CALIFORNIA WILD FIRES
By Linsey Gallagher
Key questions regarding the devastating fires which have ravaged the wine country in Northern California are answered by Linsey Gallagher, Vice President of the California Wine Institute.
What is the scale of the fire impact on the North Coast wine region?
Wildfires in California’s North Coast wine region, including the counties of Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake, have resulted in evacuations and the loss of buildings and homes. Sadly, it has been reported that lives have been lost.
It is too early to comment on the scale of the fire impact. Due to evacuations, assessments of vineyards and wineries in some locations cannot be made until the fires are contained and people are permitted to return to those areas. The regional wine organizations that we have contacted in the impacted regions are focusing on ensuring the safety of their communities, offering assistance and trying to gather information
Will the fires affect California wine production?
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those who are impacted and have suffered damage and loss. It’s too early to tell how damage to individual wineries and vineyards might impact production from those properties but, overall, the state’s wine production will likely not be seriously impacted.
California wineries are the source of about 85% of the U.S. winegrape crush and Napa and Sonoma represent about 8% of the U.S. total.
The combined tonnage of the two regions was about 10% of California’s total four million winegrape tons crushed in 2016. Napa County’s 600+ wineries account for about 4% of statewide winegrape volume and Sonoma County’s 500+ wineries produce about 6%.
How have the fires impacted the harvest?
Most (90% estimated) of the winegrape harvest in the affected regions has been completed as has harvest the rest of the state. The harvest was early this year due to heat in late August and early September. It is too early to know how the fire and related challenges might impact the vintage.
Are there known impacts of smoke, heat or other fire effects on wine currently in production?
Although the majority of grapes statewide and in the affected regions has been harvested, the remaining grapes, mostly the tough-skinned Cabernet Sauvignon, are not expected to be impacted by the smoke from the fires. Much will depend on how long the fires last and how long grapes are in contact with smoke in the vineyards.
We’ve heard reports of power outages affecting winery fermentations, but most wineries have emergency generators to help maintain production continuously.
Is the drought impacting the harvest?
Rains last winter ended the drought, allowed vineyards to rebound, replenished soils and refilled reservoirs.
What is the economic impact of California wine?
California wine accounts for 60% share of the U.S. wine market. The industry creates 325,000 jobs in California and generates $57.6 billion in annual economic activity. California wineries attract nearly 24 million tourist visits each year.
How Can People Help?
Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org/donate/donation
Mendocino County Disaster Fund: http://www.communityfound.org/for-donors/donate-today/community-funds/disaster-fund-for-mendocino-county/
Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund: http://www.napavalleycf.org/fire-donation-page/
Tubbs Fire Safety Check-in Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/crisisresponse/the-tubbs-fire-oct09-2017/home/