The reality of the 2017 California fires today

Elaine looks carefully at the aftermath of last October’s wine-country fires. See also California fires – then and now. In part 3 next Wednesday Elaine addresses issues associated with smoke taint and fire-related problems in the cellar. 

When it comes to wine country itself where I live, the tragedy of the 2017 fires has instigated other sorts of learning curves. This spring I spent a month and a half driving through Napa and Sonoma, walking vineyards and fire-damaged areas with growers, interviewing winemakers affected by the fires, and tasting wines from barrel. In returning to wine country affected by the fires more than six months later, my goal was to find out where we are in our recovery from the damage, what we’ve learned from the fires, and how the wines from the vintage actually look now that they’ve come through malolactic conversion (the overall vintage quality will be discussed in a separate article).

One of the strangest experiences for those of us who have spent time trying to understand the aftermath of the fires, and impact on vineyards, has been learning to read the hillsides for fire damage. Now, late in the season, fire damage looks different, now that it has been covered by the new season’s growth. But in the spring the newly budding growth actually made last year’s fire scars more visible simply through visual contrast, as shown in this picture of a partly damaged vineyard in the Wild Horse Valley AVA in the Vaca Range on the east side above Napa. The fires skirted the edges of this vineyard and followed dry cover crop into parts of it but the vineyard also acted as a buffer that successfully stopped the fires from reaching houses and more forest on the other side.

This site also showed how much of the vineyard damage is actually in the vineyard infrastructure rather than […].

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