Lake Tahoe which is under evacuation orders, but for now the wineries seem to be out of extreme danger.
The worry now is smoke taint which can make a fine fruity wine smell like an ash tray. But as the linked article points out, many wineries picked early as the threat from the fire loomed and will produce a lower alcohol wine this year, taking advantage of emerging preferences for that style among consumers.
The frequency of these fire events over the past few years have stimulated a lot of research on how to deal with smoke taint. But the testing required to determine the presence of smoke-derived compounds is expensive and laboratories are typically behind schedule in performing the tests. Furthermore, many of these compounds are desirable at lower levels and some show their effects only after the wine is in barrel or bottle. (Here is a good summary article on the current state of research.)
In short, there is no simple solution to the problem except to make lots of Rosé or focus on white wine (most smoke taint compounds reside in grape skins so pulling the wine off the skins will minimize the problem.)
But for now we’ll take any good news we can get. The problem of smoke taint is surely preferable to scorched wineries and devastated families.