Ponderosa Smoke Could Affect Wine-Making

POSTED: 6:14 PM Aug 21 2012
MANTON, Calif. -

There are at least half a dozen vineyards in Manton and Shingletown blanketed with smoke from the Ponderosa Fire, leaving wineries wondering how their wine will fare.

As harvest time approaches, the grapes on the vine are marinating in smoke that might give the wine a smokey flavor.

The problem is called "smoke taint" because smoke gets into the juice and changes the flavor of the wine. This could potentially harm the rapidly expanding wine business in Manton and Shingletown.

For the Shasta Daisy Winery, the vineyard owners are worried about more than smoke taint.

"We've lost about 700 acres of timberland, absolutely devastated,” says Carroll Knedler, the owner of Shasta Daisy Winery.

A lack of sunlight because of the smoke worries vineyards as well. The Anselmo Vineyard in Shingletown says photosynthesis give the wine its signature taste.

"If you have the smoke blocking out the sun, you'll get sugar production without flavor production,” says Anselmo Vineyard manager Chanda Miller. “So you'll end up getting ripening occurring faster without the flavors and without the color.”

What vineyards can do with grapes is a process called fining. Fining is where vineyards wash the grapes and try to get rid of the smokey flavor. Still, fining can’t filter the smoky flavor completely out.

Some wines are not event affected by the smoke such as some Cabernet wines but vineyards will not really know the affect of the grapes until they have harvested all of them.