Max Smoke Taint

Every bottle for weeks now has been effected, and everything else as well, it is ubiquitous, in our air and not dissipating.
One Bay Area meteorologist said our current smoke includes some from Canada too! The smoke was initially above the summer fog, now it is well mixed in it. Mornings are very gray, just the moisture burns off as expected.
Health rule: if you can see it and/or smell it, do not exert yourself outdoors.
Since the fire season is pretty much year round out here now, this potential new normal hurts my eyes, throat, lungs and I must say it truly stinks.

As for the grapes, we all remember its appearance and can taste it in some 2008’s, some of the late harvested 2017’s have smoke taint and it is casting a pall over 2018.

To paraphrase Samuel Morse:What hath man wrought?

My daughter gave me a link to this air monitoring site. I’ll pass it on.

You’ll find you can scan and zoom.

Look at the Central Valley; makes most of the Bay Area look so much better. Oh my, the smoke gets trapped and builds to rather unhealthy levels.

Everyone is on edge about the possibility of smoke taint on everything this year. I have not seen a clear day in the valley in over a month. Smoke was here all through veraison, but most apparent above 1000ft. One vineyard on Howell Mtn and another on Pritchard has tested berries already for taint and so far it shows almost nothing. But as we know now, the numbers rise and rise as the grapes mature. The northern part of NV has more smoke than the southern part. I felt that was also the case last year. Probably because the bay is just south of Carneros and more fresh air comes into the valley from the south moving north in the afternoon. We should start hearing more in about 3 weeks. Keeping our fingers crossed.

I’m not concerned about smoke taint a bit. I am concerned about acidity via climate change making hot nights and hotter days. Nowhere in Cali is soon to be a cool (enough) climate. Time to rip out pinot noir and plant tempranillo in most of Napa and Sonoma? Redding was over 95 everyday for 40 days. The nights were not cool either. Even now the highs are in the 90s but there are finally cool nights. I’m pretty sure most of Brazil and Mexico were cooler than California this year.

I try hard to not buy wine over 15% abv. Still getting some syrah from Cali, petite sirah from Napa, and being very discerning on cabs from higher elevations or strange cool micro-climates–but that’s about it… Moved mostly to Washington and Oregon; Okanagan I’m sure isn’t too many years away from being the best cabs in North America. Too hot:

Our air quality in Seattle really turned to crap tonight- again.

After following the readings for a few weeks, I’m wondering about the smoke taint in the Okanogan region of BC. Not that any of us rely on the wines from that area, but they have been in heavy smoke zone for more than long enough to matter, and the near and medium term doesn’t look much better. The Chelan AVA in WA shares the problem.

There will be a lot of bulk '18 wine for sale with plenty of “campfire” notes.

Josh, which Napa petite are you purchasing under 15%

There are still a few: Once & Future Petite Sirah Napa Valley Palisades, Mending Wall Petite Sirah Palisades Vineyard, and Jacob Franklin are still ringing in at 14% I believe.

Francis Ford Coppola bought the elevated 120 acre+ Silverwood Vineyard on Pine Mtn/Cloverdale a couple of years ago for this reason. Years ago, a study concluded it would evolve into a Cab region as Napa warms. Sounds as though Coombsville should thrive.

The Australian Wine Research Institute (awri) is doing a ton of research on smoke taint. Most of what we know about ST is due to their work…they’ve had the wildfire near vineyards problem longer than anyone else.

They figured out there’s very little difference in the types & amts of smoke particles from different wood sources (burning plastic/etc is a different kettle of fish, obviously). I.e. one type of wood isn’t more/less likely to cause ST. Turns out tho, the damaging particles (that cause ST) drop out of the smoke ‘relatively’ quickly. So if a vineyard is far enough away from a fire, the grapes won’t get tainted, even if they have high and/or long exposure to the smoke. They’re still working on this, to quantify the typical distances (from fire to grapes) and other factors.

So it’s unlikely that any CA grapes will get tainted from Canadian (or Washington/Oregon) fires. And it’s too early to write 2018 off.


I am not concerned about fires in the Pacific Northwest at least with regard to the California’s North Coast region, but rather the Mendocino Complex fire which has burned over 500 square miles. Vineyards in the upper Russian River valley must have been affected. Then you have Lake County which has taken the biggest hit from this fire, although all the vineyards are in the southern part of the county, its too close for comfort. Northern Napa Valley isn’t much further south, where hopefully any impact will be minimal?